From dramatic, lifelike portraits to depictions of classical architecture, the detailed carvings of Ouray artist Carla U. Kelly would be impressive in any medium.
The fact that Kelly creates her works of art on the fragile surface of an egg has generated worldwide attention for this lifelong learner.
A native of Germany, Kelly taught kindergarten before immigrating to the United States in 1973. After living in Kansas City for years, where she did etching for a local company, she moved to Colorado.
In addition to her etching, Kelly has years of experience as a wood carver. She also paints – both in acrylics and oils.
It was the purchase of a power-engraver six years ago that sparked her interest in carving on eggshells.
“I bought the power-engraver to engrave some glass, real fine work,” Kelly said. “On a website, I saw the different uses of that power engraver, and one of the things they had listed was egg-carving. I thought, hmm, that’s interesting.”
After seeing some beautifully carved ostrich eggs, Kelly was inspired to give the delicate medium a try.
For her carving she uses a dental tool developed for work on dentures. It looks like a slightly heavier pencil, and runs off of a compressor.
She orders her ostrich eggs – empty and sanitized – from a Canadian farmer, but notes that they are readily available throughout the United States as well. Kelly also works with emu and goose eggs and even plain old barnyard chicken eggs.
“I would suggest for people to practice on them,” Kelly said of the chicken eggs, “because they give a real feel for how much air flow and how much pressure to apply.”
Kelly, who teaches egg-carving through Internet tutorials, finds chicken eggs to be an excellent teaching tool.
“If they turn out really nice, they can be kept under a glass globe and displayed,” she said. “But they are fragile.”
Ostrich eggs, on the other hand, are like sturdy porcelain plates, she said.
One of Kelly’s egg carvings took “Best of Show” honors at the 2007 International Egg Art Guild Show in Dallas. She has won two blue ribbons for other pieces as well.
At 64, she continues to do other work as she sees fit, designing web sites as a sideline, and custom glass etching.
“I love the challenge of doing special things for people,” Kelly said. “I also do custom work with eggs, including reverse carvings, where the eggs are lit from within and the positive image shows through.”
The artist is planning an open house at her Ouray home over the weekend of April 24 and 25. For directions or to learn more, contact her at 325-4732.