Inspiration from the Sea

Version 2

Physalia Utriculus (from The Ocean World by Louis Figurier, 1872 Edition)

The natural world is full of many bizarre and fascinating creatures, especially the sea. For us land lovers who do not venture far out beyond the sand, anything living in the ocean seem most mysterious and more alien than a science fiction monster. One such life form is the “The Pacific Man of War” (physalia utriculus), cousin to the larger “Portuguese Man of War,” that inspired the following poem:

Physalia

Floating, bloated Physalia

Sail the waters of Australia

Buoyant, Blue Bottle, bather’s hell

Weapons submerged in ocean swell

Tentacles, twisting, clutching bite

Stun the prey of hermaphrodites

Stealthy, Pacific Man of War

Stingers loaded, washed ashore

A stranded, congealed, deflated mess

No armistice with final rest

©Theartistschild.com 2017.

Version 2

Illustration by F Seth from A Sketch of the Natural History of Australia by Frederick G Aflalo, 1896

Lately I have been looking at some 19th century natural history books that came from relatives. I was particularly taken by a couple of illustrations of “The Pacific Man Of War,” and its scientific name.  Not many words rhyme with Australia.

These are commonly known as “Blue Bottle” jellyfish in Australia, although they are not a type of jellyfish. In fact they are related to corals. The Physalia are actually a large colony of separate polyps carried under the floatation bag, itself an individual life form. The polyps perform various functions such as catching prey (the tentacles), waste disposal and reproduction.

800px-Physalia-utriculus

Stranded Physalia Utriculus (Wikimedia Commons)

Blue Bottles can become stranded on ocean facing beaches along the east coast of Australia. They are more common the further north you travel and are considered a hazard when they wash up in large numbers. Physalia can give a very painful sting to any swimmer who bumps into their tentacles, which also remain active when lying on the beach.

Although not a frequent visitor to Victorian beaches the occasional individual can drop in as the following video demonstrates. Despite their bad reputation, seen in close-up physalia are beautiful and mesmerizing creatures.

Kat

A Window to the Past

DSCN4382

An old book can be seen as a window into the past and is a way to learn about the lives and interests of previous generations.  In our household library we have an original copy of The Universal Self Instructor (1883) that was a popular book for the home in the 19th century in Australia and America.  In it’s day this book would have given anyone who had basic schooling some kind of further education.  What I find fascinating about this book are the sections related the to the visual arts and crafts, particularly with regard to women.

The frontispiece depicts a goddess figure holding a torch with the words “knowledge is power.”  It was a way to improve your life whether you lived in a city or the country.  This book contains all kinds of information about business, law, agriculture, the domestic domains, leisure activities and general knowledge on many subjects, as well as social etiquette.  It is full of detailed black and white illustrations and is very much a depiction of the ideal life more than a century ago.

There is a whole section in The Universal Self Instructor devoted to handwriting.  It was considered important to be able to write well.  The cursive script is beautiful and would have taken pains to master.  Flourishes and images were added to documents so it was a real art.  Today, unless you are a calligrapher, many people’s handwriting has definitely deteriorated probably due to the constant use of keyboards and the ballpoint pen.  Inside the Self-Instructors cover is a beautiful example of handwriting done by it’s first owner.

DSCN4383

The book is all about rules and shows how restrictive it must have during that period. There are whole sections on social etiquette.  Life was a minefield of manners that included etiquette for introductions, visiting, conversation, public places, clothes, marriage, birth and death, the carriage trip, riding, debuts into society and entertaining. Nothing was relaxed.

DSCN4423

The situation that amused me was the visit to an artist’s studio or gallery exhibition. Artists had reception days when ladies could “pay their respects” to artist friends and were to be on their best behavior.  Pushing in front of others to view a work (something that is really annoying today), talking loudly and laughing were all considered extremely rude and you must never ask if a work is for sale unless you wish to buy it, which seems a bit stupid given that artists are not always great at selling their creations.  In galleries negative comments about the works should be kept to a low voice in case the artist is nearby and you should not linger in front of a work for too long.  Adherence to such etiquette today would make visits to crowded exhibitions a lot more enjoyable and artist’s would feel more comfortable if they did not have to listen to any uniformed criticism.  So not all etiquette is obsolete and without merit.

