Brian Baity is an expert when it comes to decorating eggs, but he doesn't use dyes -- he carves the shell to create delicate sculptures.
Some of the eggs have pieces of shell removed, to create a geometric design; others are decorated with relief images.
An exhibit of Baity's work is on exhibit at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center in West Valley City. The artistic eggs can be seen 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, through April 25. Admission is free.
The West Valley City man has been carving eggshells, using a high-speed engraving tool, for six years. He bought the ParaGraver, invented by retired Utah dentist Lew Jensen, with the intention of carving gourds and gunstocks. Jensen carved eggs, and Baity bought one goose egg with the engraving kit.
"It sat on the shelf for a year," Baity said of the egg. "But when I grabbed the eggshell and started cutting holes in it, I immediately fell in love with the challenge."
Of about 500 eggs he's carved, Baity estimates that he's broken only nine. He can create art from a regular hen egg or a goose egg -- and even a parakeet egg -- but prefers emu eggs.
"There's really no relief possible," he said of the thin-shelled chicken and goose eggs. "With hen and goose eggs, I do a lot of piercing designs."
Emu eggs are Baity's favorite, in part because the thick shell allows him to create relief images. He also loves the natural color.
"The emu lays eggs natural in three layers, and each layer is a different color," he said. "The darkest layer is the outside layer, the center turquoise-colored, and the third layer is white."
Baity sells his works of art, and says most eggs go for about $200 each. He has one that he's priced at $10,000, because of his emotional attachment to the egg and where it's been.
"It's one of five winners that went to the Forbes Art Gallery in New York," he said. "It's also the very first emu egg that I carved."
That egg was difficult to create because of the geometric pattern.
"I use tools I modified, so I can get the accuracy I want," he said. "After that, a lot of it's just hand-drawn."
Baity hopes someday to go to St. Petersburg, Russia.
"That's where Fabergé did his work," he said. "None of his were eggshells -- they were all enamel and precious metal and precious stones."
Baity did exhibit his carved eggs in Bulgaria last year. He was contacted by a Bulgarian archaeologist who lived in Utah and had seen his work. She contacted a colleague in Bulgaria who set up shows in two museums.
Baity had to help fund the exhibits, but he says it was worth it because it's extremely rare for an American to have a solo show there, and he was the first American to exhibit eggs as an art form in Bulgaria.
"In Velingrad, the museum opened it in time for Easter, then for Sofia, the capital, it opened on the Day of Museums," he said. "There were over 10,000 visitors that day alone."
Baity created several eggs just for the exhibit, including one covered with roses -- the national flower. Those eggs are on display at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center, as are eggs given to Baity.
"In Bulgaria, those people are very, very gracious. They gifted me with, I don't know how many, eggs in their traditional style," he said. "It's amazing what they can do with nothing but wax and dye."
- WHAT: 'Intricate Egg Carvings' by Brian Baity
- WHEN: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Thursday, through April 25
- WHERE: Utah Cultural Celebration Center, 1355 W. 3100 South, West Valley City
- ADMISSION: Free; 801-965-5100