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DOVETAIL GALLERY ARTICLES
Dovetail Gallery & Studio
A Magical Blend of Art and Nature


Excerpt from Iowa Magazine
2011


 

Dovetail Gallery & Studio…the name itself has an air of originality to it, but when you open the door and step inside, you will find a gallery featuring the intricate works of Kathleen Mand Beck, owner-artist, whose work as an egg artist has made her internationally known. It is only appropriate that the Dovetail Gallery is nestled on the bluffs overlooking the waters of Green Bay, in the Door Peninsula village of Egg Harbor, WI.

Since she opened the Dovetail in 1994, Kathy has been sharing her love of egg art with all who visit her gallery. As gallery owner and resident artist, she has created a studio that features not only her own intricately carved and etched egg art designs and sculptures, but also the consigned work of some of the most skilled artisans in the world. In addition, the Dovetail features an Egg Art Museum of nearly 400 eggs displaying the ethnic and contemporary egg art designs representing over 100 artists from all over the world, an original Faberge` egg and a 70 million year old dinosaur egg.         

Kathy smiles when she talks of her love for all art. As a child growing up near Milwaukee, Kathy used her imagination to draw, sketch, decorate…to use her artistic skills in any way she could. By age 15, she was working as a floral designer, using her creativity to create eye-appealing arrangements. Next, she became an accomplished stain-glass artisan, but an arm injury caused Kathy to have to look for another artistic endeavor. “I found that I could not use my arm the way I needed to in order to continue with floral arranging and glass etching, so I began to look for something else.”

 
  Why Egg Art?

Kathy’s infatuation with egg art began in the early 1990s with an article that she read. The more she researched it, the more Kathy became interested in trying
egg art herself. She found that egg art is the oldest medium in the decorative arts and dates back to 722 B. C. in China.  So she began her journey in learning the intricacies of becoming a world-renowned egg artist. “The egg is one of the oldest mediums, and what a lot of people don’t realize is the strength of the egg.
The egg is the strongest shape in the world.”

According to Kathy, a free-range bird egg is the strongest shape in the world, not nearly as fragile as the eggs found in markets. “Think of the egg of a goose. The adult will weigh up to 15 pounds and during incubation will lay on the eggs. They never break!”

Using infertile eggshells that had been cleaned out, bleached and sanitized, Kathy entered the egg art world complete with an air drill to help her carve her designs into the shell of the egg.

As she practiced with her new medium, Kathy also learned more about the role of the egg across civilizations. Its role in bringing about new life puts the egg at the center many of cultures. “As I visit with customers, I try to help them understand just what egg art is. The egg is the gift of life. It means a renewal, spring,
a time for change. The decorated egg makes a wonderful, unique gift for people.”

The year was now 1992, and Kathy was still at the practice stage. Then she made one of her annual trips up to Door County and made a discovery that would change the rest of her life.

Discovery

Egg Harbor has always been one of Kathy’s favorite Door County villages to visit. With its quaint sea town mystique and unique shops, Kathy has always enjoyed her walks around town. Then in 1992, as she walked around Egg Harbor, she noticed something. “Here the town was called Egg Harbor, and there were no eggs. There was nothing about eggs. It was one of those enlightening experiences that people talk about. I thought, ‘Why not bring my egg art to Egg Harbor and open up a gallery?’”

So, she enlisted the help of a realtor to find a building that could meet her needs. Finally, in 1993, she found the building she wanted, a historic log building right in the heart of Egg Harbor. However, it would take a year before the building would be ready. Although the 1873 building was a hand-hewn dovetail log home, the logs had all been covered up. Thus it took a year for Kathy to expose and refurbish the building to its original state of exposed beams, log walls and wood floors.

