A Small Wonderful Lesson

This little mighty mite is a Bantam egg and is less than two inches in length. The photograph tricks you into thinking the egg is larger, but it’s really quite small. I was inspired to create the overall floral design from the millefleurs in the background of “The Lady and the Unicorn” tapestries. They are in Paris’ Cluny Museum. http://www.tchevalier.com/unicorn/tapestries/

However, I was not in Paris to see them….I was at a friend’s home participating in an “egging” weekend. There were four of us and we had a wonderful time. She had numerous needlepoints replicating the Unicorn Tapestries, and I was drawn to the use of millefleurs within the design. It didn’t take me long to decide what I was going to do for my first egg of the weekend!

Since I wanted the flowers’ outline to be black, that meant I had to begin with the egg dyed black originally. This was more of a free-form design so I did not do any sketching with a pencil; I just started writing with wax. I did not get a photo of this stage, but I wrote with black wax on the black egg. The sheen of the wax did allow a contrast that enabled me to see where and what I was writing.

This photo was taken after I had washed off the black dye and had etched (with weak muriatic acid) the egg back to white. …here is a clue for what comes later…the etching process removes layers of exposed egg shell…an important detail that I did not pay enough attention to.

Photo taken by Valerie Jurkowski

You can see the paint brush in the lower left corner that I was using to clean off the tiny eggshell pieces that the acid had eaten away.

At that point, I used a small paint brush to lay dye into the individual flower shapes, and then the green foliage. There were two more times that I did a quick etch to clean up the egg as I progressed through coloring and waxing it. Here is the egg ready for the final dye bath.

Photo taken by Valerie Jurkowski

The background color in the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries is a rich brownish red, so I needed to mix some dyes together to get that color. This is where things got out of control. In my rush, I neglected to do a quick soak in vinegar to rebalance the egg’s pH after the acid wash. (the vinegar bath helps the eggshell accept the dye) The dye did not take well, and I thought, “I’ll just quickly re-do this.” So, I washed it back, and during the quick acid wash, I noticed the tip of the egg had a suspicious looking spot. I held the egg under water and tried to stop the etch, but it seemed like it just kept going! By the time it was done there was much more than just one suspicious spot. I finished with a very gentle wash, gave it a vinegar bath, and ever so lightly brushed on the final dye color. Relief. The shell took the dye very well.

This photo shows the egg with the final dye, but the wax still covers the design.

Photo taken by Valerie Jurkowski

It looks fine, but the top of the eggshell is whisper thin, and I still had to melt and wipe off the wax. I used a heat gun to melt the wax and wiped it off in small sections as softly as I could. It all worked, and I gave it a coat of artist grade varnish. Whew. When it was dry I wanted to see just how thin the top was. Here it is held against a light, and you can see through the bottom hole in the egg through to its top, and you can tell how thin the egg is. I focused the camera on the hole so the rest of the egg is out of focus.

Looking at this I really think the top of the egg has etched down to the membrane. Yikes, that was a close call. I have been used to etching turkey, goose, and chicken eggs which all have much thicker shells than the little bantam eggs, which allowed more room for play.

Here is the completed egg again. I really enjoyed creating millefleurs and I plan on using them in future designs.

I loved how this egg turned out, but I came to the realization that I rush my work in too many places. I will be doing some reflecting on that, so  I can begin to dig deeper into creating designs and in executing the processes hoping to raise the quality and excellence of my art. So this egg has proved to be a beautiful little lesson!



Things of Spring that I love.

Spring has officially been with us for one week. Why is it such a popular season? I never think about having a favorite season. Each one has its special attributes that draw me in and inspire me, but spring surely draws me in. These are a few of my favorite things of spring….

