Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Egg #19- Chinese Peonies, revisited design on dyed and etched goose egg from the "50 years all cooped up, what's an egg to do?" series

     In 2003, I had been given quite a few of my first goose eggs for Pysanky (Ukrainian eggs). This was the time I had been introduced to Jane Pollak and her beautiful art eggs. I still own her book "Decorating Eggs" and have it in my studio. It's a bit dog eared, well worn, but I have enjoyed it, and over the years, have been inspired by it.
      While I love doing traditional Pysanky, I also loved wrapping different designs around eggs. Inspiration was everywhere- from quilting and china patterns, to wallpaper and fabric. The next egg is based on a printed paper napkin, of all things.
      At the time, I had been working at Artists' Mediums art supply store, and one of my co-workers was having lunch in the staff room one day. We used to tease him, as his very lovely grandmother would pack his lunch for him everyday (what a wonderful thing to have a grandmother to spoil you)! One day, he pulled out a rather impressive lunch, but I had also noticed that he also had a lovely blue and white printed paper napkin. Quicker than he could wipe his mouth with it, I asked if I could swap him for a plain white napkin. I loved the print on it! It had a stylized Chinese peony and a triangular border. I thought it would translate beautifully on a goose egg. The background of the napkin was white, and the peonies and border were in different shades of blue. I decided that I would reverse the background or field color to a dark blue, and keep the flowers lighter than the background for a nice bit of contrast. Here is the first goose egg that I had tried without help of a Ukrainian Gift Shop design book. It took me a little bit to figure out how to wrap the design around the egg and the division to use. (Now be kind)
     I was also using UGS dyes exclusively then (I didn't know that others existed). The colors are light blue, royal blue, and for the very light blue, I mixed up 1 cup of water, 1 tablespoon of vinegar and 1 tablespoon of the light blue dye. This made a pastel version of the light blue. This was a great tip from one of the UGS books. I went on to mix several pastel versions of their dyes later on. I was still using the Delrin kitskas at the time (didn't have an electric one yet), so not to shabby for a self-taught egger. It was also the very first goose egg I sold, and like most novices, had no clue how to price it.  I was just tickled that someone would part with their money for it!
      I liked this design so much, that I ended up doing a whole series on chicken eggs with different color combinations, but the design had pretty much stayed the same.
      Did I mention that the co-worker that bought the goose egg ended up marrying the co-worker whose napkin was the jump start for this egg? Funny how that worked out! Anyways, here we go!
     I dye the egg first with UGS Royal blue and then a 30 second dip in UGS purple. I set it in my lathe and use my little lathe table and mark out 16 sections vertically on my egg (you can see that I have marked in between the four raised marks on the cup another 3 in between each one which =16).
I use a silver quilter's pencil and a pencil grip that keeps the round pencil from rolling, and keeps my line flat.
     I mark horizontal sections in 1/4" increments.
     I divide the vertical 16 wedges in half and end up with 32 vertical wedges.
     I start by dividing the egg in quarters by darkening the silver lines. Each quarter compartment is 12 squares high by 8 squares across. I start plotting my peony stems and flower heads. Whenever I draw something in one compartment, I do the same for the other three, instead of drawing the whole thing and then have to draw the whole thing again 3 more times. It helps to do things in small bite-sized chunks to keep everything as consistent as possible. Why? Because I have chosen a repetitive design.
     I use a 1" paper template and plot my flower head of the peony.
     I will do this three more times around the egg in each of the quarter compartments.

     I add petals from the center to the outside and overlap them, and the stems and leaves have a curve to them, instead of the static and stationary earlier pattern. I use the same border as before with opposing triangles. In each triangle, I write 4 perpendicular lines using one side of the triangle. I flip the egg over and do the same for the other triangles and make sure the the lines are going in the opposite direction. Once satisfied with the design, I use my electric kitska with a fine tip to start outlining my design. I will be acid etching later, so I am careful to keep the design as open as possible, not too fussy, and make sure my lines aren't too thin for the process, otherwise they may float off or get too thin.
     I dip the blue waxed egg into a bath of weakened Hydrochloric Acid (Acid Magic brand), and wipe away shell debris with a Mr. Clean White Magic Eraser sponge, gently with no scrubbing. I don't want to disturb the fine lines and more than I have to. I then rinse the egg with water, rub a little ivory dish washing liquid over the egg to neutralize the acid, pat dry and let the egg shell rest for at least 30 minutes.
     I dip the egg into PUSA Ice blue, and will start to wax the stem and the exterior of the petals and the tiny bands on either side of the big triangular band. I use a medium kitska tip for this.
     Now for the next color dip.
     I dip the egg into UGS light blue.
     I wax in the middle triangular band on top and bottom. I also wax in veins in the leaves with a fine tip. Now for the fun part. I shade the petals with a brush and UGS Royal blue. I shade so that from left to right, the petals go light to dark, and if they are up and down, then I let the blue pool at the bottom. I let all of this dry thoroughly, section by section until it is safe to handle without smearing. Once I am through all the flower petals, I wax over the entire petal. I also do the same for the leaves.
     At this point, I will acid etch back gently with vinegar and a small sponge. I just want to get the shell back to white again, so no need to do a deep etch like before. After I get all the extra blue color off, I rinse and pat dry and leave the egg to rest another 30 minutes.
      It's at this point (which I call an "Artist's prerogative", that I decide to change the background color to give it an entirely different feel. Normally, I would have a tendency to dye the field of background color with something darker so that the design pops with contrast. Because I've used a dark blue outline, I really can't go any darker than a black, and that is not what I want. I decide to go the opposite way, and choose a light color for the field color. What do you suppose I chose? I am reminded of beautiful woven Chinese silks, and the color that comes to mind is a vibrant yellow. I think that it will set off those blues nicely, and give a different type of color "pop". So- into the UGS yellow dye it goes!
     I let it dry thoroughly. Then I wax the entire egg. I feel like it helps "seal" up the pores of the egg and help keep color transfer from a dark part of the design from smearing into the light part of the design. Do you know what time it is now? That's right, unwaxing time!
     I rub a little olive oil over the egg to help the wax slide off in the melting process. I place the egg into a paper cardboard coffee holder lined with paper towels to catch the drippings. I place on an old cookie sheet deemed just for this purpose, and set in a cold oven. I heat the oven to 175 degrees F and leave it for 15 minutes. I come back and gently wipe the egg with soft toilet paper (less abrasive than paper towels- you may also use cloth rags). The key to not have color come off on your cloth is to rub gently and blot. Once it is out of the oven and cooled, I take a cotton swab dipped in lighter fluid and gently rub the yellow areas completely clean of any blue transfer and residual wax. I let dry.
     For photography purposes, I usually take the picture of the egg so that there is no bounce of light in the photo. Let me show you the dipping of the egg first:
     Here is the finished egg being dipped in Golden Acrylic MSA Hard Solvent based varnish (gloss). I have it on the end of a green floral wire and into the blown hole at the bottom. I quickly give it a dunk and swirl, let the excess drip off back into the can, and then push the wire into a wax paper lined oasis foam block (the kind florists use), and covered with paper towels. It will dry to the touch the next day, but will take about a week to fully cure into a nice hard finish. And, here is the finished egg (unvarnished):

     And rotated slightly so that you can see the design repeats four times:
     I hope you have enjoyed this little journey back to one of my earlier eggs and its humble origins...did you like the new take on the old design? I already have several ideas that will keep me coming back to change it up, play with it and make it new again. Do you have a design that could be dusted off? Then revisit!


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