Sabah Asad. — Photos by Joseph Shagra
Sabah Asad. — Photos by Joseph Shagra

Sabah Asad, a Kuwaiti artist, teacher of engineering at Kuwait University and consultant at the ministry of planning, practices a rare and very interesting art. He is one of the first Kuwaitis engraving on egg shells, his hobby since 2004. He does not sell his pieces, but collects them to hold an international exhibition.

Asad started his artistic career when he was still in high school. “After graduating, I started participating in art exhibitions. Then in 2004, I saw some images on the Internet of egg engravings and I liked them, so I decided to do this kind of art. It was difficult as the correct tools were not available, so I started with the most simple technique and developed it,” he told Kuwait Times.

A shortage of egg varieties in the local market is another obstacle. “We don’t usually have goose or duck eggs available, which are the best for eggshell engraving, as they are medium-sized and thick. The most commonly available eggs in our markets are hen eggs, so I use them the most for my artworks. The smallest egg I worked on was the egg of a nightingale,” Asad said.

Then there is the ostrich egg, which is also rarely available, especially since it’s expensive. “I prefer to use regular eggs for engraving as it’s more challenging. The common hen egg is very fragile, so it can easily break, while the ostrich egg doesn’t shatter even if you drop it. Only one of my ostrich eggs ever broke, and this was during one of the workshops that I was presenting, as it was used very much,” explained Asad.

It takes him between seven to eight hours of work to finish engraving one egg. “I love the hard work, and I enjoy it even if I work for six hours and the egg breaks. This happens with regular eggs and not the ostrich egg. Also, I have a few emu eggs that are dark green in color. Engraving on ostrich eggs is very difficult as the shell is hard. Till today, I have engraved 23 eggs, apart from those that broke, and I never color any of them – I prefer to keep the natural color. People have broken many of my eggs, as here in Kuwait people love to touch art pieces and they easily break in their hands – they don’t appreciate the effort I spent on this work,” he rued.

This art has made Asad develop special feelings for eggs. “Now I adore eggs. I can’t even break an egg to eat it, so I ask my children to break it for me. I don’t throw anything, and I keep all the remaining parts of my broken engraved eggs. I also take photos of every piece I finish, so I have a memory of it if somebody breaks it. This art that shows the details of the egg is one of the great evidences of God’s creation and power,” he noted.

Engraving an egg is a long process. “The membrane of the egg keeps the shell together, and if it tears, the egg will split, as the function of this membrane is to protect the chick inside. So it has to be completely dry to break it and remove it from the shell so I can engrave the egg. I first prick the egg from the top with a needle, and turn it upside down, closing the hole with my finger and make another hole on the other side. Then with a thin wire, I mix the contents slowly and empty it. Then I put some water in it to clean it and leave it to dry. After that, I can work on it,” said Asad.

“The regular chicken egg is very fragile and any crack will damage the entire egg. So I have to hold the whole egg in my palm to protect it, and after it’s empty, it becomes harder to hold. This art of engraving on eggs needs patience, and it gives me the impetus to challenge myself to do a harder piece,” he pointed out.

He is now planning to hold an art exhibition of his egg art pieces outside Kuwait. “I’m thinking of France to hold my exhibition, as here in Kuwait there is no appreciation for my art, while abroad they know the value of this art. Once I was in the United States and I saw an old lady painting on egg shells, and people were watching her with passion and they bought her works for high prices – one egg was sold for $500 – and this was just painting. But eople here don’t value art properly,” Asad lamented.

By Nawara Fattahova