By the look of the accompanying illustration it was assumed that the professional artist was a man.  Women and girls were expected to keep to the domestic circle.  Girls were to be discouraged from being idle. To quote:

“Girls are very apt to fall into a habit of lounging about doing nothing, gaping out of the windows or napping on the sofas.”

Sounds a lot like teenage boy behavior as well but there is no mention of this.

DSCN4470

To keep them busy, Girls (and boys) were encouraged to learn drawing and painting for pleasure.  It was also a way to decorate the home.  Suitable activities for girls were to paint china, greeting cards, furniture, book covers, and silk for clothing.  Many ordinary women must have produced some beautiful creative artworks, often as a way to save money.

One of our female ancestors was a talented painter who took oil painting classes for young ladies at an artist’s studio in the 1880s.  She did some large paintings of landscapes.  I have included a photo of a small oil painting that she did on glass and a large seascape of Cape Schanck in Victoria (my photo does not do the latter justice as I was teetering on a ladder and kept wobbling).   Unfortunately after she was married and had children she did not continue with her art.   She was probably not taken seriously or encouraged to become a professional artist.  There are a couple of tiny painted china plates in the first photo that were probably considered a more acceptable pursuit for women in that era.

DSCN4452

Needle point items, pressed flowers and moulded bread dough flowers would have been typical crafts of the period

There are all kinds of suggestions for appropriate craft activities for women and girls. Of course there is embroidery, lace work, knitting, crotchet, patchwork and dressmaking, all  popular textile crafts.   There are also crafts such as creating scrapbooks, molding coloured wax flowers and fruit and the making of trifles (not the dessert).  Trifles were attractive but fairly useless little novelty gifts made to pass the time.  Inside the Self-Instructor, which is quite a tome, I found some dried flower petals pressed by a previous owner.  I wonder if they were for the creation of some “trifle.”

DSCN4432

Pressed flowers found in our copy of The Universal Self-Instructor

Another craft mentioned and probably long gone is “wall pockets,” decorative baskets lined with odds and ends of fabric, filled with dried flowers and foliage, tied with ribbons and attached to the wall (more like dust traps and spider homes to me).   Such gentille activities would have only been possible for middle class women and girls who were not forced by their circumstances to work long hours in underpaid jobs.

DSCN4429

A beautifully illustrated poem by Longfellow

Poetry is included in the book.  There are a few by women poets, like American Magaret E Sangster, and this would have been an inspiration to young girls who loved to write poetry and demonstrated that they could also become writers.

The Universal Self-Instructor conveys an idealized view of the period, but for ordinary people who did not possess many books or have the means for further education, it would have been a valuable asset.   It was like having access to the Internet in its day and opened up a world of possibilities in all kinds of fields for many people.

It’s a fascinating book and I hope it inspired some girls, as well as boys, to pursue their dreams in the arts despite the social restrictions.   With all our modern freedoms, resources and technology there is nothing to prevent us from living an artistic life.

Kat

An Artist’s Best Friend

Version 2

Our Two Fox Terriers

I had just written the first draft of this post and showed it to Ellie.  She read it and said, “no one wants to read about someone’s dog. It is too personal and boring.”  Of course she is right.  Anyone who has a dog thinks that theirs is the smartest, funniest dog in the world and they don’t want to hear about other people’s dogs unless it is an interesting story.  Taking on board what Ellie said I had a rethink and decided to write about dogs as a source of inspiration for artists and writers and how they have influenced my own creativity.

Dogs have inspired many works of fiction.  For example Jack London’s The Call of The Wild (1916), about the adventures of the Alaskan Klondike sled dog, Buck, Eric Knight’s 1940 novel, Lassie Come Home and Dodie Smith’s 1956 novel the 101 Dalmatians to name a few.  And who can forget one dog’s life story in Marley and Me (2005) by John Grogan.  These books were all made into popular and enjoyable movies.

