What Is Egg Carving? Learn All About This Beautiful Decorating Technique Just in Time for Easter
As far as Easter crafts go, most people will agree that that decorating eggs is a beloved tradition, and that's true whether you like to tie-dye your gathered eggs, decoupage them, polka dot and stripe them, or opt for a modern color-blocked scheme. But these aren't the only ways to decorate eggs on Easter Sunday. Have you tried egg carving, a skilled process in which the artist cuts an intricate design through the surface of the shell? Linda Bowers, artist and owner of Etsy shop Just Eggsquisite, says that it's rare to meet an egg carver. "There are not many people who are skilled in this area," says Bowers, "although eggshells have been used throughout time as a medium for art. Scratched eggs can be considered a form of egg carving and have been created for centuries in European countries." This scratching technique, she explains, involves dyeing the eggshell a solid color and then scratching a design into its shell with a sharp instrument.
Beth Magnuson, artist and owner of Etsy shop The Feathered Nest, adds that these designs are only limited by the egg carver's imagination. "Each artist generates themes and emblems specific to their own culture or taps into nature for universally appealing subjects," says Magnuson. "Worldwide egg art guilds have sprung up everywhere and the internet continues to advance this art by linking those with a passion for carving."
We asked both artists to share their insight into this beautiful craft and how you can include it in your Easter celebrations.
Tips and Tricks to Keep in Mind When Egg Carving
In the past, egg carvings were made from ostrich eggs; but today, you can use chicken, goose, duck, or another type of egg you choose. Each carving starts the same by blowing out an egg. "The first step involved in egg carving is to empty the egg of its contents," says Bowers. "I drill one hole with an electric drill in the bottom of the egg and use a tool called a one-hole egg blower attached to an aquarium pump to blow the contents of the egg out. Using a water flosser, I rinse out the egg until it is clean and set it to dry. The design is then drawn or applied to the shell."
Bowers adds that there are various types of egg carving techniques, the scratch technique mentioned above as well as a second method that's accomplished by an electric or pneumatic drill carving away parts of the shell. Both processes require a steady hand, patience, and protective gear. "If the egg dust gets into your lungs, it will never come out," she warns. "I wear a respirator and work in front of a dust box that sucks the egg dust away from me as I carve." Looking at such intricate detail, it's easy to wonder about how long something like this would take to craft. Ultimately, it depends on each egg and design. "Carving goes fast—like a hot knife in butter," says Magnuson. "I can cut a chicken egg in a lacy pattern that covers its entire surface in half an hour." Bowers, on the other hand, says that it all depends on the technique used, the size of the shell, and the intricacy of the design. "Just the scratching, no egg prep or design layout, is around 45 minutes. The carved quail eggs are 15 minutes or less of carve time each. The carved goose egg probably took 1 1/2 hours. The basket is made from two rhea eggshells and probably took 15 to 20 hours of carving."
Magnuson adds that it's learning how to properly use the drill that takes the longest. "Mastering the drill takes years of practice," she says. "I am still finding ways to tweak designs using different burrs and bits. The right tool, a steady hand, and practice are needed to achieve the fine details you see in my work. There is no substitute for time, practice, and experience. On one hand, it takes minutes to carve a shell; on the other hand, it takes years!"
Certainly, these aren't your traditional eggs. Handle them gently and they will last for many Easter holidays to come, sparking admiration from your family and guests who will ask, "How did they do that?"