Tamera Seevers is a painter and sculptor who works uses ostrich egg shells, yes, ostrich egg shells as her medium. She contacted me one day and told me about her site www.tameraseeversstudio.com and asked me to interview her. After seeing her unusual work, I knew we had to chat and here it is …
MICHAEL: Hello Tamera, I have never heard of egg shell art, but your work is lovely. Why? How? Do you use real egg shells? Aren't they very delicate?
TAMERA: Thank you for the wonderful compliment. I truly appreciate it. I am thrilled to introduce you to this medium. The sculptures are real egg shells. I carve primarily on Ostrich egg shells because they are thick, though only about a 1/6th of an inch, enough to do a full-relief carving. The resulting work is completely one of a kind. Where did the idea of carving on an ostrich eggshell come from? My family went to the National Western Stock Show and there was a display of egg shells at a poultry exhibit showing sizes from the smallest of eggs to the largest egg, the ostrich eggshell being the largest. I could not stop thinking about sculpting on them.
Are they delicate? Yes and no. A person who weighs 250 pounds can easily stand on the unworked shell. My husband and daughter have had many laughs on seeing who could balance themselves better and longer on the shell that is, before I begin carving on them. While the finished ostrich egg sculpture appears to be delicate even fragile, the strength of a finished sculpture, I would approximate, is that of a fine crystal or porcelain vase. Ultimately, they will break if you drop them. If you treat them as works of art, they will last many lifetimes. There has been Eggshell art found that is over 60,000 years old.
While attending an art exhibition, engineering professors from CU boulder happened by and stated that my work was incredibly "fractal." They even asked if I had used a computer to design the pieces. Slightly embarrassed, I had to ask them what fractal even was! I don't use a computer to create my designs. They are representations of my life experiences or thoughts. I sketch a drawing right onto the eggshell. The design has to consider the end in mind. What will be beautiful, but keep its strength to stay together? This is defiantly the challenge that I love.
Carving it is a slow, methodical process. You have to have a light touch when filigreeing the shell. I use a high-speed drill with tiny diamond burrs. For me, time just disappears when I am carving the piece and what may seem like five minutes of work to me, ends up to be five hours. It can take several months to complete a single piece.
MICHAEL: How do you get and keep getting these shells? The ostriches must be worn out from producing just to keep YOU supplied. LOL.
TAMERA: Ha! You would think. I originally bought my first shells from a domestic ostrich farm in Arizona. Ranchers raise ostriches for meat, just like cattle. However, ostriches have a byproduct that cows don't, the ostrich egg. Ostriches have a high infertility rate. The fertile eggs are incubated and the infertile are cleaned and sold. I also have 20 eggshells that came from a couple in Sedona. I met them at a show there. They used to own an ostrich ranch in California and the 20 eggshells were left over from their ranching days. This meeting resulted in two commissioned pieces and the 20 eggshells.
MICHAEL: It seems that the finished egg product is mainly decorative. Can you make deeper artistic statements with eggs as your medium?
TAMERA: That’s an interesting observation. Though I appreciate the use of my art in decorative settings, I strive to tell the story they all have. Each piece is a form of symbolism and deeper meaning.
The eggshell symbolizes a new chance in life and represents new beginnings, ever-changing lives and fresh starts. Each eggshell sculpture I create has its own individual meaning. They are moments. They are memories. They are of a time not forgotten. I named my most recent exhibition “Life’s Fragile Moments” because that is what life is and what my work represents. Life is fragile, and the moments we live in it are precious. These moments and memories are ours to have and to hold. No one, no matter how fleeting the moment, no one, can take them away. I love when I can bring these moments of the past and have them live on my sculptures in the present.
MICHAEL: Very interesting. When you're actually working on these pieces, what's that process like? Is it meditative? Emotional? Intellectual? Do you listen to music or watch TV during the process?