Dogs as companions have produced entertaining characters like Scooby Doo from the cartoon TV series and Snowy in The Adventures of Tintin by Belgium cartoonist George Remi (Herge).  Generations of children have loved reading about the dog Timmy in Edith Blyton’s Famous Five books.  The French movie The Artist  (2011) benefited from the wonderful antics of the Jack Russell, Uggie and Eddie (Butch) provided many hilarious scenarios in the TV series, Frazier.

True stories about the incredible feats of dogs are also inspirational.  The Maremma Sheepdog used to trial their use for guarding Fairy Penguins against predatory foxes on the coast of the Victorian town of Warnambool, inspired the Australian film Oddball (2015).  There is also the successful Australian movie Red Dog (2011) based on a true story with a sequel in production.

Google songs about dogs and there is a long list.  Often they are used as metaphors that are not always flattering to dogs but more about human nature.  From old classics like Hound Dog (Elvis Presley) to anthems like Who Let the Dogs Out (Baha Men), these songs have kept our feet tapping.  Some beautiful songs have been written about dogs.  Cat Steven’s I Love My Dog, and Nick Drake’s Black Eyed Dog from the 1970s are just some of the many.  I have written a couple of songs about my dogs.  They are very personal and were a way of dealing with their loss.

There are so many stories, television shows, movies, songs and about dogs I could go on for pages and I have only mentioned a few.  But you get the point.  Dogs are popular subjects because they trigger strong emotions, whether in a story or as a symbol, that can generate creativity.

Our connections with dogs makes it hard to resist drawing and painting them.  Visual artists have created wonderful depictions of dogs to illustrate books.  I have a couple of early twentieth century children’s books with some lovely illustrations of dogs.  Tattine by Ruth Ogden (circa 1901) is full of sweet black and white paintings of a little girl, many with her puppy.  The frontispiece has a lovely watercolour of some puppies pulling at her night-clothes that has used typical behavior.  In Country Favorites (circa 1901) is a charming colour picture of two terriers watching a hedgehog.  As the owner of a terrier, I know this is in the realm of fantasy as they are hunting dogs and would not be leaving the poor thing alone.  But then again the hedgehog’s spines could be a deterrent and a realistic image would not be great in a children’s book.

DSCN4351

Greeting Cards Clockwise from top: Hide and Seek by Arthur Elsley (1869-1952); Dignity and Impudence by Edwin Landseer (1839); To School Well Fed on Grape Nuts, advertisement lithographed on tin (1917); The Girl With the Dog, Theodore Robinson (1852-1896).

Amongst my greeting card collection, I have several with images of children and dogs from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  A dog is a popular subject because anyone who has owned or loved dogs can relate to these works.  There is nothing like having the devotion and loyalty of a dog.  In fact in Medieval Flemish paintings dogs were included as symbols of faithfulness.

DSCN4370

Detail Justice of Emperor Otto III (1470-75) by Dirk Bouts

The actions of our own dogs have given both Ellie and me ideas for artworks.  We both like to do drawings of our two Fox Terriers.  Usually you can only get them to pose when they are asleep as they are in constant motion.  Ellie did a watercolour pencil sketch of her current dog that I really like and have included it below.

DSCN4378

Ellie’s Watercolour Pencil Sketch

You hear all kinds of stories about dogs rescuing people from dangerous situations.  One day when I was upstairs, our previous two Foxies started barking furiously at the side gate.  I went down to have a look and got to the front of the house only to see that someone had broken a window and the door was ajar.  The intruder must have heard me coming.  I saw a leg disappearing around the corner and yelled some rather strong language before calling the police.  I had not heard the door knocker and if the dogs had not barked so loudly and in such an agitated manner I would not have known there someone was breaking in to our house.  This episode became a tapestry design and I have included one of the working drawings in this post.

