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Local artist uses drill to sculpt eggs

By Greg Gelpi

The dentist drill gently brushes away layers of the emu egg revealing roses, faces and dragons.

"If it can be drawn in black and white, it can be carved," Stephen Truax said.

For Truax, eggs are for more than eating and dying for Easter. Truax, 58, an artist from Hampton, sees eggs as works of art waiting to be created.

The egg artist carves and sculpts ostrich, turkey, goose and rhea eggs, but his favorite eggs to work on are emu eggs. Emu eggs naturally have three colored layers of black, light green and cream shell.

"That's what I have the most fun with," he said. "There's nothing added to it. It's just natural."

Resting the emu egg in his left hand, Truax held the pencil-like drill in his right. His thick fingers waved the 400,000-RPM dentist-like drill across the surface of the dark brown area, a light green coating appearing underneath.

"Actually, the equipment was designed by a dentist," he said. "You basically draw with it. I carve through the different layers to get the different colors and highlights."

When completed, the emu egg will feature a floral design, which if lit from within will have the white layers of the shell illuminated.

"Once you get the green, the second layer, you have to be very careful," he said. He added that with eggs each cut made into the shell makes it more fragile, more susceptible to being crushed.

He said an emu egg is about 1/32 of an inch thick, while chicken eggs, like those sold in grocery stores, are too thin to carve.

His art includes sparkling eggs coated in decorative sequins, eggs with figurines tucked inside and one egg in which Truax carved concentric oval bands of shell out of the egg and layered them in a geometric pattern.

Truax often displays his work at art shows throughout the region as well at Arts Clayton's gallery in Jonesboro.

Teri Williamson, the manager of the gallery, said the egg art is popular in the gallery.

"I like the intricacy of the eggs," Williamson said. "It takes a great deal of patience."

She said she has one of his eggs herself.

Truax said a "simple" emu egg with a floral design may cost $60, but the more intricate eggs could cost as much as $800.

"A lot of people think it's wood eggs," he said. "They are incredulous when I tell them that it's real eggs."

Truax also carves wood and paints as well, but he didn't take up art until 1989.

That year, he bought his wife Heide art lessons for Christmas, but she refused to take lessons without him. He held out, but finally gave in and took the lessons.

"Being able to do it together is fun," Truax said. "We don't have to do it alone."

He has painted ever since and took up egg carving about 12 years ago after meeting an artist in Las Vegas, who demonstrated her craft.

Truax will be featured on the Do It Yourself Channel at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and 2:30 a.m. Wednesday. He will be demonstrating his painting at the Clayton County Library Headquarters in Jonesboro April 17.

"My job is very stressful," Truax said, explaining that his art allows him to relax. "I get a clock sometimes. I could very easily be (in my art room) until 3 o'clock in the morning."

Truax moved to Hampton in 1980 from Canada when his company AstenJohnson decided to open a fabrics plant in Jonesboro.

He works in business support for the plant, performing computer work for the company.

His move to Georgia also enabled him to meet his wife. Truax has five sons and seven grandchildren.