TAMERA: I am a big thinker. I seem to get lost in a different world that unlocks thoughts and dreams. New ideas flow like a waterfall in a dream. Working on my pieces creates a euphorically and amazing feeling for me. I tend to focus on positive images and how I can reflect the image back into my work and yes, time does disappear. I really do need to have someone gently tell me to take a break, to get up to stretch, even to eat. When I am working, I am not able to just stop. It’s as if I am compelled to finish the sculpture as if it wants to be discovered. I do listen to light rock music with noise cancellation headphones. The sound of the drill as I am carving is not very pleasant, much like you would here at a dentist office.
MICHAEL: I find it interesting that your creative process with the sculptures is akin to "wanting to be discovered." It's the same concept as giving birth or even, yes, eggs that are hatching and life is springing forth ... No?
TAMERA: Absolutely Michael, The discovery, not only in creating the art, but of self-discovery, inspiration and mastery. The hatching and the creation of “life” from an egg shell and finding its hidden beauty is a journey of discovery - especially when you use memories to help get you there. For many, self-discovery is a hard road to travel and some may never make it. Others gain an understanding about who they are and where they want to go. Carving on eggshell, or carving in general, puts me in this state of clarity and understanding and, yes, life moving forward.
MICHAEL: What do you think about the art world/art market and how it functions today? Living artists are struggling while dead, famous artists are thriving.
TAMERA: This one really touches a nerve. I am part of a handmade crusade of fine art along with an I&E network (Inspiration and Encouragement). “TO PROTECT AND PROMOTE THE PEOPLE WHO ARE PRODUCING THE ARTIFACTS OF THE FUTURE – FINE ART and HANDMADE ARTWORKS.” This is geared to help living artists make a living with their art now, not when they are dead.
Art is a contribution to society. It always has been and always will be. Archaeologists point to art to answer questions about our past. What was our life like, what did people look like, what did they wear, what were they thinking, how did they do things, what were their religious views? There is so much meaning to art than just the physical piece itself. We must recognize that the art of the present is equally important in a society to what has been buried.
The phrase “worth more dead than alive” really rings true with serious fine artists. I get that when an artist dies there is no more supply of their works, and simple laws of supply and demand come into play here. However, what art collectors fail to realize is the supply of a very talented living artist may cease just as abruptly because the struggle is too much. We then, as a society, become deprived of that artist’s contribution.
I think the art world/art market also has another issue. Artist themselves. I have seen excitement in artists who sell out at an art show. When I’ve asked them how much did you make? I gotten that glazed over look. They had no idea. When I’ve asked them how much they sold their original paintings for, the answer was $10.00 each. Now I am not a painter, but I do know that it costs more to produce a framed, couch-sized painting than $10.00.
As an artist, we put our soul into our works. When put out on display to sell, this is a vulnerable feeling. If no one buys your art, it is a direct stab to that vulnerability. A lot of artists would rather sell for less than encounter that rejection.
Art business education is a need for the serious artists who want to make a living doing what they love. In today’s world of art, it takes a business savvy person to get noticed. Most artists are not business-minded and major art houses will only accept work that have provenance. Yes, I am in awe of the great masters of the past, but also in awe of many of my living contemporary friends.
MICHAEL: That’s exactly why I do what I do. Finally Tamera, what do you want people to see in your work and where do you want to go with it in the future?
TAMERA: A realization that life is fragile, short and constantly changing. I would love to travel worldwide with my art, to teach and share. To be collected by not only more people, but additional museums. To be recognized as an important artist. An art of our time and place. My sculptures are alive with distinctive images. I would like my pieces to be an inspiration for others to tell their own story. Whether it is exposing the emotion of a delicate flower, the fluttering wings of a bird or bringing to life the majesty of a wild elk, I want those who see my art to feel a sense of peace and happiness, to have seen and felt something magical, a gift that touches their lives, if only for a moment.
MICHAEL: Nice sentiment. Thanks for chatting Tamera.
TAMERA: Thank you again, Michael, for letting me share my thoughts and be allowed to express the meaning of my art to others.
Check out Tamera Seevers at www.tameraseeversstudio.com.