Monday, September 24, 2012

The Eggshell Sculptor

As a child, I always dreamed of crafting the perfect Ukrainian egg. Dying Easter eggs American-style had. . .well, it had no style. Throw a little dye into vinegar and water and dip the egg into the concoction and viola, you have a single colored egg. Sure, I got creative by dipping each end into different colors and creating stripes. I also used wax crayon to draw pictures on the eggs before dying them.  I even boiled down onion skins and beets until they were a soft yellow and purple for more natural-looking dyed eggs. They were pretty, but nothing awe inspiring. Dying Easter eggs was ho-hum boring.

That was until I got turned onto Ukrainian eggs. Now, those are beautiful eggs, with the artistry and the refined movements it takes to create them. I bought the "how-to" Ukrainian egg design kit, of course, with its myriad of implements and complicated directions. I spent a small fortune on it. The problem was that I never got around to using it. I only ever got around to blowing the eggs out of their shells, opening the implement box, reading the directions, and then tucking it all back inside and putting it back into the closet.  I kept that kit for years, trying to convince myself that I would create a Ukrainian egg. No such thing happened. One day I decided to throw out the kit--delusion over. I decided I needed to stick to visiting the Faberge egg collections at museums.

My interest in egg design was reignited when a person recently sent me the link to and photo of the Eggshell Sculptor, Gary LeMaster. Gary's a native New Zealander, now Iowa City resident, who has mastered the art of sculpting eggs. His art is so unique and interesting that it even earned him recognition and a short segment on the History Channel.

Through the use of dental tools for fine drilling, LeMaster crafts exquisite eggshell art.  Although his career started off in another direction, it was the success of his one-man art show at the University of Iowa's Hospitals and Clinics that proved to him he needed to stay focused on his eggshell art.

In an article written by Tony Leather on Environmental Graffiti, LeMaster is quoted as saying, "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. During the many years of my journey, I relied on trial-and-error to learn how to carve, engrave, etch and sculpt eggshells." LeMaster uses real chicken, turkey, ostrich, emus, rheas, and other eggshells. 

On LeMaster's website, he states that he has slowly "built a small business providing other people around the world with supplies, an instructional magazine, classes, and soon - training videos." If you view his artist page, you can watch the You Tube video of the segment on the History Channel (it was unavailable for embedding).

A quick glance through LeMaster's website made me appreciate the intricate beauty of this very specialized and unique art form. It also as struck me as ironic that Gary's last name is LeMaster. In the world of eggshell sculpture, he's truly The Master.

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