Last Easter, Kentuckian Terry Andrews had no idea that an eye disease and surgery would threaten her talent to meticulously carve and decorate eggshells. But thanks to help from the Kentucky Office for the Blind (OFB), she not only resumed her artwork but this Easter her decorated egg is representing Kentucky at the White House’s 2005 Easter Egg Collection.
Determination, a passion to create and the help of many people allowed Andrews to continue the intricate work required to carve and decorate eggs since she developed macular holes in both eyes last year. The disease and two surgeries to repair both eyes have distorted her central vision affecting her artwork as well as reading and watching television.
“This time last year I didn’t think I would be egging any more. I thought it was part of my past,” said the 68-year-old Lexington resident.
Now Andrews is amazed that her egg is on display at the White House this spring and will some day be on exhibit at President George W. Bush’s presidential library.
“It’s a great honor. I don’t consider myself to be the artist that previous eggers who were selected are. I was ecstatic that I had been recommended,” she said.
For the past 10 years the American Egg Board has displayed decorated chicken eggs representing each state and the District of Columbia at the White House around Easter. Terry was selected by the Kentucky Egg Council to design and create the Kentucky egg, which is not the typical boiled egg dipped in dye for an Easter egg hunt or basket. Her eggs are works of art that she makes year around from a variety of egg types.
“When I thought I wasn’t going to be able to do eggs any more, I went into a deep depression. I thought what am I going to do with myself. Not being able to work with my hands on small things was a huge part of that depressing thought,” Andrews said.
About mid-summer Andrews was referred to OFB for services to help her adapt to her visual impairment and find ways to continue her egg business. She started working with OFB Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Janell Turner in Lexington, who along with OFB Electrical Engineer Wayne Thompson assessed Andrews work area in her home and her egg-carving tools.
Turner said their main goal was to help Andrews complete the White House Easter egg by deadline and it took all of them working together to attain that objective.
“It was exciting but I knew we had to get things done to meet that goal. She’s (Andrews) very determined. She is goal oriented. She doesn’t let any obstacle get in her way. She uses her creativity to get around obstacles. She’s obviously a very creative person and she helped us overcome the impediments she was having,” said Turner.
Most of OFB’s work is on a case-by-case basis because each person’s eye impairment is different and may require specially made assistive technology to help that person function independently. It was Turner’s first time to work with an egg artist.
“It’s a good feeling to help someone who has so much passion for what she does and to help her make a living at it,” said Turner. “It was a learning experience that has worked out wonderfully in the end.”
OFB provided Andrews with several assistive technology devices to help her continue her egg business. She received a new computer with an enlarged screen so that she do research and graphic art for use in the egg creations, she got a Turbo-Carver with a mister that allows her to work up close without the distortion of the Plexiglas viewing front of her dust box or inhaling potentially hazardous egg dust and OFB helped her get surgical telescope glasses she had from a previous job refitted for her needs.
“I daily give thanks for the what the surgeon Dr. Harsha Sen, the Office for the Blind and the eggers have done for me,” Andrews said.
Karen Prince of Campbellsville, the artist who created last year’s Kentucky Easter egg and a mentor to Andrews, recommended Andrews to the Kentucky Egg Council.
“My goal was to have an egg that would easily be recognized as representing the state of Kentucky,” said Andrews. “The rules are that it has to be a common, large size chicken egg. The shape of the state was cut from the green egg of an Araucana chicken. The horse head was cut from a common brown chicken egg and the cardinal was a white egg painted red. These were applied to a base egg painted a light Kentucky blue. Nothing can stick out more than a fourth of an inch from the egg because of the manner in which the White House displays the eggs.
“Then the same shapes were cut out in varying sizes over the rest of the egg and blue cellophane was inserted into the holes so that the cut out areas would be more visible. All these shapes were resized with the help of the new computer and screen. Not to mention that the original shapes were gleaned from pictures of the various elements contained within larger pictures. The backgrounds had to be removed, then the shapes rendered in black and white, then resized and multiples of each shape printed on a page.
“The mister on the Turbo-Carver allowed me to work with the surgical glasses and without the distortion from the Plexiglas viewing front of the old dust box. Believe me when I say that this egg could not have been accomplished without the help of the Office for the Blind,” Andrews said.
Andrews produced four similar Kentucky Easter eggs at the same time - one for the White House, a spare, one for herself and one for Governor Ernie Fletcher that will be presented later.
In addition to the Kentucky Easter Egg, Andrews estimates that she has decorated about 100 eggs since she made her first one in 1997. She said she doesn’t work on a timeline or mass produce her art. “I’ll let an egg sit around for awhile until it ‘talks’ to me and tells me what it wants to be,” she said.
Each one is unique and exhibits a variety of egg-decorating techniques including carving, beading, painting and etching. She works with all types of eggs and gets them from across the United States.
Andrews said, “It is a way for me to do something that has meaning behind it. Each egg has a story behind it. I don’t just produce these eggs. The outlet is to tell a story and make it visually pleasing and appealing. There’s just something in you that just has to do it. It has to come out.”
Andrews said she enjoys the challenge of working with fragile eggshells and tiny things and would stagnant if she were not able to pursue her artwork.
“As you can see, the Office for the Blind has given me back the ability to produce decorated eggshells. The words ‘thank you’ can never express my gratitude,” Andrews said.
OFB is an agency of the Department for Workforce Investment in the Education Cabinet.
The Education Cabinet coordinates learning programs from P-16, and manages and supports training and employment functions in the Department for Workforce Investment. For more information about our programs, visit www.educationcabinet.ky.gov or www.workforce.ky.gov or call 502-564-6606.