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

By Quynh Tran   January 2, 2017 | 08:35 pm PT
Nguyen Thanh Tam could not afford fancy teaching props. So he got creative.

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.


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.


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.


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.


“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.


This Obama figurine is one of his favorites.


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


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


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


“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.”


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


He rarely sells them.

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