The Egg Shelf
Hi folks! I suppose you're wondering who I am and just what the heck I'm doing here, eh? Well, as Myra pointed out on this month's home page, I'm the new coordinator of our regular Arts and Crafts Feature here at Emu's Zine and I'd like to tell you a little bit about myself so you'll know what brought me here.
Back in 1989, when I bought my first ultra high-speed air drill, my intent was to open an engraving business on the side in order to supplement the income of my corporate recruiting firm and to give myself an outlet for my creative urges. However, I had seen the eggshell carving of Dr. Lew Jensen (owner and president of Paragrave Corporation at that time) and knew right away that sculpting eggshells would become a personal priority.
I had been creating art all my life; in one form or another, but due to color blindness my options were severely limited. My only formal art training came as I was finishing my Ph.D. work in foreign languages at the University of Iowa. Having completed my foreign language coursework, I submitted a portfolio of my crude artwork to the graduate art department, as I still had fellowship money available and didn't want to waste the opportunity. I didn't emerge from these classes as a budding Picasso, but art classes during the early 70's were very interesting, to say the least, and definitely gave my creative mind a workout. I know... what does all of this have to do with egg art?
Well, when my drill arrived almost 20 years later, every eggshell within a 100 mile radius was fair game as far as I was concerned, and I had over 40 years of design ideas itching to get out. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that eggshells required a whole new way of thinking when it came to creating my art. Pen and ink skills no longer served me and eggshells in no way behaved like other sculpting materials (such as clay, wood and stone). But, I surged forth undaunted, cutting hundreds of abstract designs into goose eggs (such as Japanese Lattice) and into chicken eggs as well. What a learning experience! At the time my biggest problems were acquiring a "feel" for the shells, a knack for maintaining an even pressure while holding the eggshell in my hand (I still hold the eggshell in my hand during the entire carving process because feeling what I'm doing is oftentimes a more accurate gauge of where I am than actually seeing it). Another early stumbling block was training myself to remember to blink my eyes! (Can any of you egg artists identify with that?) I guess my brain was convinced that the entire shell would implode if my eyes were closed if only for a nanosecond. These abstract, yet complex and detailed designs, were a joy to cut because I was creating these miniature universes for my own pleasure. In spite of that (or perhaps because of it), I sold a number of eggs from the beginning as they were quite "pretty" and the word spread locally that there was something new and unique in the art world.
My goal was to create pieces that displayed artistic emotion and reflected my love of Oriental art with its delicate balance between the Yin and the Yang (the shell cut away and the shell that remained). At any rate, as I became more skilled I wondered how I might begin to get actual pictorial representations on the eggshells, without having to fall back on drawing or painting. Besides, I knew that not only do a great many people just not understand art in the abstract, many of them absolutely hate it! The biggest challenge was that I had limited myself to chicken and goose eggs because I was afraid to mess around with the expensive, thicker shelled eggs (ostrich, rhea and emu shells went for about $35 - $45 apiece at that time, long before breeders began to spread across the US). So, since high-relief carving was not going to be possible on the thinner shells and I was too cheap to spring for a dozen thicker eggshells, I explored other options until these larger, thicker shells became affordable. And when they did, I dived right in. Although there are hundreds of books out there about the traditional art of decorating eggs (some of which we may have an opportunity to review here in the future); there weren't any resources available at all about carving eggshells. So, during the many years of my journey, I relied on trial-and-error to learn how to carve, engrave, etch and sculpt eggshells.
I'd been at it for 8 years, I decided to put up a website
and the moment I did, I began to get hundreds of calls, letters and emails every
day from eggers who wanted to learn how to carve, and from emu, ostrich and rhea
farmers who were looking for other ways to profit from their investment. Since I
couldn't respond to that many questions every day, I launched a publication
called The Eggshell
Sculptor (in April of 1998) so that others would not have to rely on
trial-and-error alone. It has been such a success that eggers asked me to do a
similar publication about all of the other traditional egging styles such as
Pysanky, painting, beading, dioramas, etc., so in April of 1999 I launched a
second publication called The