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.
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.
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.
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!