Kaysville woman spent decades mastering her eggshell artistry

Mar 30 2013 - 6:45am

Images

BENJAMIN ZACK/Standard-Examiner 
Ellen Dutton examines one of her decorative eggs in her home recently in Kaysville. Dutton spent two weeks carving and decorating the ostrich egg.
BENJAMIN ZACK/Standard-Examiner 
Another homemade decorative ostrich egg sits on Dutton’s living room table.
Decorative goose eggs sit on Ellen Dutton's living room table in her Kaysville home on Wednesday. (BENJAMIN ZACK/Standard-Examiner)
Decorative goose eggs sit on Ellen Dutton's living room table in her Kaysville home on Wednesday. Dutton began making decorative eggs about 15 years ago and spends one-to-two weeks on each egg. (BENJAMIN ZACK/Standard-Examiner)
BENJAMIN ZACK/Standard-Examiner 
Ellen Dutton examines one of her decorative eggs in her home recently in Kaysville. Dutton spent two weeks carving and decorating the ostrich egg.
BENJAMIN ZACK/Standard-Examiner 
Another homemade decorative ostrich egg sits on Dutton’s living room table.
Decorative goose eggs sit on Ellen Dutton's living room table in her Kaysville home on Wednesday. (BENJAMIN ZACK/Standard-Examiner)
Decorative goose eggs sit on Ellen Dutton's living room table in her Kaysville home on Wednesday. Dutton began making decorative eggs about 15 years ago and spends one-to-two weeks on each egg. (BENJAMIN ZACK/Standard-Examiner)

KAYSVILLE -- Eggshell artistry is a talent that Ellen Dutton has learned to perfect through decades of practice.

"You need a steady hand," Dutton, 71, said of the craft of carving intricate designs into eggshells, creating works of art.

"I am so particular. I put every (crystal) in there individually by hand," she said, also explaining that she ensures that each stone is placed exactly where she wants it and that no glue or other residue is visible.

The front living room of her Kaysville home has several curio cabinets full of these intricately carved eggs. At first glance, they are almost unrecognizable as eggshells. There are multiple colors and sizes, with elaborate decor both on the inside and outside of the shell.

On display is an eggshell jewelry case, multiple eggshells that contain dioramas, several hanging ornamental eggs, and even an eggshell movie box. It opens like a music box and contains a small screen, playing the old movie "That's Entertainment."

"They are not just ordinary eggs. She put a lot of work into them. I think she is really an artist. They are really, really beautiful," said Brigitte Fitzgerald, a close friend of Dutton's.

Dutton said she usually works with goose or ostrich eggs, but she has also worked with rhea eggs and even a few chicken eggs.

"They are hard to break," Dutton said, as she knocked on an undecorated ostrich shell.

She explained that ostrich shells are quite dense, nothing like the fragile chicken eggs to which most people would compare them.

Dutton's movements were much more deliberate as she handled a smaller art piece -- a pair of crystal deer pulling a carriage made from a chicken eggshell. The shell is covered in tiny crystals, and is complete with doors that open and close.

Dutton said she first took up the hobby in the 1990s when she was living in California. She had always enjoyed arts and crafts, and when she was introduced to eggshell artistry, she fell in love with the decorated eggs.

She took classes and became involved in the egg shows in the area.

Dutton explained that she has several tools that she uses to create the eggs. She has a special stand in which the bare eggshell is held in place. She has a tool and pencil with which she marks the egg before she begins painting or adding accessories. The tool stabilizes the pencil to ensure that the lines are straight on the curved surface.

"The egg has to be proportionate and symmetrical," Dutton said.

She then uses a dentist's drill, powered by an air compressor, to cut the intricate designs in the eggs.

She uses craft spray paints to add color to some of the eggs. She also uses other craft supplies, such as glitter, figurines from Christmas ornaments, lace and fabrics to decorate the eggs.

Many of her eggs are decorated with Swarovski crystals that are made in Austria. These crystals can often be quite expensive, but as Dutton put it: "If you put so much work into it, you don't want anything cheap on it."

She said that the time involved to make each egg varies, based on the size of the egg and the details involved.

Dutton said that while she has kept many of her pieces of artwork, she has also sold many of them and given some to family members.

Her daughter now has her favorite piece, a "Wizard of Oz" diorama in an ostrich egg.

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