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Under Varnish on a Curve Surface

  • Ostrich Egg
  • Rod to hold egg
  • Paint for background, if desired
  • Clear, semi-gloss or matte finish varnish
  • Cut prints of choice
  • 0000 steel wool
  • Rotten stone
  • Mineral oil
  • Behlen Blue Label Paste Wax

When working with eggs, you will find each one is shaped, dimpled and scarred unlike another. It would be simple to gesso over such imperfections but then again you lose the character of the egg. When an egg has interesting dimpling, you will find yourself designing the surface accordingly. The surface of the egg is treated like any other under-varnish project. Once you have cleaned your egg with mild soap and rinsed it, you are ready to proceed. Please don’t learn the hard way that it is important to have the right size rod to hold your egg. (Long cooking chopsticks work well, but any rod will do as long as it is approximately 1’ to 1 1/2’ long and fits snug (you may need thin sticks to wedge it tight.) Do not use paper or foil or cotton pads-you need to varnish to the edge of the opening and you don’t want varnish adhering to foreign surfaces. If desired, spray paint, hand-paint or sponge paint the egg background.

An important step when designing an egg is to keep in mind you have a flat print for a curved surface-more so than with a lamp or bowl because of its egg shape. (The top curves-the bottom curves and you want your design to flow all around.) It’s not just clipping to get it to fit. It sometimes requires reshaping your print. Making a black and white print to experiment on your egg surface can be very beneficial. This is not necessary each time, but in the beginning it’s best. Try not to rush this part of the process because the time taken to get the feel of the egg and know where to clip ahead of time lets you work more efficiently on the finished product. It is important to keep scissors and tweezers close by when gluing to snip and remove any edges necessary to give a proper fit.

Once your design is glued down by brushing varnish on the egg and laying your print in place, check for any raised edges or misalignments. If all prints are positioned properly, cover with a damp Handiwipe cloth and using a roller, go over entire design. (Work from the bottom of the egg up.) Again check edges and lightly sponge brush with varnish and let dry. The beauty of using your varnish to glue is there is no clean up required.
How does one varnish an egg? It’s like working with a lollipop on a stick. (I do one-half, then the other-no more!) Since you now have your egg on a rod, it holds steady as you varnish. At first this seems awkward, but it will become a snap to maneuver. Use a sponge brush and light coats.
Most important: Make certain to anchor your egg in a sturdy container (planter or deep jar, etc.) or it may become Humpty-Dumpty.
The number of varnish coats to be applied depends on the depth and smoothness you wish to achieve. (Some eggs may never need sanding; others after 25 coats of varnish need to be sanded with 0000 steel wool and rotten stoned with mineral oil and then rubbed with Behlen Blue Label Paste Wax. Hand rubbing is also helpful. Sometimes the uneven surface of a varnished unpainted egg gives an interesting appearance. If you sand through to your print, in addition to colored pencils you can use waterproof pens to touch up your print. (Test these pens out first by varnishing over them on another surface-even if they say “waterproof” they may run!)

Collect interesting items to use for egg stands such as old bracelets, painted plant stands, candleholders, cardboard cylinders or even cans.