September/October 2000 issue
by Myra Charleston
If you oversimplify, you say that emu eggs have three layers of color ranging from white on the inside to teal and then a dark green or black outer shell. Texas artist Gary Gunn does not do simple work. Yes, the outside is a dark, almost black green, but the inside layer of teal is actually as many as seven layers of light green. Gary is gifted when it comes to utilizing those layers. The four sided egg rotating at the top of this page is a departure for Gary, who does not usually put paint on his work. This was a commissioned piece by Appleby's Restaurant and honors the General Pat Cleburne the town namesake, and in background is the town courthouse.
Originally a hobby carver that worked on trophies and the control panels of hot air balloons, Gary was inspired to try egg carving after seeing another artists work. Since then his reputation as an artist has grown. While Gary does carve clipper ships, logos and wildlife, his true calling is as a portrait artist.
Using an emu egg as his canvas and the vast entertainment field as inspiration, Gary has carved the likeness of many celebrities. Gary's customers have a wide range of tastes. Among the "old favorites" is Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne and Laurel & Hardy.
The younger generation favors the likeness of Garth Brooks, Princess Diana, Harrison Ford or the various Star Wars characters.
According to Gary, the one egg he cannot keep in stock is that of Joseph nez Pierce (see picture to the right). Considering the overwhelming detail, it's easy to see why. Cochise and End of the Trail are also American Indian favorites.
Most recently Gunn has expanded his line to include Civil War Generals for the re-enactment crowd. Pictured below are (left to right) Generals Robert E. Lee, Nathan Bedford Forrest, Pierre Gustave T Beauregard, Pat Cleburne and, on a slightly different note, French impressionist painter, Renoir.
Whether it is to commemorate the joy of marriage, to remember an elderly relative or to capture a special moment, Gunn works from favorite photographs to create these one of a kind heirlooms that are testimonies to his skill.
Gary chooses only the smoothest emu eggs for his work, and then spends 3 hours wet sanding the egg to remove any bits that could cause a chip or nick in the egg during the carving process. Depending on the subject, it takes between 11 to 15 hours to complete each egg. In many of the commissioned pieces, such as one recently done as a gift for State Representative Steve McDaniel of Tennessee, an inscription is etched on the back. The work is so fine, most people think it is somehow printed.
OR by snail mail: