Poleschuk will be at an art show, and a person strolling by will catch a corner-of-the-eye glimpse of one of his creations. The effect will cause the person to stop “dead in their tracks” as if mesmerized. It’s clear they have never seen egg art before. They have never seen the exquisitely engraved designs and detail that can be carved on such a fragile object.
You might think that Poleschuk breaks a lot of eggs in his line of work, but that isn’t the case, he says.
“I do not tend to break a lot of eggs,” he said in his workshop last week. “But I realized last year that I probably needed to break more because if I’m not breaking them, I’m not challenging myself.”
Working with eggshells as thin as a millimeter or less, the award-winning Poleschuk is able to etch stars, fish, wildlife, leaves, cityscapes and other intricate designs onto eggs. His tools are an engraver, file and scalpel as well as a nearly superhuman steadiness of hand. With eggs, there are no do-overs, no erasing and starting over.
His eggs — goose, emu and ostrich — are his canvas. One of his signature artworks, called “pine cone lace,” looks like an invisible oval draped in linen.
Poleschuk, 60, had started out as a woodcarver, but he discovered that eggshells could do things wood couldn’t.
“It was probably the challenge (that drew me),” Poleschuk said. “The other thing I really love about them is they hold detail.”
Egg engravers are a fairly rare breed. Poleschuk is the only known egg sculptor in the Rochester. Yet, they are numerous enough that they hold regular art shows in the U.S. In fact, Poleschuk falls into an artistic tradition that goes back 60,000 years, before modern man. It is the fifth oldest art, he said.
Poleschuk, an engineer at Celestica, offered other insights into his work during a visit to his Rochester workshop.
How did you discover eggs?
When I purchased an engraving tool, it included videos. The guy who developed the tool carved egg shells. He was a dentist. I saw the videos on doing it. I thought, “This looks cool.” And I started carving.
Are eggshells your primary medium?
It is the one I embrace. I’ve played with some others: wood, metal, glass. But I always come back to doing eggshells.
And why is that?
Because I can do it. I can do it without breaking it. I can create the detail. I love detail.
Do you have a business based on your egg art?
I haven’t been able to make it my primary job at this point, but I’ve been working toward that. The idea was when I retire, I would have this. And to an extent, that’s still the case.
When you’re at a convention with other egg sculptors, what do you talk about?
With other artists, I’m always trying to promote it. It’s the same thing with my woodcarving. When I’m at the show, I’m trying to get others interested in it because I do love it.
How long does it take you to do an egg engraving?
It depends on what I include on it. Coming up with the idea. Working out the details. It can take six, seven months doing it part time.
Do you ever get tired of it?
I’m not doing it every day. It’s kind of like when the mood hits me, and I have the inclination to do it. I’ll focus on it. Usually deadlines play a big part when I’m doing commissions.
What gives the most satisfaction about a finished work of art?
What I love about “pine cone lace” (one of his favorite creations) is the reaction I get. I’ve displayed it at a number of shows, and people still stop in their tracks all of a sudden when they catch a glimpse of it. That is really satisfying to have people react like that.
What do you think they are reacting to?
Most of the time people have never seen eggshell carvings. To see one — and not just to see one — but see one that is so delicate in shape.
How has your art evolved?
When I first got involved with this, I saw egg art as something very recent. I was thinking one needed a high-speed engraver to do it, the modern tools and everything else.
As time went on, I did some researching online and started finding older examples of egg art. In the mid-1800s, they had some eggshells that were sculpted in in Australia. I realized this has been around longer, and you don’t need a high-speed engraver. It was at that point I started realizing that some of these other tools — scalpels and files — might be usable on it.