  • The birds’ cacophonic morning song
  • Daffodils
  • Billowing storm clouds, lightning, thunder, and rain
  • The brilliant sun shining the day after the storm
  • New spring growth of plants breaking their winter dormancy
  • Swollen tree buds and pristine unmarred leaves
  • Red Bud trees blooming in the wild
  • A pasture greened up following a burn
  • More daffodils
  • Birds gathering twigs and dried grass for their nests
  •  Blooming Crabapple trees buzzing with honeybees
  • The growing Dogwood blossoms
  • Fields of thick, lush, green growing wheat
  • ….and always more daffodils

Springtime always brings to us a fresh clean start….so full of promise and hope.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.                                                                                                                                        Romans 15:13





Lighten Up!

It’s past midnight, and what keeps ricocheting through my mind? Pansies! Are you kidding me? The lack of pansies has me stressed? Clearly, I need to lighten up.

Pansies were going to be part of the perfect centerpieces for Mom’s 95th birthday party. We were expecting seventy guests, and I had an extensive check-list of things I wanted to do for her birthday, and the lack of pansies had thrown me off my game. What do you do when your plans hit a road block? Double down of course.

Why wasn’t my extra hard focus and tunnel vision on the tasks at hand working? Probably because that is exactly where my focus was—on the tasks. The tasks had become my master.

I knew God had His hand on this birthday party. After all, we were celebrating His gift of her to us for all these wonderful years. I tried to re-direct my racing thoughts of solutions into questions for Him and asking for direction and guidance. …. I didn’t go to sleep thinking I had a solution, but I did quit worrying about it.

In the early morning before school, I went to town and at my second stop, I found pots of miniature daffodils! Perfect! I had not even considered daffodils because generally, they aren’t available in March as a potted plant. Isn’t that the way it always goes? We are convinced we have the best idea and then work to bull our way through when in reality the perfect plan has already been implemented we just need to be still and ask for directions.

The perfect flowers for a special March birthday!

On a side note, after the dust settled, I rethought about the phrase “lighten-up,” and it struck a chord with me. I’d often tell myself to lighten up, meaning to back off, re-focus, and relax, thinking of it as a need to shift myself back into a lower gear. However, now I’m seeing it as an alert for a navigation check to be certain that it is God’s light that is getting my focus and attention instead of the work of the task itself.

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”       Matthew 5: 14-16

A Kansas Summer Bouquet

This spring I have played with a lot of different floral designs, mostly in my sketchbook, but a few did make it onto some eggs. Of course, as a Kansas farmer’s daughter the summer bouquet had to include some wheat, and what would our ditches be like without the wild sunflowers. But it is the coneflower in this bouquet that holds a special place for me.

Kansas egg

As a little girl, my dad would take me on walks in the spring and early summer. These walks would take us through our fields and neighboring pastures and meadows. I think he did this to give my mom a break, but I was really hoping to find a baby coyote to bring home. Anyway, while walking through the buffalo and prairie grass he would show me the buffalo wallow and explain how the buffalo used them long ago. He also pointed out the remnants of wagon tracks left by pioneers before the official roads were platted. It felt so good to be under the wide-open sky and listen to him share his stories. Also on those walks, he showed me the wildflowers, and I was in love!

Buffalo Peas, Butterfly weed, and Coneflowers.

There in the midst of the thick grasses were bright spots of purple, orange, and pink. How were they able to endure the relentless prairie winds, storms, and drought only to thrive and bloom with what looked like perfect blossoms? I knew how hard my mom worked to nurture and grow flowers in the garden at home, and yet these beautiful flowers had no one cultivating, fertilizing, or watering them and they were wonderful!

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow…                                                   Matthew 6: 28

 As I was working on this egg, it made me think about how I can get so focused and busy just enduring the winds, storms, and droughts that come my way, that I lose my motivation for pursuing God’s gifts.

But, if God cares and nurtures the wildflowers through the storms so they can still produce the wonderful blossoms, then He is certainly right here nurturing me. He is where I need to rest my racing thoughts and worries so I can focus on using His gifts for Him and be open to following His will.

What a lesson from the prairie.