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Local Artist Exhibits Rare Art Form

By Eleanor Gomolinski-Lally
Published: Monday, June 1, 2009 11:05 AM EDT

When Tina Kannapel was a young child, her mother gave her a choice of taking either piano or art lessons. She chose the latter. From age eight to 18 she was a scholarship student at the Baum Art School in Allentown, PA. She exhibited so much talent at an early age the teachers enrolled her in adult classes. One might think that such a promising student would continue studying art in college, but Kannapel, recognizing the uncertain financial stability artists face, decided she did not want to become a full-time artist. She obtained a bachelor of science degree in biology/psychology at Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA, where she also did metal work and pottery, and continued post-graduate studies in social psychology at Lehigh University. She moved to Fairfax in 1979 and has worked for the federal government ever since.

Even though art has not been a full-time pursuit for Kannapel, it has remained a serious avocation through the years. She turned a room in her house into a studio and later rented space in a historic building in Fairfax City. As redevelopment of Old Town Fairfax began and rents started to rise, she moved her studio back into her home. Because of her early training in numerous media, she has not limited herself to just one type of art. She has done oil and acrylic paintings, pencil drawings of historic Northern Virginia locations, jewelry, pottery, mosaics and painting and etching on glass. She studied photography at the Corcoran School of Art after discovering that taking photos of objects and scenes she wanted to sketch or paint inspired her to become more proficient in that medium.

It was the glass etching that led to her most recent artistic pursuit. In 2001, Kannapel went to a craft show in Chantilly. She came across an art form she had never seen before when she met Ron Cheruka, an egg cutter and sculptor. His delicate filigree patterns cut into goose and rhea eggshells and his sculpted patterns on emu and ostrich eggs amazed her. She returned to the craft show the next year, expecting to see him, but he was no longer exhibiting. She had hoped to find out from him where to get a fine cutting tool to use in her glass etching. It wasn’t until 2003 that she finally discovered he had a gallery in Fredericksburg. When she visited him and once again saw his work, she made a statement she had never before uttered: “I couldn’t do that.” He answered, “Yes you can. I’ll teach you.”

Kannapel says she had always thought she could do anything she put her mind to until coming across Cheruka’s eggs. However, she accepted Cheruka’s challenge, and under his tutelage soon found a new art form that has now become primary. She converted a closet in her studio to contain the air compressor needed to power a high-speed drill that revolves at more than 400,000 RPMs. The tool uses dental burs and sanding disks, which produce a fine eggshell powder during the cutting process. This is harmful if breathed, so it is necessary to wear a mask and have a way of removing the powder from the air. The compressor is noisy, so ear protectors are another necessity.

Kannapel cuts stencil-type patterns such as animals and flowers into duck and goose shells. These are displayed on small stands or hangers. Larger rhea, emu and ostrich shells are used for filigree and sculpting and are usually mounted on stands with glass domes protecting them. The emu shell is dark blue—almost black—and can be sculpted in such a way as to show other layers of light blue and white. Kannapel sometimes puts a light inside the larger shells. She prefers to keep her eggs in their natural form, unadorned with paint or other decoration. She says, “My subjects are generally items found in a natural setting—trees, barns, water, stone, wood, flowers, etc. With each project I strive to produce an image that reflects the beauty and rhythm of nature, stirs the senses and rewards the spirit.”

In January 2009, Kannapel joined the Undertaking Gallery in Occoquan. She is the only egg artist in the area exhibiting in a gallery. During the month of June she will join jewelry artist Sherry Chaples and printmaker Frances Metcalf as artists of the month at the Undertaking Gallery. A Wild and Wonderful reception will be held on June 20 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the gallery at 309 Mill Street. For more information about Tina Kannapel and egg art visit: and

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