DSCN4374

Drawing for Tapestry Design by Kat

It is obvious that I love dogs.  Dogs have always been important in my life and I could not be without one.  I think it is essential to have a dog (or cat) if you work at home. Talking to your pet is a good way to work through an idea.  Better than talking to yourself which can look strange if someone catches you doing this.  But with a dog it is perfectly normal because they listen intently. You just know when they think your idea is rubbish.  Dogs do sneering well.  But when your enthusiasm for something is conveyed to them they take up the good feelings and go with it.  You know you are on a winner when your dog smiles and wags his tail like crazy.

Dogs can be heroes, counsellors, entertainers and best friends amongst their many traits and this makes them perfect subject matter for creative work.  If you work at home and spend a lot of time on your own it is so easy to get caught up in your work and a dog keeps you connected to reality.  We benefit in so many ways from our relationship with our dogs and should never take them for granted.  Dogs are always an inspiration.

Kat

The following video shows a compilation of clips from 1930s films starring the wired-hair fox terrier Skippy.  Skippy starred as “Asta” in The Thin Man films with William Powell and Myrna Loy, as “George” in Bringing Up Baby with Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn and as “Mr. Smith” in The Awful Truth with Cary Grant and Irene Dunne.  This delightful dog’s actions are put to the song Who Let the Dogs Out performed by Baha Men.

A Room With A View

Version 2Version 2I’m not about to talk about the 1980s film starring Helena Bonham Carter, but about how it is always wonderful to have a pleasant view from the room where you spend most of your time working.  It is very soothing and good for your well-being to have an interesting outlook.  I have two large windows in our studio.  One window overlooks the back garden and the other has a wide view over neighbouring rooftops and of the sky.  Because a large two-story house is soon to be built next door, I will lose the unencumbered view.

This view has given me much pleasure over the years.  I have watched so many aircraft, such as the Air Force acrobatic team, the Roulettes, doing routines before the Australian Football Grand Final or the Melbourne Grande Prix, as well as Fighter Jets and Black Hawk Helicopters doing exercises.  Vintage planes in formations and huge aircraft for airshows have entertained me from time to time.  I often see parachutists descending to a local park and the Goodyear blimp has passed by making its slow way across the skyline.  There have occasionally been spectacular fireworks.  At dusk in the warmer months I see Flying Foxes (fruit bats) flying low over the rooftops on their way to find food and all kinds of birds have flown past this window on their way to who knows where.

DSCN1852

Views can keep us connected with the natural world and this is good for the health.  Observing natural phenomena has helped to elevate my mood and made me respect the forces of nature.  There is nothing like the azure blue sky of a bright sunny Melbourne day dotted with cumulus clouds to make you feel happy.  At other times watching the rain sheeting down over the rooftops is always an incredible sight.  When this view is gone I will miss seeing the moon in all its phases low on the horizon, the beautiful sunsets and the dark storm clouds rolling in at different times of the year.  Some storms have been quite scary at times when the wind is gusting at over 100 kilometres an hour and there are lots of dramatic forked lightning but they are exciting.  No matter what it says in the weather reports it is always better to see what is actually happening out the window.

There is not a lot I can do to stop the inevitable so I will have to make the best of things. At least I still have the other window that looks onto the greenery of the garden and can go outside in fine weather.  If I did not have this option I would probably put up lots of pictures and posters of the natural world and fill the room with plants to feel better in the winter months.

I have enjoyed my sky view for a long time and I will miss it a lot.  It might not be the most spectacular panorama compared with some wonderful scenery in the world but it has been mine.  If you have a sky view, no matter how small, make the most of its benefits while you can.  And if you have no view to speak of create one yourself with a virtual window and some posters and plants.

Kat

This post calls for a happy song so here is ELO, the 70s British band and proud wearers of satin shirts, doing Mr Blue Sky.

The Broken Club and the Half Eaten Atlas

Interesting tales attached to objects are for me what gives them value. The more bizarre the better. The following is a poem inspired by two items and a family story.

