For centuries, traditional lacquerware artists in China, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, and other countries have been perfecting the craft of mosaic art made from eggshells. Today, decorative boxes, vases, and jewelry from Africa covered with rare, shattered ostrich eggshells are highly prized by collectors.

Readily available and inexpensive, eggshells easily absorb color because of their high concentration of calcium carbonate. Traditionally, eggshell mosaics are made by first dying and then positioning each shard individually - a time-consuming and delicate process.

This project introduces a new way to crush and color eggshells, creating intricate veining and texture all at once without pre-dying or arranging each fragment. The simple glue-and-paint process and satisfying "crunch!" of breaking eggshells will delight crafters of all ages!

Preparation

Collect the equivalent of one large chicken eggshell per project. Keep the pieces as large as possible. Soak the pieces in hot water mixed with anti-bacterial hand soap or dishwashing liquid for at least 15 minutes, then rinse them with cool water and set them on paper towels to dry for at least 24 hours. If the membrane is completely dry, there is no need to remove it.

Process

  1. The canvas panels are pre-primed and ready to use. The mâché boxes may be painted first with a background color. Read the "Options" section for instructions on how to prepare other surfaces.
  2. Apply white glue generously to the areas where the shells will be applied.
  3. Take a section of eggshell and place it on the glue with either side facing up. The outer shell will not absorb color as readily; the inner shell will retain more color. Press gently with fingers to flatten the shell against the surface. Continue to apply pressure to increase the cracking effect. Allow the pieces to overlap each other and build up dimensional texture. Stray pieces may be repositioned or removed. Cover the entire surface or leave some areas uncovered for contrast; see (A). Allow time for the glue to dry.
  4. Brush a freestyle coat of undiluted Liquid Watercolor over the eggshells and the surface. More than one color may be used, but it is important to realize that in the next step most of the paint will be moved. Do not paint details or patterns — they won't stay! The paint will probably make the mosaic look flat and uninteresting at this stage; see (B). Don’t be discouraged — wait for the watercolor to dry and move on to the next step.
  5. Apply Pouring Medium directly over the painting, either with a brush or directly from the bottle — approximately one teaspoon for a 4" x 4" canvas panel. The medium will rewet the watercolor so the white surface of the eggshell can be reclaimed. Use a brush to help push the watercolor away from the shells (see C), or dab the paint away with a paper towel or tissue. When suspended in the medium, the watercolor will remain in the lower areas and in the cracks, surrounding and defining each shard. The medium will also act as glue in the event some shards loosen.
  6. The Pouring Medium is milky in its liquid state but will dry perfectly clear. It’s also self-leveling, so the finish will be smooth and glossy like genuine lacquer. Allow the piece to dry. If desired, apply an additional coat.

Options

  1. This technique can be used on a variety of surfaces, including glass, ceramic, wood, stretched canvas, and more. Prime these surfaces first with at least two coats of Blick Studio Gesso (00682-1001). Do not dilute and do not sand between coats.
  2. Blickrylic Polymer Gloss Medium (00711-1027) may be used as a substitute for Pouring Medium. Gloss medium dries perfectly clear, but it retains brushstrokes, so the finish won't be as smooth.
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