Sunday, July 26, 2015

Egg #25- Cameo inspired "Sister" egg, batik style goose egg, etched, dyed and embellished, from the "50 years all cooped up, what's an egg to do?" series

     Siblings. Nothing like them in the world. They scream, holler, push, shove, try to best you or infuriate you in every way they can. Yet for those of us lucky enough to share our lives and parent's love with them, there are no stronger bonds, loyalty, protectiveness and love than that of a sibling (until you have children of your own). You know that you can count on them when the chips are down, and they will always be your advocate. Such is the case with my younger sister Cheryl.
      I know that you'll forgive me for this later (another cool thing about siblings)...above is my Mother's first attempt at a photo Christmas card. You know the one- Mom puts you in your best outfit (these cute little navy blue dresses with white piping and brass button were made by the super seamstress herself), and you try and snap the perfect photo. Look at how much fun this photo shoot was! Of course, my sister and I laugh about this years later, so much so that my sister's awesome sense of humor shows up in a card on my birthday (still have the card, and it makes me laugh all over again).
     Heh-heh...excuse me. I will try and compose myself...heh-heh...
     Even though we were two different personalities and looked totally different, you could tell that we were sisters by the matching outfits my mother always dressed us in. Yup. That was great. Sorry Mom (you know I love you...). Here we are having the time of our young little lives at the ocean in Maine. So many great memories, so many great vacations and hours spent together playing.
    Here we are, waiting for the school bus on Cheryl's first day of school. And there's me, trying to be the dutiful, older sibling- giving her the low down on the politics of the playground, and how to win at Tether Ball (not that she needed that- she was a pretty quick study and one tough kid). I love this photo, so I will choose this as one of my references for the cameo egg. It will be a stylized version of the two of us.
     Why a cameo egg, of all things, you ask? Well, I love cameos as a fine piece of jewelry, but also I feel they are finely sculpted objets d'art all in themselves. Many, many years later, we had the privilege of accompanying my mother and one of the French teachers from St .Albans High School (with other parents as well) as chaperones on a trip to France and Italy through EF Tours. While in Italy, we were traveling through Naples and Pompeii, and we had asked the tour guide if we might take a little side excursion into the Bay of Naples and stop at a large Cameo gallery and studio. I knew that I was going to bring back something beautiful from this shop the moment I stepped in. While I love the traditional cameos sculpted with the Cypraecassis rufa shells (white outer layer and rich orange-brown under layer), I was drawn to some of the more unusual stones that were carved upon. I settled on a blue agate cameo brooch, and black onyx cameo earrings. Here they are, nestled among some of my other favorites (middle of top row for the blue agate)...
         My inspiration for the cameo shell color is the blue carved, for my sister Cheryl, this one is in honor of we go!
     Here is my preliminary sketch. The goal is to keep the design open, simple and elegant. The border in the middle will have a youthful vine of daisies and hearts. The front medallion will have a stylized "carved" version of the above mentioned photo. The back of the egg will have two entwined hearts surrounded by another chain of daisies (c' know some of you made these and adorned yourselves with them when you were a kid). The inscription nestled in the two hearts reads "Sisters Forever". (Yes. You may cue the "Awwwww....") Both medallions will have a twisted braid edging that will be etch into the egg with acid. I plan to give it a nice metallic finish to mimic a silver edging like you would see on a brooch. The egg will have a horizontal orientation.
     I start by dividing the egg in quarters on the lathe, and draw a center line line around the middle.
    Instead of using the usual tape measure, I use a compass and adjust it accordingly and mark my segments for the band (thanks to a class I recently attended- a fun, new tool for my egging arsenal). I then draw the outer bands that have the twisted braided edging, and they in turn will edge the inner band that will house the meandering daisies.
     I also add two very small bands on either side of the braided edging, and start to draw the segments of the twisted band.
     I use a grid in the band to help me section off and center the design. I add petals and daisies, and hearts on a curly vine.
     I draw the back medallion first, with the entwined hearts and the "daisy-string-necklace" around it.
     So far, it is a simple and open design, so the waxing should go pretty quickly.
     I decide to start waxing in what I've already drawn and leave the front of the cameo with the two figure heads until I work up the courage to draw them out (you know me, leave the hard part for last). I use a fine and extra fine tip for the waxing over. I go slow and make sure I have good coverage, as I will be acid etching the egg later.
     So far, so good. Waxed everything up to this point, and am happy with the results. Next, I will start drawing out the "carved" faces.
     I look to my preliminary sketch for reference, and draw my grid on the egg to help me center the two faces and the design.