The Broken Club and the Half Eaten Atlas

Safely kept were the tribal club and atlas

Left behind by a missionary man

Some friend of an ancestor

Then the club was broken in two

By one boy who

Used it to strike the floor

And the book found under the house

Half eaten by a rat or mouse

Last possessions of Gottlob Rembold

A resident of Sydney

Who went off to New Guinea

Or so I’ve been told

In the late 19th century

And was eaten by cannibals

©Theartistschild.com 2017

There is a story in our family that a German missionary left some of his possessions in storage with a relative.  The Aboriginal war club (waddy) and Stieler’s Schul Atlas are all that remain.  He was supposedly eaten by one of the New Guinea tribes of headhunters and this was why he never returned to collect his things.  The war club (broken by an uncle when young and mended with some waxed flax by me) is the type of weapon used to attack enemies in tribal battles.

While I am usually dubious about the veracity of such sensationalist tales, I think that the story is most likely true because it came from a branch of the family that was quite reliable.  They were very honest and practical and not the types to make up fanciful stories.   Ellie and I thought that we would investigate this further to see if there was any actual documentary evidence available.

The name Gottlob Rembold and a Sydney address are hand written in the Atlas.  We Googled his name and this has made the story stranger and more complicated.  In Sydney in 1881, a Gottlob Rembold at the age of 27 was charged with shooting and wounding his uncle in the chest with intent to murder.  Apparently this Gottlob was a young man from Germany, who came out to Australia in 1880 to live with his aunt and uncle, a farmer, probably after the death of his father.  There was a dispute about a large sum of money in a will that he claimed was his, but his aunt said it was left to her.  Gottlob also claimed that he had been mistreated since his arrival from Germany ten months before.  Gottlob was found guilty but the sentence was remitted with no reason given.  There is a prison photo of Gottlob but we can’t show it as it is subject to copyright and  only available to view by Ancestry.com members.  It is not a mug shot, but a normal studio portrait and he was a good-looking young man.

His was not a common name in Sydney at the time so it is surely the same person.  The atlas has a date of 1876 and this is when this Gottlob was 22 years old and might have been contemplating travel.  After his release from prison he could have gained assistance from a religious organisation and then decided to become a missionary.  Gottlob had been employed as a gardener so this was a change of direction.  Not that it did him much good.

Gottlob’s story is part of the rampant Western Colonialism that took place around the world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Probably if Rembold had been a medical missionary or an Anthropologist he would have survived.  As opposed to some of hardline missionaries of the period, they tended to respect the host culture and were not perceived as a threat so usually lived to write about their experiences.  Gottlob must have made enemies if he had such a nasty fate.

Not all family stories are sweetness and light and the sad and bad characters can be just as inspiring as the heroic figures.  Was Gottlob a naive young man mistreated by his aunt and uncle or was he an opportunistic, murderous fortune hunter who turned to religion?  We will never know the whole truth about his end unless we can find a death certificate.  Without more information one can only imagine the mysterious and violent demise of the unfortunate Gottlob Rembold.

Kat

To lift a rather dark story the following is a live version of Rage Against the Machine’s protest song Killing in the Name by my favorite string quartet, Sydney group “FourPlay String Quartet.” They can really rock the strings.  Ellie and I saw them perform this same piece in concert and it was electric.  The members of FourPlay are all fantastic musicians and composers and their own music, while influenced by the past, is of our time.   In recent years they have collaborated in performance with Neil Gaiman.  Check them out on YouTube.

All Tied up in Knots

DSCN4266

Have you ever found yourself getting really angry at everything and everyone at the drop of a hat?  You bite people’s heads off for no apparent reason and completely overreact to the slightest provocation.  I find this happens to me when I am prevented from doing my creative work, either because there are other things that must be done or someone else is impinging upon my time and space.

Anger is not good for anyone’s wellbeing and can definitely affect you physically.  I get really tight muscles in the shoulders and neck when I’m tense and sitting at the computer for long periods does not help it.  If it gets too painful and I’m all tied up in knots I can’t work at all and painkillers are not something I want to take all the time.   Some people like to punch a bag and scream when they are angry but I find this just revs me up and makes me more agitated.  Trying to relax is more effective.  So is Arnica cream and a hot pack to stop the shoulder tension.

