|Egg Sculpting - A Delicate and Natural Art Form
I carve and sculpt real, untreated eggshells constructed primarily of calcium carbonate and
produced in their original form by ducks, geese, pheasants, ostriches and emus. The eggs I use
have been fully incubated but have failed to hatch.
Carved and sculpted eggshells make great gifts for: 1) friends - as an expression of respect
and loyalty; 2) couples - as a symbolic wish of fertility; 3) people who have suffered a loss - as
a symbol of life's unending cycles; and, 4) collectors and others - who seek and appreciate beauty
and serenity in art.
The egg is a universal symbol of the source of life and many artists continue to be entranced
by the possibility of combining the practical, yet delicate design of Nature, with the elements of
artistic expression of emotion and beauty. Decorated eggshells and engraved eggshells have
been special traditional gifts throughout history. Most widely recognized today, of course, are
the works of Peter Earl Faberge (1846-1920) and Easter eggs. However, the traditional art of
egg decorating existed long before the concept of Easter and decorated eggs and eggshells are
still important gifts worldwide, particularly in Eastern countries.
My eggshells are hand-cut and sculpted with a high-speed drill that revolves at over 400,000
RPM's, dental burs, and sanding disks. No laser technology is applied. I do not paint the
eggshells as I am striving for a natural look, not an artificial one. Besides cleaning to remove
organic material, nothing else is applied to the shell before or after cutting, with one exception.
I spray a UV protectant on carved emu eggshells to keep the vivid teal color from fading in
Emu’s are basically Australian ostriches. Emu eggshells may look painted but they are all
natural eggshell. These eggshells are usually about 5" tall and oval shaped. The shells are
very distinct because it is comprised of three separate layers - each a different color. The outer
layer of the eggshell is dark green (almost black), the middle layer is teal green and the
inner-most layer is white. I sculpt between these three distinct layers to create my designs.
There is nothing quite as exciting as seeing my design come alive on an emu eggshell. No two
eggshells are identical as the shades of teal green vary as do the thickness of the shell layers
and the roughness of the exterior. Some designs are accomplished by working between the
different colors of shell while others are carved completely through the shell. The final
smoothing of the shell is done with steel wool. Carving an emu eggshell takes 24 to 48 hours to
complete, depending on the detail of the design.
Ostrich eggshells are cream colored, thicker, more round than oval and 6" or more in
diameter. They can be both carved and sculpted, giving more detail to the scenes. The
completed eggshell looks similar to carved ivory. Both carbide and diamond bits are used for
the majority of the cutting. Sanding and sculpting is accomplished with dental sanding discs
that are small and flexible, allowing me to give final shape and smoothness to carved areas. I
use a light box while carving these eggshells since light brings out the detail. Angling the
sculpted areas in the right manner provides a visual depth that far exceeds the physical depth
of the carving. Finally, I display the finished eggshells on light boxes. I include a light box
with each purchase on a sculpted ostrich eggshell so the owner can enjoy the fine detail no
matter where the eggshell is placed. Light boxes take a 7 watt Christmas tree bulb which
allows you to change the color if desired.
I enjoy carving filigree and scroll patterns into goose, duck and pheasant eggshells. The
eggshells look like lace when finished with more open space than remaining shell. Goose
eggshells are oval, ecru white and generally about 4" tall, duck eggshells are more round,
slightly smaller and bright white and pheasant eggshells are less than 2" tall, very fragile and
golden brown. I strive to get my cuts as clean, smooth and close as possible. Carving in this
manner provides a true challenge because the shell becomes more fragile with each delicate cut.
Just holding an eggshell that is almost finished is a task in itself. Completing one gives me
great joy. All eggshells carved in this style are glued onto a stand and displayed under a dome
to protect them from human contact and other destructive elements.
My “standard” eggshells are duck and goose eggshells cut in stencil-type patterns. These
come in a large number of designs (roses, birds, butterflies, etc.) and come on stands or
hangers. In December, some customers display hanger-style eggshells on their Christmas tree
like ornaments. Any light hitting the eggshell makes the carved areas stand out.
All eggshells are priced individually according to the amount of time it takes to cut the
pattern. The size of the eggshell really doesn’t matter. For instance duck eggshells are smaller
than goose eggshells, but more challenging to carve because they are more fragile.
I carry a wide variety of stands, hangers, domes and bases, and will gladly design, carve and
sculpt custom pieces for my customers. Some designs can be shipped UPS, but many are too
fragile and must be picked up at the Studio.
I don’t finish every eggshell I start, mainly because I’m very critical of my work and will toss
a shell if it doesn't express my intent or meet my standards. Fortunately birds continue to lay
eggs so I can always locate egg, after egg, after egg. Perhaps the most inspiring and satisfying
aspect is that every eggshell is different in its own way and the possibilities are endless.