     I start waxing the outlines of the hair, and then stop and check to see the shadow placement on the face. So, in a cameo, the highlight of the figure is the highest point of the light part of the shell, and the darkest or shadow parts are carved in varying degrees almost down to the darker part of the shell, and that's what gives the illusion of the shading. I have to take a moment and think which part of the face to leave as the "high point or highlight" and which is the deeper carved part or the shadow. I will check one of my cameos again for reference.
     At this point, I am struggling a little bit, and hope that I have a good handle on what needs to be done. It is definitely thinking in reverse from what I would normally do. In retrospect, this would have been easier to carve something rather than etch and dye and use color. Did I just make this harder on myself than it had to be? Perhaps. By the seat of my pants, again...
     I start waxing in some large chunks of color with will stay as the high points in the design. I use my medium kitska for this.
     I add some more line work on the leaves in the border and decide to give them serrated edges for more interest. I beef up the lines from thick to thin, and add dots to the hearts and some of the curly-cues.
     After I am satisfied with the waxing, I acid etch the egg with Acid Magic for several minutes. In between, I use a soft toothbrush to gently scrub away the softened shell that is coming off with the acid. I rinse with water and rub a little ivory dish washing liquid over the egg to neutralize the acid. I rinse again with water and pat dry. I leave the egg to rest for a couple of hours, and remove the plug to let the shell dry inside and out completely.
     I brush on a diluted coat of PUSA Ice blue dye onto the figures, and let dry. I was over part of the faces, and brush on a stronger coat and re-wax again.
     I do this for the leaves and the hearts in the border. I also hit the heart outline and leaves on the other side of the medallion. After drying, I wax over all of those sections.
     I dye the whole egg in PUSA Brook Blue. I like the color, but it seems a little flat.
    It is always good to get a second opinion, consult with another artist for confirmation that you made the right choice. It is decided to brush the back side of the egg with the same Brook Blue, and add PUSA Royal purple to the middle of the egg, and UGS Purple towards the bottom (if you look at the blue agate, it has a purple/blue cast to it, much like Ultramarine). I pull the colors down so they bleed into each other. Now it has a little more interest to it. I let that dry, and then wax over the entire medallion.
     I do that for the other side of the medallion and wax that over too, once dry. Now I have just the middle band left.
     I brush the darkest purple on top and bottom and on either side of that, I brush the mid-tone purple into the blue into the middle. I let that dry, and then wax over the entire band. It is now time to unwax.
     I rub the egg with a little olive oil, and line cardboard with paper towels on an old cookie sheet to absorb the melting wax as it heats up in the oven. (I place in cold oven and fire it up 175 degrees F for about 15 minutes) I gently blot and rub off the rest of the waxy residue.
     Here is the egg, all unwaxed. Notice the ridges in the twisted braids, and the vine in the middle border is quite raised? That is due to a patience and deep etch. It looks pretty good right now, doesn't it? But we are not done!
     I take the egg back to the work bench for some embellishment. I glue clear flat back gemstones in the center of the daisies in the middle border with white tacky glue that will dry clear. I do this for the daisy on the back medallion that comes out of the border too. I certainly could add those to the daisy string necklace, but I decide to err on the simple side, and stop (some of you that know me, know that this goes against my "embellishing" nature). I will do something else for those later. It takes about 20 minutes or so to dry.
          I decide to paint silver on the bands that separate the medallions from the middle border, rather than fool with silver leaf for now. I had been experimenting on watercolors using a permanent masking fluid and mixing in metallic pigment powder in. I decide that I'd like to apply that to the egg. I had also noticed that the paint that I have made is of a thinner consistency than regular fluid acrylic paint. This will work well when brushing over the etched areas, and not fill or "clog" up the fine ridge lines, leaving definition.. I give the band two coats with this silver gilding paint. I also "dot" the paint into the centers of those daisies in the daisy-string-necklace border on the heart side of the egg. Just enough bling to suit me. I let that dry thoroughly. I then lightly spray Golden MSA Hard Solvent Based varnish over the whole egg in light coats to "set" the silver paint and glued gemstones. After it has dried, I then feel free to dip the egg into the same varnish, but liquid form, giving it a nice, thick coat. I will let it dry a day, and give it a second dip. Here is the finished egg:

     I hope you've enjoyed the multiple processes that went into the making of this Sister Cameo egg, as much as I enjoyed making it. If you have a sister or sibling who you hold dear, give them a hug when you see them next. I will leave you with this quote:

"A good friend knows all of your greatest stories. Your sister has lived through them with you."

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