Farha's Gallery of Decorated Eggs
By Bizzie Frost Saudi Gazette
IF you ask the average woman what she can do with an egg, the reply would probably be something like: “Make an omlette!” Farha Sayeed, who comes from Hyderabad in India, is an excellent cook, but once she gets her hands on an egg, it is transformed into a Fabergé-style work of art.
At her recent “Eggsibition” at the Reda Gallery on Palestine Road in Jeddah, she had 80 eggs on display representing four year’s work.
She works with chicken, goose, rhea, emu and ostrich eggs. These are ordered in bulk on the Internet and although they arrive “blown”, they are not clean inside. The residue of the membrane and egg yolk are still there. They have to be carefully and thoroughly cleaned with water, washing up liquid and chlorox.
“It isn’t something you want to do very often,” said Farha laughing, “they are very smelly. I have been sick twice when trying to clean them!”
Decorated and colored eggs have been used as gifts for centuries, to celebrate the rebirth of life on the Earth.
In France, it became customary to exchange elaborate surprise gifts at Easter time in the form of decorated eggs.
The most famous of the decorated eggs are those made by the Russian goldsmith, Peter Carl Fabergé – but, unlike Farha’s work, real eggs were not the basis of his designs. His eggs were made out of precious metals or hard stones, and were decorated with combinations of enamel and gemstones. They are regarded as masterpieces of the jeweler’s art. He and his assistants made a total of 69 jewelled eggs, 50 of which were presented to Czars Alexander III and Nicholas II of Russia. But that is another story.
Farha started decorating eggs around eight years ago. She is obviously someone who, once she has made up her mind to do something, does it very well. Within four years, her skills had produced a sufficient number of decorated eggs to have an exhibition. Now, only another four years on, she has produced sufficient for another exhibition.
She admits that the work is painstaking and, when she is carving out the intricate designs in the shells, produces a surprising amount of dust.
“It is very fine and not good for your health. I have to wear a nose and mouth mask and goggles over my eyes. I also wear ear muffs because of the noise of the electric drill.”
When she starts working on an egg, she says that it takes on a life of its own.
“I might have an idea in my mind, but when the egg is finished it will be totally different. It depends mostly on the mood and how the egg is. As you are working, you keep changing your mind as you go along. What color goes with it and so on – you cannot decide in advance of the work.”
Chicken and goose eggs are delicate and have to be hardened with a combination of three layers of diluted “gesso” followed by several layers of acrylic paint and varnish. Emu, rhea and ostrich shells are quite tough and ostrich egg in particular is hard work to carve.
The variety of designs she comes up with is impressive. Some are delicately carved with intricate designs; others have up to four little doors cut into them with tiny hinges attached. They open up to reveal the interior of the egg which might be a cushioned space for finger rings, or contain tiny figurines, or even have little music boxes inside.
The coaches that are made using the larger ostrich and rhea eggs have detailed interiors that mimic the interiors of life-size Royal coaches, complete with velvet or brocade seats and soft crepe ceilings. She uses rhinestones, pearl beads and golden thread as well as miniature silk paintings to decorate the exteriors.
Her inspiration comes from extensive reading and searching on the Internet.
“Whenever I see something unusual, I draw it in my book. And moving around and traveling a lot helps with ideas. I have also been learning calligraphy – I have to study a design carefully to see if it will fit onto an egg.”
The completed eggs are mounted on elaborate stands that compliment the egg’s design. These are again ordered on the internet. They come in a variety of gold and silver metals, porcelain, and a combination of enameled and metal work.
One part of me really wanted to see an egg that had been decorated with real gemstones and was mounted on solid silver or gold. I asked Farha if she had ever thought of doing this. “You know, you can do anything, but one should do something that is within one’s reach. The Fabergé eggs are done by goldsmiths and jewelers and I can’t do all that. The way I do it, I can do it all myself – I am not dependant on anyone’s help; no support is required.”
The prices that Farha charges put a whole new meaning to the inflationary cost of half a dozen eggs: one chicken egg will cost you around SR200, while an Ostrich Egg Coach might set you back as much as SR5,900.
At the moment, her egg designs and themes have mainly European elements. However, she is returning to India in the near future and is looking forward to getting inspiration from her home country and to adding Indian influences into her art.
Although we didn’t discuss them, Farha’s other creative talents include charcoal and thermo-cole painting, and painting on silk, tiles and glass.
A theme that she is passionate about is encouraging young people – especially girls – to become involved in creative hobbies.
“I would really prefer youngsters to spend more time in their hobbies than wasting it watching TV. Hobbies are a very important part of your life; people’s lives are very busy and they have a lot of tension. Everyone should have a hobby which gives them pleasure.”
Farha Sayeed’s eggs can be seen on her website http://www.eggdeco.com. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.