When embellishing your Easter eggs this year, the last thing you probably want is to encounter a cracked shell. Until now, that is. New York-based artist Elisa Sheehan is on a mission to turn broken eggshells into colorful works of art.
Inspired both by nature and kintsugi—the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with accents that highlight the imperfections—Sheehan has found a way to turn the discards of a regular grocery staple into something incredible. "I love the concepts behind kintsugi and have found that looking at [a] final [art] piece encourages me to live more in the way of accepting things as they are," says Sheehan, who ran her own graphic design studio before closing it in the fall of 2017 to pursue her passion for painting full-time.
Initially, the eggshell art began on a whim. "One morning, I was getting water from the sink when I spied some eggshells meant for the compost sitting on the counter," the artist tells us. "Something about their insides looked so pure and papery. I thought it would be fun to draw in them." At first, she doodled inside of the shells, but she soon found herself with piles of eggshells on her desk. "I quickly became obsessed with making them. I liked the way they looked all together, like a mini-sculpture, but also more than that."
Using acrylic paints, inks, and gold leaf to visually represent the repairs in traditional kintsugi, Sheehan has painted dozens of eggs in a rainbow of palettes. Many of them, which she curates and preserves in frames, are available in her online shop. And while Sheehan says she was initially saving the shells from eggs she enjoyed herself, she now has friends help collect them for her ("I couldn't possible eat that many eggs!").
For her smaller pieces, comprised of four or five shells, Sheehan typically works with a particular texture or color palette in mind. With larger pieces, she says: "I'll just paint and paint and paint many eggs in various colors and techniques to get a range of visual interest in each, then as a whole." As her collection of work continues to grow, Sheehan says she would one day love to do a large installation. "I can easily picture them climbing a wall."
Until then, the artist's exquisite work remains a beautiful way to both give shells a second life and act as Sheehan's creative escape: "They are so meditative to work on that time can slip by so easily," she tells us. "Each eggshell ends up being a little world." Admirers and owners of her work have even told Sheehan that sometimes, they have to stop and take a moment to really look at the eggshells and appreciate them. Pleased, Sheehan replies: "In our hyper-busy lives, if some humble little eggshells can do that, that's a beautiful thing."