Fine art of making ornaments

December 22, 2003|by ANDREA ROWLAND

Keedysville resident Margaret Gonano's incredible, inedible goose egg decoration won The Herald-Mail's handmade holiday ornament contest.

An artistic panel of judges described the empty eggshell - which was adorned with a cherub, hand-carved lattice work, raised scrolls, glittery stars, filigree, beads and a tassel - as "exquisite," "stunning" and "impressive."

"It has this 'wow' factor," said judge Chris Copley, an artist and assistant Lifestyle editor at The Herald-Mail. Copley, Amy Dulebohn-Carr, Lifestyle copy editor/page designer, and Tamara Hoffman, an advertising services veteran at the newspaper and member of the Valley Art Association, unanimously chose Gonano's egg as the $50 winner from among 20 entries submitted for the contest.

"It's almost like a Faberge egg. It's just exquisite," Hoffman said. "This is very tedious work."

Dulebohn-Carr was especially impressed with the hand-carved latticework criss-crossing the back of the egg's fragile shell.

Gonano, 79, has created dozens and dozens of decorative eggs from the ostrich, emu, rhea, goose and dove eggs she buys from special dealers since she began dabbling in the art of eggery in 1971. Since retiring in 1979, Gonano has traveled around the country to participate in eggery seminars and shows with other members of the International Egg Art Guild. Her repertoire of egg holiday ornaments includes Nativity scenes, angels, skaters and the graceful cherub egg she designed for the newspaper's contest.


It took Gonano about a day and half to complete the ornament, she said.

She first scrubbed the egg shell clean before spray-painting it with flat white and pearlized paint. Then the "egger" cut the cherub from a Christmas card, glued it onto the egg, brushed over the design with three coats of glue-finish, and wet-sanded the product-in-process. Gonano then drew scrolls and latticework around the cherub figure. She used graphic arts tape to frame her lattice design and an air drill - an air compressor-powered tool that resembles a pencil but works sort of like a dentist's drill - to cut the design into the goose egg, she said. Gonano next used liquid lace to raise the scrolls before brushing over them with pearly white paint. She cut out stars, covered them with glitter, and glued them in and on the eggshell and the cherub's gown. Lastly, Gonano added filigree, beads, a tassel and a ring to hang the ornament.

The work requires a gentle touch - a touch that Gonano has honed over the years she's practiced her hobby.

"I break very, very, very few shells," she said.

In the words of one judge: "Amazing."

Contest runners-up included an oven-baked clay Santa created by 13-year-old Elizabeth Plum of Boonsboro, a macaroni angel made by Candace Reynolds of Hagers-town, crocheted snowflakes created by Ethel Irvine of Hagerstown, and a paper angel ornament made by Carol Harsand of Hagers-town.

Harsand's ornament exemplified the art of paper-cutting, known as Scherenschnitte. The artist transferred her angel design to paper, used scissors and a craft knife to cut the four identical angels holding stars from the paper, sewed the angels together down the center, and added sparkles to the angels' halos and stars. The contest judges expressed appreciation for Harsand's attention to detail and neatness.

Inspired by ornaments on a Christmas tree in historic Williamsburg, Va., Irvine began crocheting snowflakes about 50 years ago. Her delicate, self-designed snowflakes were a hit at local arts festivals and bazaars in the early 1970s, and Irvine continued to crochet her ornaments for several more years before hanging up her crochet hook until 2002. But she hadn't lost her touch. Irvine, 93, sold all her snowflakes at a Women's Club bazaar that October.

"This is an art," Hoffman said. "Not everyone can do it."

Reynolds used a variety of pasta noodles, one wooden bead, gold ribbon and wire with stars, off-white spray paint, hot glue and glitter to craft her delicate angel ornament. The angel's body is rigatoni, her wings are bow-tie macaroni, her arms are elbow macaroni and her hair is pastina macaroni.

Hoffman lauded Reynolds' ingenuity.

"I have all these things around my house, and I'd never think to make an angel," she said.

Elizabeth sculpted oven-baked clay into a whimsical Santa. She cut and molded each part of the ornament by hand from different colors of clay - including black for Santa's boots, belt and eyes, red for his suit, hat and cheeks, yellow for his belt buckle, white for his suit's fur trim, beard and hair and flesh-colored for his face and hands. Elizabeth then baked her creation at 275 degrees for 30 minutes.

"This is very well done," Copley said of Elizabeth's ornament. "It shows a strong sense of three-dimensional design."

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