Diana Neil holds a small glue bottle with a needle-nosed nipple and squeezes the bottle to place a small bead of adhesive on a foil-wrapped goose egg.
Switching the glue to her other hand, she picks up a gem with a wax crayon and places it on the glue drop.
“Just putting some bling on it,” the Fowler woman explained while she worked at Ruth Jennings’ Alcraft Egg Artistry store and studio at 1370 Custer Orangeville Road in Brookfield.
Next to Neil, Chris Rusk of Brookfield is decorating a finch egg for her niece’s bridal bouquet.
“This will be covered with beads,” Rusk said, a process that was likely to take a couple of hours, even though the egg is so small.
Neil and Rusk and a handful of others meet regularly on Saturday mornings and Tuesday evenings to work on projects and seek advice from Jennings. Jennings’ shop is stocked with infertile eggs, as small as finch eggs and as large as ostrich eggs, and paraphernalia associated with decorating them.
Some days, Jennings has to usher her students out the door.
“They don’t want to leave.” she said.
Jennings, who has about 45 years of experience decorating eggs, understands the intoxicating affect the work creates.
“It’s just something that, once you start doing it, you want to do another and another,” she said.
One idea begets another, the artists said. Or, an artist will see something in a magazine or at a craft show, and that sparks a new design.
“We’re just nuts,” said Jane Karski of New Castle, a Jennings student since 1990. “Everything we see, we say, ‘How can I put that on an egg? How can I take that to the next level?’”
Karski follows the lead of the famous Faberge eggs, which she said have a surprise inside of them. She was working on a double-egg creation made to look like a butterfly. The surprise is the wings open to reveal jewelry storage areas.
“This is relaxing,” Karski said, echoing what many other of Jennings’ students said. “It’s a life-long hobby for me. It brings out the creative, artistic side of me.”
The concentration and attention to detail required is therapeutic, Neil said, but it has had other benefits for Karski, a dentist.
“We use a dental drill to open these eggs,” Karski said. “That has sharpened my skills as a dentist, because it is harder to open an egg than it is to drill a tooth. This has helped me in my dental practice.”
Patricia Harding, a portrait artist from Sterling, Ohio, said she only learned about egg work about a year ago, and wishes she had discovered it 20 years ago.
“I’ve reinvented myself in carving and making eggs,” she said.
Harding said she wants Jennings to teach her the “old-school” techniques of egg decorating, while also finding a way to paint portraits on eggs. She described painting on eggs like “painting on an orange peel” because of the uneven surface, and is looking for a material she can cover the eggs with to make a more-receptive canvas.
Polly White of Hartford has only been coming to the classes for about three months, but has already been accepted into the family-like atmosphere.
“I have met super nice people,” she said. “Everybody is super nice here.”
The atmosphere is set by the lady of the house.
“Ruth’s the best,” Neil said. “She’s very knowledgeable. She’s very patient. There’s nothing she can’t figure out if you’re having trouble with something. She’s like the Energizer bunny. She never runs out of steam.”
Jennings laments that the art is dying out as few younger people are giving it a try. But there is hope.
John Grexa, an 18-year-old Badger High School senior, has been studying with Jennings for five or six years – he was introduced to egg art by his grandmother, Sue Grexa – and took over the hinge portion of Jennings’ supply business, operating Hartford Hinges from his garage.
“It’s fun,” he said of egg artistry.
It’s a sentiment shared by Makenna Zimmerman. The 8-year-old Twinsburg girl visited the shop with her mom, Julianna, to stock up on supplies, and carted off several sizes of eggs.
“It’s fun to do, and I like crafts,” Makenna said.
Alcraft Egg Artistry is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and Saturday. For more information, call 330-448-1573 or visit www.alcrafteggartistry.com