I read in Julia Cameron’s wonderful book The Artist’s Way that creative people who are blocked or prevented from doing what they love become very angry.  I have had periods when I have been unable do any creative work and was unbearable to live with.  I was doing a job to please others and not myself and it was making me miserable.  Luckily I realized that this was not where I wanted to be and did something to correct the situation.  I find that I am happiest when I am drawing or writing or singing and less likely to turn into the viper from hell.  The only downside is that it is harder to make a living in the creative fields, but that is my choice and I’d rather be happy and fulfilled than rich and grumpy.

Daily life can also lead to a lot of unnecessary angst. Some people just don’t get it when you are in your creative zone.  Lately I have been doing a lot of writing and have been working on a fantasy story and a science fiction story.  I find that I go off into another world while I am doing this and any interruptions are very annoying.  When you don’t live alone it can be difficult to get others to respect your space.  Although I have told members of the family that I’m am busy with my writing, they still seem to think because I am on the premises that it is OK to get me to respond to any questions or to interact with them.

I am at my creative peak in the afternoon and early evening and that is often when people want my attention. There is no door on the studio and anyone can yell up the stairs because they know I am there.  It drives me insane and breaks the flow of my writing.  I become extremely grouchy and have to resist the urge to throw something at the source of my irritation.  This is not great for the creative process or household harmony.  I’m afraid I am talking about sibling squabbles that can often become entirely unreasonable on both sides if not dealt with sensibly.

How to resolve this situation?  It is better if you can deal with the problem in a calm manner.  I do try to work when no one is around and then I can give others more time when I have finished my writing for the day.  This can be difficult because when I am are on a roll it is hard to stop.  Sometimes you just have to pace yourself and impose some kind of time restrictions. Stopping before meals is important to prevent family arguments.

It is often the case that the other person becomes angry because they are also feeling creatively frustrated and resentful when you are obviously getting on with your work.  It makes them feel left out as they wish they could be doing something similar themselves.  At these times it is not a good idea to go on about your work or they can be quite dismissive and not receptive to your thoughts.

The old “take some deep breaths and count to three before opening your mouth” is a very wise course of action when things become heated.  Just keeping your mouth shut can also diffuse a lot of explosive situations and walking outside is a good idea.  When I’m fuming I find the most effective method is giving my dog a cuddle because it is impossible to stay angry when you are being licked.

Anger is a destructive force and it does not pay to give it any energy.  It is better to put this energy into your creative pursuits.  Why waste time getting all worked up when you could be enjoying yourself doing what you love.  And remember that other people may also be creatively blocked which causes them to lash out at you when provoked.

It is not easy to stay calm when you are feeling harassed and being hindered from doing what you are passionate about but it is also important to live in harmony with others.  So next time you are about to explode because something or someone drives you crazy consciously stop yourself from going down the anger route.  Life will be so much more pleasant and productive.

Kat

Ecstatic about Eggs

DSCN4252

I love all types of decorative eggs.  You could say I’m eggstatic about them just like “Egghead” from Batman (aka Vincent Price) with all his bad puns.  Ellie and I have a small collection.  None of our eggs cost very much and many of them were gifts, as well as some being family heirlooms.  I have also decorated some and created one from scratch.

For many people the egg is a major symbol of Easter, of spring fertility and rebirth.  For kids it is about chocolate.  In many cultures it is also the cosmic egg in creation myths.  The egg is the ultimate symbol of creativity and has inspired many artist’s and crafts people to create beautiful objects.

A collection usually begins with one object.  My parents had a Austrian poker work egg brought back from an overseas trip.  It opens up to form two egg cups and has matching napkins rings.  I was always fascinated by it’s decoration and shape so when I saw other interesting eggs on holiday or in op shops I would snap them up.

