Working on egg shells: Saigon teacher creates art the delicate way

By Quynh Tran   January 3, 2017 | 11:35 am GMT+7

Nguyen Thanh Tam could not afford fancy teaching props. So he got creative.

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Nguyen Thanh Tam, a 66-year-old retired teacher, has worked on egg shells for the past 15 years, carving and painting various sorts of egg shells to create more than 700 pieces of art.

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He retired from teaching English at a high school in 1990. Since then he has worked part time as a tutor. Other teachers use technology to keep their students engaged. But the old teacher has his own way: creating teaching props out of egg shells.

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Tam works mostly chicken and duck eggs. He said chicken eggs are quite delicate, about 0.3-0.4 millimeter thin. “You need some dexterity and a lot of patience to be good at this,” said Tam.

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He said it could take from a few hours to several weeks to complete an egg. This picture, for instance, shows two versions of Santa Claus made out of ostrich and quail eggs.

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“It was a real challenge to make really complicated designs such as a dragon. It seemed an impossible task. But I managed to create one to mark the occasion when Hanoi turned 1,000 years old,” Tam said.

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This Obama figurine is one of his favorites.

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He is currently working on a mini collection of chickens to celebrate the upcoming Year of the Rooster.

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A Dong Tao-breed chicken made out of ostrich egg shells.

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He said first a hole is drilled to get the egg white and yolk out. Then the shells are cleaned with with boiling water.

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“At first my wife was not happy, complaining that it was too time-consuming with no economic returns. But when she realized that I was so into it, she had no choice,” Tam said, laughing. “Now she even gives me a hand.”

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After 15 years of hard work, Tam has a portfolio of more than 700 art eggs, currently holding the Vietnamese record.

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He rarely sells them.

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