- Associated Press - Saturday, December 5, 2015

HONOLULU (AP) - Eileen Tokita is crazy about eggs - duck, ostrich, emu, rhea, goose and even the tiniest finch eggs. To her they are works of art waiting to be hatched.

She carves and decorates them to add to her own collection, to give as gifts and, on occasion, to sell.

Some of her pieces were inspired by Faberge’s jeweled eggs, and others are holiday-themed or designed to tell a story. Inside one of her creations is a carousel that turns, complete with painted horses. Santa’s toy workshop is visible in another, while Tokita cut pearl-lined arcs around another through which to view a detailed Nativity scene.

Some are fun, like the one with mouse ears and Mickey and Minnie inside. Others are elegant, intricately carved creations, like the swan that opens up to reveal a piece of jewelry inside.

All are keepsakes that can last for generations.

Tokita said she has decorated more than 1,500 eggs, each one unique, over the span of 40 years. She is a member of the International Egg Art Guild, a nonprofit association of artists, artisans and craftspeople who work with natural eggs. She orders the various eggshells, cleaned and ready to go, from The Golden Egg of Idaho.

“I work from the moment I wake up till the moment I go to sleep,” she said. “Probably I work 10 to 12 hours a day.”

Tokita has traveled the world teaching egg art on cruise ships since 1988. She’s been to Alaska, the Caribbean, South America, the Seychelles, India, China, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand. As she travels, she collects egg art for inspiration.

She also collects little figurines and other accoutrements to incorporate into her egg creations at home.

Artist-jeweler Peter Carl Faberge created his lavish eggs for the Russian imperial family during the 19th century as Easter objects. Tokita works on her pieces year-round, and during the holidays she enjoys giving them away as gifts.

One creation she calls “Presents” comprises a trio of peewee-size chicken eggs encrusted in green, red and silver Swarovski crystals, complete with jeweled bows and nestled inside a bowl cut from an ostrich egg.

She teaches egg art Sundays at Learning Unlimited in Kaimuki and about once a month at Ben Franklin in Mapunapuna. Some of her eggs are available at the Halekulani Boutique in the Halekulani hotel in Waikiki. Her prices range from as little as $25 to $1,000.

Born in a World War II Japanese internment camp near Nampa, Idaho, Tokita attended the University of Washington in Seattle and used to be a jazz singer in nightclubs. She got into eggery as a newlywed when her husband suggested she stay home and find a hobby. The moment she discovered the art, she fell in love.

“It’s like an artist chooses the canvas for her medium,” she said. “Well, I choose the egg as my medium. . There are so many other art forms and disciplines you can apply to egg making. I think that’s why you don’t get bored.”

Also, she said, no two eggs are shaped exactly alike.

Her home workshop consists of a well-lit table and shelves of shoe boxes that line the walls, each labeled with what’s inside: gold leaf, pearls, hinges and so on. In her garage she has a special apparatus that vacuums up dust as she uses a dental tool to cut designs or patterns into the eggs.

An egg piece can take anywhere from two hours for the simplest design to 70 hours or more for complex creations. It requires meticulous finger work and a laser-like focus.

“I have to almost meditate,” said Tokita. “You’ve got to be so centered and very calm. If you let your mind wander a moment, the eggshell’s gone.”

Her masterpieces include the “Ostrich Egg Cabinet,” with a double-door, gold-filigree cabinet that opens up to two pink-lined shelves outfitted with miniature egg creations.

The one piece she said she would grab if there were a fire is a Faberge-inspired piece called the “Mosaic Egg.” It is covered in colorful beads in an embroidery-inspired pattern of stripes and rings encircling three pink roses.

In all of her travels, Tokita said she has found similar reverence for the egg and what it symbolizes.

“I have found that almost all cultures have placed importance or significance on an egg because it represents new life,” she said. “It represents spring, fertility and abundance.”

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Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com

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