DSCN4216

Austrian poker work egg and Swiss tin eggs

Some of our eggs have been brought back by family members from holidays overseas as gifts.  Our aunt gave us some cloisonné eggs from China and they came with little wooden stands.  I also had some old ones from a relative that are good for displaying eggs.  On a trip to Japan several years ago we also found some lovely decoupage eggs when visiting an exhibition at the Tokyo Museum that depict images from some medieval narrative scrolls.

DSCN4198

Chinese cloisonné eggs (back row),  Chinese painted real egg (centre),  Japanese decoupage eggs (left and right centre row) Chinese painted wooden eggs (front row).

Because Australia is so close to Asia it is easy to get Chinese eggs here.  Locally we found some real eggs that were painted with the Animals of the Chinese zodiac, like the horse and monkey.  These are quite fragile and need to be stored carefully.

There are also some Asian plant fibre eggs but I have forgotten where they come from as they were a gift.  Shows you should write things down at the time.

Old egg cups are good for displaying eggs.   We have a couple of vintage majolica ones from Italy: a turkey and a duck, as well as a later goose, all found at op shops.  These are quite fun and painted wooden eggs look great in them.

DSCN4213

Polish wooden eggs and Russian painted egg at back

DSCN4209

Russian wooden eggs

Old napkin rings are also good for displaying eggs.  They come in all sorts of shapes and materials and make an interesting collection of their own.  I also find large vintage buttons good for stopping eggs from rolling around.

Eggs come in so many different materials and can be an example of various crafts.  You can find interesting ones at local craft markets or specialist craft stores.

DSCN4224

Australian painted real eggs and Philippines embroidered fabric eggs

DSCN4231

Hand blown glass eggs

DSCN4206

African stone eggs, two painted and hand engraved and a black wooden ebony egg

DSCN4227

Taiwanese Sodalite egg (left), orange simulated marble egg (centre back), Italian marble egg (right), my talc stone egg (front).

I had a go at sculpting my own talc stone egg.  This caused a great deal of dust and took a lot of sand paper to get the right shape.  I now appreciate how much effort it must take to shape and polish very hard stones.

One year I decided to paint some eggs as table decorations.  The most difficult part was blowing out the white and yolks.  Because I thought I would run out of breath, I used an air brush compressor with a syringe needle attached to the end of the tube.  With too much pressure the egg exploded so it was very tricky and messy.  The blown eggs were then coated with layers of acrylic paint and stippled with another colour to make a textured effect.  I added some gold dust left over from gold leaf that someone had given me and applied it with the varnish.  I think that the aqua ones look like real eggs.  The layers of paint has made them less fragile.

I have a real ostrich egg that I bought at the Melbourne Zoo shop ages ago.  There must have been an excess of eggs in their breeding programs.  Wonder if they made huge omelets.  There were holes in each end of the egg where they had blown out the innards.  These were rather large and not very attractive so I glued in some enamel flower earrings that I did not wear.  This is probably the closest I will get to anything like a Faberge enamel egg and the ostrich did most of the work.  It has such a beautiful creamy shell and is quite heavy.

The following black egg is made from Australian post ice age river red gum found buried in the flood plains of the Murray River.  It is very much like Irish bog oak.  These ancient trees stopped growing about 5,000 years ago and the ancestors of todays indigenous Australians would have been around to see them growing.  This was a gift from a friend who knows the maker.

Version 2

The oldest manufactured egg in the collection is tiny.  It is a novelty made in Germany and sold in Melbourne in the late part of the 19th century.  The egg contains the “smallest doll in the world,” a little peg wooden doll that we inherited from a relative.  Unfortunately some long ago child had broken one of the arms because these are movable.  The limb was long gone.  I had to give it an arm transplant using a tiny piece of matchstick and glue (click on the pictures for detailed close ups).  This was really fiddly and I nearly glued it to my finger.  The doll looks a lot happier.

That’s our egg collection.  It is amazing how many creative ways there are to make decorative eggs and these are only a small sample.  It seems appropriate that a major symbol for creation should inspire all sorts of creative, eggceptional ideas.  Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

Kat