Wednesday, July 30, 2014

"50 years all cooped up, what's an egg to do?" Egg #2- Egyptian inspired


Did you know that little 'ol Vermont has its own Egyptian Mummy? Most people don't, yet this amazing fact is something that this artist discovered through an elementary school field trip one year to the University of Vermont's Fleming Museum. And here it is, a 6th century B.C. Egyptian mummy, resting in it's sarcophagus.
Did it make an impression on this youngster? Along with wonderful photographs I had seen as a child in the National Geographic of the Treasures of Tutankhamun, I would say absolutely! I was amazed at the amount of detail and wonderful symbols I had seen. The images were etched into my brain much like the walls of the tomb. Traveling to Egypt might not happen for a little while, so I've decided that egg #2 in this series would be dedicated to the culture and style of art that is Egypt.
My inspiration for the egg is from a piece of porcelain service ware made for the Kedive of Egypt in 1872-74 by Ginori manufacturing. I had seen this particular piece in an Art & Antiques (2003, yes- I save things for a long time until I have a project in mind). I loved the stylized version of the papyrus and decided to use that part on the egg, changing some of the colors and position of the grouping of flowers. I also used part of the rim design in one of the compartments of the egg, as you will see, but changed it again, slightly.
As for the other element people usually think of as Egyptian, it would have to be the scarab beetle. My mother had a scarab bracelet that I had always admired as a child, and would play with it when she wore it for special occasions. One of the first pieces of jewelry that my husband would later buy me after we were married would be my very own scarab bracelet and pin. I loved the simplicity of the carved beetles on the different colored stones. The design was so simple, yet elegant and recognizable. I decided to take my cue from these wonderful pieces. So...here is the initial drawing on the goose egg:
I have divided the egg with a large horizontal band around the equator. This is where the papyrus flower grouping resides. There are four flower groupings, and I decided to attach them together with two vines that come together. On top of that juncture, I placed another single papyrus blossom. There are opposing vertical bands on the top and bottom of the egg, and it divides the egg in half again. The vertical bands are filled with simple stylized scarabs. On the top of the egg, in the two half moon compartments, I have drawn a lotus much like the one on the rim of the plate above on both sides. On the bottom of the egg, on the other two half moons that flank the bottom vertical band, I have drawn a large single scarab with it's wings spread. I have used a .05 mechanical pencil with a 2H lead.
As you can see, I have dyed the entire egg with Ukrainian Gift Shop dye "yellow". I am not concerned with the extra line work, as that will disappear with the etching process that comes after.
I am now starting to wax the outline of the design on the yellow egg. This means that everything I am waxing will stay yellow. It is a different look than the traditional Ukrainian wax resist method. In most cases, you are starting with a white egg and a white outline. I wanted this egg to have the look of a golden outline. I will continue until all outlines are waxed. Then it's on to etching the egg.
After waxing all the outlines, I dip the goose egg into muriatic acid and gently scrub away a couple layers of the cuticle of the egg. This gives a nice embossed, raised effect for the outlines (which are still yellow under that dark wax). I then lightly scrub the egg with a slurry of baking soda and water to neutralize the strong acid. I then quickly dip the egg into vinegar to open the pores of the egg and to wash away any left over baking soda so that the next dyes will take to the shell.
Now comes the tedious process of hand painting the dyes onto the shell. I am using a gold and an orange dye, and I am shading with the two colors to give the bottom of the papyrus blossom some depth and richness. Once dry, I will wax over these parts to preserve them and go onto the next color. Why don't I do an all over dip, you might ask? I have already compromised the shell by etching with acid. I have several more colors to go, and the egg shell (as strong as it is) can only take so much back and forth before it start behaving badly! To prevent this, and also to control the shading, I've decided to do a lot of this type of painting on the egg. It is tedious, to be sure, but the results are well worth it.
Now I am working on the green of the stems and the scarab beetles using three shades of green and then waxing over those areas once they are dry. I have also painted the jewels in the upper band above with red, blue and green, and waxed over those as well.
Now it's starting to come together. I am hand painting two shades of pink dye onto the flowers. Because it is over the yellow dye, the pinks have a warm coral shade to them. I am liking this very much. You'll notice on the right side of the egg, I have a little "smear" of green. I am not concerned with this, but I am careful to wax within the stems and ignore the "outside the lines" bit. A darker overall color will eventually cover this. I wax over all the green and pinks once they are dry.
Once everything I desire to be preserved is waxed over, the egg gets an overall dip in a UGS Royal blue dye. The results are stunning! Just look at that color! It reminds me of the lapis lazuli stone that decorated so many of the Egyptian treasures. I know that a lot of you are thinking this is a great last color....sorry!
I now wax over the two upper half moons behind the large lotus flower on both sides. I then take a q-tip and rub out some of the strong blue from the outspread wings of the scarab beetle on the bottom two half moons, and then wax over the rest of the blue. We are now ready for one last dye.
I decide that with all the bright colors, a nice black will set them all ablaze! I let it dry for a good couple of hours before doing anything with it. To ensure that there is no moisture or condensation, I melt the wax plug at the bottom of the egg.
After resting a good while, I will wax over the entire egg to help close up the pores. I will wait another couple of hours to a full day to let the egg dry out so there is no transfer or rubbing off of dye color when the wax is removed. When the egg is ready to be unwaxed, I place it in a cold oven on a well-worn cookie sheet deemed only for egg making, put a cardboard coffee holder lined with paper towels and the goose egg nestled in the middle. I turn the oven on to 175 degrees F and walk away for 10-15 minutes and let the oven do the work. I come back and gently wipe away any excess wax with soft toilet paper (yes, you heard right!). I check to make sure all wax is removed.
Patience is rewarded! Here is one view of the egg. You can see the large stylized papyrus on top, the middle band with the connected papyrus flowers, and part of the bottom opposing vertical band at the bottom ( a little wider than the vertical opposing band at the top). Both vertical bands are filled with scarabs.
Another view of the egg. You can see the smaller vertical opposing band at the top, flanked by colored jewels, holding a row of scarabs. On the bottom half moon, you can see the large scarab with it's wings spread.
Here is the bottom of the egg with my initials and the year that the egg was created in. It is very important that you always sign your work!
Here is the top of the egg with the smaller opposing vertical band.
And finally, a view of the completed egg, ready to be varnished! I hope you have enjoyed the progress of egg #2 - Egyptian egg in this series!



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