In the Artist’s Studio with Gail Mercer
words and photos by Noor Hindi
From music boxes to beautifully crafted displays and zentangle inspired designs, Gail Mercer has created an entire art form out of eggs. In her home, there’s a giant ostrich egg sitting in the middle of a table, with turkey eggs, goose eggs, duck eggs and chicken eggs haphazardly lying around, waiting to be sculpted into canvas for her art.
For Gail, the possibilities are endless when you’re an egger (egg artist).
“Emu eggs are one of my most favorite eggs to work with,” she says. “When you carve away the outer shell, a green color is beneath it, and if you go through that, there’s white.”
Gail became an egger after she stumbled upon some egg carving videos over 20 years ago. Since then, she’s been taking art classes and attending egg shows. All of this inspires her egg designs, which are highly decorated and expensive to make.
But Gail’s love of art extends back to when she was a little girl, watching her father use his carpentry skills to build her current home.
“I was eight years old and he’d mix the cement and my mom would tear off the brown wrappers inside the bags of the cement and I would draw pictures of things I would see in the clouds.”
Growing up, Gail often wished art classes were offered at her school. Nobody else in her family did art, and her parents “never seemed to encourage” her to become an artist. But Gail couldn’t help falling in love with art and naturally gravitating toward it.
“I just kind of went my own and followed my own drummer and desires.”
Before becoming an egger, Gail was a colored pencil artist. She also did street rods with a family member for 10 years. Aside from this, she’s dabbled in painting but doesn’t enjoy it too much. Egging is an art form that has stuck with Gail though because of its attention to detail and the carving it requires.
Each egg type is different, and Gail has learned over the years which eggs to use for her art and whether they are strong enough to hold her designs.
The process of designing eggs is time consuming. After Gail purchases an egg from a local farmer, she has to blow out the yolk, then disinfect it using vinegar water. After this, she applies a clear lacquer to harden the shell. This process can take up to a week.
After applying lacquer, Gail then begins her design. Sometimes, she does simpler zentangle designs. Other times, she creates music boxes or intricate displays by cutting ostrich eggs and manipulating their shape. But she has to be careful with cutting ostrich eggs indoors because they’re 100 percent calcium, which can get in your lungs.
“Some of my happiest days in high school were in the high school band. I played cornet and I was in the band for seven years. I loved it.”
When she’s not busy, Gail enjoys heading to Brookfield, Ohio to Alcraft Egg, where she buys many of her supplies. She says the worst part of being an egger is accidentally breaking the eggs. Sometimes, they can be fragile.
Gail worked for Akron Public School as a physical education teacher for 30 years before retiring. She was also president of the Ohio Egg Artist Guild for about 10 years. The Ohio Egg Artist Guild hosts an annual egg show around Easter time at our Lady of the Elms. The show gathers eggers from all over the Midwest and they sell and showcase their designs at the two-day event.
Keep up with the Ohio Egg Artists Guild by following them on Facebook @OhioEggArtistsGuild or emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Ohio Egg Artists Guild invites you to take one of two egg decorating workshops on April 14, 2018, from 10am-12noon at The Hub Community Center, 3676 Community Lane, Copley OH 44321. Go to http://TheElegantEgg.weebly.