The Dovetail Today

Fast forward to 2008. The gallery is definitely one-of-a-kind. Kathy has developed this mission for her increasingly popular gallery. The Dovetail Gallery is dedicated to displaying an eclectic collection of original fine art and fine craft with respect and appreciation; to offering a comfortable gallery for Door County Peninsula and Egg Harbor's community: and to providing a destination to learn about and enjoy artwork, especially the ancient form of eggs as art. “It took me nearly 12 years to come up with a description of what the Dovetail is. It is a magical blend of art and nature,” notes Kathy.

Welcoming visitors are two of Kathy’s favorite gallery residents. “I have a pair of Java doves, a male named Tiffany and a female named Faberge`. They are our live-in logo and people find them to be just a delight. They’ve been with me since I opened Dovetail in 1994. Sometimes, in the summer I will take Tiffany and put him in an antique egg-shaped bird cage that hangs on the porch just outside the front door.”

After the initial greeting, it’s on to browse through all of the “little artistic secrets” that the Dovetail Gallery & Studio holds. Regional, national and international artists display an array of mediums ranging from batik, polymer clay, thread painting, glass, silk painting and metal. Oh, and there is the backyard. “I just love the backyard,” says Kathy. It is there that more of Kathy’s artistic creativity is displayed, including her copper art sprinkler designs, operating in her own backyard gardens. Kathy herself has created all of the copper garden sprinkler designs in the garden.

The Process

So, how do you “do” egg art? First off all, no wild eggs are used, because that is unlawful. Instead, infertile eggs are purchased. As mentioned earlier, Kathy likes eggs from range-free birds because “they are much stronger than eggs from the grocery store.” Although she has prepared and cleaned eggs herself, to speed the process and to allow her more time for her egg artwork, Kathy then contracts a reputable source to clean the eggs. “I want eggs that are as clean and natural as possible. They are already disinfected using a mixture of ½ bleach and ½ water.”

Kathy uses an air drill that operates at 400,000 rpm. It looks and sounds similar to a dental drill. Her art working attire consists of safety glasses and dust mask. She then adds a cape and headphones adorned with an ostrich plume “for inspiration”, and she is ready to turn an egg into a piece of artwork. Through the process, Kathy creates carved, etched and painted eggshells. She can incorporate flowers and other natural scenes, personal inscriptions and even special logos. Personalized eggs with names, dates and limitless designs can be commissioned as unique gifts for a variety of occasions.

After the egg art is completed, it is cleaned again and dried. Then an acrylic coat is applied as a sealant and satin finish to prohibit dust from penetrating the shell. When they are ready, they are carefully packed in recycled decorated coffee cans and boxed to ship to their destination throughout the world. In addition, Kathy also creates stunning egg sculptures, integrating carved eggshells with her glass art and found natural materials – rocks, leaves and more.

The Future

Kathy enjoys expressing her creativity by both designing eggshell sculptures that are unlike anyone else's work and by providing an artful and educational destination in the Dovetail Gallery. Kathy notes that her husband, Tom has been a huge part in this artistic endeavor. Kathy best describes their relationship as
“a partnership of love. We work here and we live here, right upstairs. We think it is important that our love and passion come through to our customers.”

When she began the Dovetail Gallery & Studio, Kathy had three goals, two of which are now completed. “I wanted to have a Faberge` egg, a prehistoric dinosaur egg and a wild bird egg collection. I have two of the three, and I am working very hard on the final one.”

The wild bird egg collection has been the greatest challenge for Kathy. “It is against the law to harvest wild bird eggs. However, there are collections around that have been in existence before the law went into effect. I have a lead on a gentleman that has a wild bird egg collection, and so I am working on the paperwork right now to get a permit to try to secure it. My hopes are that since I plan on using it as an educational display that I might receive approval as early as this spring.”

As she and Tom continue their journey with egg art and the Dovetail Gallery & Studio, they look with anticipation of meeting new visitors and seeing others who have returned for more egg art. “I really encourage people to bring their kids with them, because they need to gain an appreciation for art and learn the difference of what they can look at and what they can touch.”

Not sure where the Dovetail Gallery & Studio is located in Egg Harbor? Just look for the 1873 log home with the giant egg mailbox located near the street.