By BRANDON LOOMIS
Anchorage Daily News
September 24, 2007
Nobody sent in an egg from Alaska, and so a Washington state artist with northern connections instead substituted a design for the president's perusal at the annual event. Vowing not to let such a transgression stand, longtime egg artist and current Alaska State Fair arts and crafts superintendent Martie Black organized a competition at this fall's fair and then took possession of the winner so she could see to the shipping herself.
"I was annoyed," said Black, who in the years before the contest has represented the state with her own drill-carved eggs, one of which she believes is now on display at the Clinton Library in Arkansas.
But this year's competition yielded an exquisite orb of Alaskana, she said. It's a modified Ukrainian wax method egg showing a snowy cabin scene under the northern lights, a Northwest Coast Indian stylized salmon and Alaska wildflowers.
The craft is a hobby that anyone from a toddler to a professional artist can enjoy and compete at, but a handful take it to a level of detail unknown in common Easter baskets. Ten entered at the fair. Some carve patterns out of the shells and then paint scenes on the inside. Others just work with the outer shell as a painting palette, as winner Robin Corthell Bennett did this year.
Like Black, Bennett said she was moved to action by last Easter's out-of-state representation. The Nikiski mother and school volunteer previously took up egg art as a hobby and gave some of her creations to friends. One of those friends read about last year's national egg show and said it was a travesty. Bennett agreed.
"I definitely thought there would be somebody in Alaska who could make one," she said.
So she went to work this summer, dying bits of her egg and covering the details in beeswax so further dying around them wouldn't obliterate them -- the tactic known as Ukrainian method. She kept the egg on one end of a dining room table for about a week and a half while she worked off and on. "This is the kind of project where you can work on it literally for 10 seconds and then, when something (else) happens, put it down."
What most impressed Black were the shaded and mixed colors of the northern lights on one side and the forget-me-nots on another. It's tough to get nuanced transitions in the colors when you're using wax in the Ukrainian method, she said.
Bennett said she is considering heading off to Washington for the national show next Easter. Black has done so before, and said even though the American Egg Board doesn't pay the costs, it's a good time. In her case, she toured the White House with other states' egg artists, met first lady Laura Bush and enjoyed a luncheon with such dignitaries as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
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