How to Make an Egg Dish

comments (20) April 10th, 2012     

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Jeff_Rudell Jeffery Rudell, contributor
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A ghostly moon, an arctic ice floe, a piece of crackleware, or just an unexpected use for recycled and rescued materials?
An eggshell-encrusted platter mimics its finer (and more expensive) eggshell-embedded lacquerware cousin—at a fraction of the cost.
Keep in mind that adhering convex eggshells to a concave surface is bound to offer challenges.
A ghostly moon, an arctic ice floe, a piece of crackleware, or just an unexpected use for recycled and rescued materials?

A ghostly moon, an arctic ice floe, a piece of crackleware, or just an unexpected use for recycled and rescued materials?

Photo: Jeff Rudell
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All hail the happy accident!

When I was coming home from the grocery store, laden with more flimsy shopping bags than any reasonable person would attempt to carry at one time, one dozen beautiful, perfectly white, farm fresh eggs tumbled out of reach and fell to my kitchen floor. Dumbstruck by the idiocy of the accident (I had thought to myself as I left the store, "These eggs are going to fall and break," and, sure enough, they had), I was surprised to realize that all of the crumbled shells there at my feet looked surprisingly like the ever-present flurry of paper bits and pieces that litter the floor beneath my studio table.

It didn't take long before I had all of the shards soaking in a bath of warm, soapy water in the sink. As I cleaned up the yolk and albumen, I wondered if there was a way to recoup my $3.00 by using these eggshells in a project.

It is at this point that the myth of being a creative person would mandate a flash of inspiration, a vision of genius, or some flash of insight that leads to a gorgeous result. The truth of the matter is far less cinematic but no less exciting: I gathered my eggshells, glanced around the studio at what else I had to work with, and sat down to play. I know of only three uses for eggshells: as a cannibalistic calcium additive in chicken feed, as a soil supplement for certain houseplants, and as a decorative component in certain types of Japanese lacquerware. Having no chicks to feed or plants to nourish at the moment, I opted for a poor-man's version of the lacquerware.

Whether or not the directions that follow are the best, I cannot say. I drew from my limited knowlegde of decoupage and hoped for the best. If any of you readers have suggestions on ways to improve this process, I hope you will share them with us all in the comments section below.

For me, the joy of this project—like so many before it—came in discovering (over the course of a few, unrushed days) what exactly these modest materials, a little patience, and some creativity might yield. Anyone wishing to attempt this project should keep in mind that adhering convex eggshells to a concave surface is bound to offer challenges. However, keep in mind that a perfectly flat surface is NOT the objective. And, while the result lacks the ultrasmooth surface of high-end lacquerware, it also lacks the ultrahigh price, a lengthy apprenticeship in the traditional art, and the cost of airfare to Tokyo.


I began with an inexpensive bamboo bowl—rescued from a New York curbside—a dozen eggshells, and a leftover can of matte-finish black paint.

 


A quick—and not particularly thorough—coat  of paint provided the base color for my project. Once dry, I applied PPA Matte Acrylic Medium in the center of the dish and began arranging my eggshells. Any water-based adhesive will likely suffice.

 


Arranging eggshells is not a process to be rushed. Work on small areas at a time and take frequent breaks (of an hour or a day) as needed to avoid tedium. A quilling needle or tweezer will aid in positioning pieces, especially at the rim.

 


Once all pieces are in place and the PPA Medium is dry, apply a generous coat of Varathane Water-Based Varnish (Satin Finish). I applied three coats in total, allowing each to dry before applying the next.

 


Between coats of varnish, a light sanding with medium-gauge steel wool will help smooth out any air bubbles or imperfections in the finish.

 


To resolve the edge of your piece, I suggest using a metallic paint pen (silver in this case) to draw a defining line around the rim.

 


Note: Eggshells have a concave side and a convex side. Adhere all pieces concave-side down or you may need something stronger than steel wool to obtain a smooth surface. Learn from my mistakes and save yourself a great deal of trouble.

 


Once the varnish has dried, apply a finish coat of Butcher's Clear Paste Wax using a soft cloth, allow to dry, then buff to a sheen with a clean cotton rag.

 


Be sure to wax the eggshell side of your piece as well. The wax will lend your piece more of the look of Japanese lacquer than just the varnish.

 


The finished piece, as seen from above: a ghostly moon, an arctic ice floe, a piece of crackleware, or just an unexpected use for recycled and rescued materials?
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Comments (20)

vallivortex writes: a long forgotten technique.. thanks for the reminder!

Posted: 2:06 am on June 28th
lynhead52 writes: you can also use alcohol inks to put color on them. I make my own with alcohol and felt tip markers- you can find directions on line.
Posted: 7:14 pm on May 4th
janettalk writes: Beautiful. My first thought about using egg shells was a rustic, home-grown project. But wow! You brought it to a sophisticated level. It looks wonderful. Thank you for sharing.
Posted: 11:36 pm on May 2nd
Carolebarrel writes: Egg shells? No problem: Souffles, lemon meringue pie, white omelets, hollandaise sauce, milkshakes all in one meal. I use brown eggs from brown hens--can't wait to try this on gold spray painted base. I am afraid easter egg dye would bleed since it must be used with water soluble and edible dyes. You are a paper prince. Thanks for ALL your stimulating, generous ideas Paul.
Posted: 3:14 am on April 23rd
jullibean writes: Wow I will be saving eggshells and try this...hope mine will look as great as yours!
Posted: 6:21 pm on December 11th
Jeff_Rudell writes: Dear CleverPussRevolution: I am certain you could replace the varnish that I used on this project, with a non-toxic substitute that would make your vessel suitable for use with food (fruit, breads, rolls, etc.) I might suggest exploring Modge-Podge as a finishing medium. As well, I believe certain Acrylic finishes are non-toxic and safe to use with food. Good luck and thank you for your comments.
Posted: 5:34 pm on May 17th
CleverPussRevolution writes: Just beautiful! As always a stunning, classy and brilliant project.
Is there a way to do this so that it could be used for food purposes? I'm thinking more along the lines of serving fruit or bread rather than eating off of. Are the lacquers and such safe for this kind of thing? Thanks!
Posted: 1:34 pm on May 11th
SandraElaine writes: Really neat idea; will try it soon. Thanks. Sandy K
Posted: 12:08 pm on March 21st
Tess1960 writes: Wow, great idea. I love the outcome, beautiful.
http://www.associatedcontent.com/tess1960
Posted: 1:55 pm on March 1st
WWSusanB writes: WOW!! Now I have an idea for a problem color ginger jar lamp base. OOOh, how about eggshells in colors left over from Easter? Okay, I have to sit down now, my head is spinning. I love this site.
Posted: 2:44 am on March 1st
Jrsjewels writes: Wow! That's amazing!
Posted: 10:13 pm on February 28th
sewitall writes: I think the organic nature of eggs would lend themselves another layer of interest instead of painting them; my 30 chickens produce various shades of dark brown, speckled brown, tinted beige and pink beiges and white. A fabulous use for those extra eggs that don't get used up. Adaptable to many surface types too. My mind is spinning......
Posted: 11:04 am on February 28th
SewDanish writes: Amazing result. I love it!
Birgitte
http://www.SewDanish.etsy.com
Scandinavian Textile Art, Unique Handmade Supplies
Posted: 3:07 am on February 28th
newberg writes: Wow, what a wonderful creation!
Having worked with decoupage for many years I might consider either a decoupage medium or diluted white glue for adhering the egg shells. Because both dry clear you can layer many coats without distorting the material you are working with. Dry between each coat, 12-24 hours. After 3 or 4 coats I would diluted white glue (a tad bit less water this time) and fill the spaces between the shells. Again this will dry clear will build up those areas lower areas allowing for a smooth finish. Add as many layers of water base varnish as you can tolerate with light buffing between coats. The trick with decoupage, after mastering the cutting technique, is patience. It's the multiple coats of varnish applied evenly and allowed to dry thoroughly between applications that gives the material that "old, always been there" look.
Jeffery you are a genius. Now I know what to do with a set of tacky pseudo brass dinner chargers that I have. I think this technique will make a beautiful set that I'll use more often.
Thank you for sharing!
Posted: 9:45 pm on February 27th
WendyQM writes: Beautiful!
Posted: 8:40 pm on February 27th
eyesaflame writes: I wonder how eggshell would work in encaustic?
Posted: 8:23 pm on February 27th
eyesaflame writes: Ooo - this is brilliant.
Posted: 8:22 pm on February 27th
Ruby2 writes: Thank you Jeffery for your creativity! What a beautiful plate! I can't wait to try and make it! I'm thinking of spray painting my plate pink! What do you think of that?


Posted: 1:41 pm on February 25th
Peggy123 writes: Wow! You are a genius! I love how the plate looks! I have no clue how you come up with these amazing ideas!
I feel like going out and dropping 2 dozen eggs on the floor just to try! But alas, I shall collect the egg shells from my leftovers, and my kids, and go to town!
Thank you as always for your brilliant ideas!
Posted: 1:39 pm on February 25th
Sister_Diane writes: Genius as always, Jeffery. What a stunning project. Makes me want to try one where I dye the eggs in a bunch of pastel colors first. (Guess I'll be pestering everyone to save their Easter shells.)
Posted: 10:33 am on February 23rd
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