The Art of Eggshell Inlay

The Art of Eggshell Inlay
December 3,2014
Posted by Alexander

Eggshell has been an obsession of mine recently. It is the strongest and yet most delicate material. The work itself is satisfying as you push the little fragments of eggshell into place gradually building up a floor of intricate craquelure. But this is just the beginning. Finding ways to bring this ancient craft to life through colour, form, line and finish is where the fun really takes place. 


alexander lamont eggshell lacquer workshop how to

Tools of the trade.


I used to work with eggshell makers in Vietnam but I found that there was always a certain static dullness to the results. This was caused by the ubiquitous use of MDF or composite substrates plus the fact that most of the 'lacquer' is not lacquer at all but one or other sprays from the plastic industry; acrylic and polyurethane were the most common finishes. All the eggshell handwork was being done on a nasty industrial product and then it was being covered with a nasty industrial product! No surprise that the eggshell felt dead.


Having seen the work of Japanese lacquer masters I knew that a whole other world of eggshell could be made with the right ingredients and process. It was this world of vibrant tiny, fragile, richly polished eggshell that I wanted to find and play with. 


alexander lamont eggshell lacquer workshop

Working with eggshell inlay requires skill and a meditative attention and eye for detail.


It is probable that eggshell was first developed to provide areas of white in lacquer work. It is almost impossible to make natural white lacquer. It has been used on Japanese sword handles and armour and numerous decorative pieces from tea caddies to hair pins to the acoutrements of the kimono. 


Eggshell is made entirely from calcium carbonate. This is the main component of many materials found in nature: rocks, seashells and pearls. Eggshell also comes from one of nature’s most beautiful and primordial forms - the egg. Our eggshell is mainly made from chicken eggs (sometimes ducks) that we buy from a cakeshop nearby. 


In our workshop we apply eggshell lacquer to many things mostly using the inside of the eggshell. The mosaic pattern is achieved with a cracking motion using the ends of pointed tools. The concave side of the eggshell provides a small ‘cup’ that then fills with lacquer or gold creating a pattern. Once the eggshell pattern has been laid down, numerous layers of natural lacquer are applied to build up the surface until it is smooth and can be polished.


alexander lamont eggshell lacquer coaster

A detail shot of our upcoming eggshell coasters.


Eggshell inlay requires skill, meditative attention and an eye for detail in order to achieve consistency and a flow of movement in the pattern. One beautiful aspect of this material is that different people create very different expressions of eggshell as artisan and material work together to make each unique piece.


During 2015 I will be bringing out a collection of eggshell and lacquer pieces that I think will delight and impress you. It is very much my daily work at present. 


Alexander Lamont gilded eggshell panels

Gilded eggshell panels for a residential project.


alexander lamont eggshell lacquer clavier tray

Slices of eggshell emerge through layers of velvet black natural lacquer on our Clavier Tray.


Alexander Lamont egghshell lacquer vessel

Preview of one of our 2015 eggshell lacquer vessels. 


alexander lamont eggshell lacquer vespers table

Vespers Console showcases the eggshell lacquer surface supported by six strongly textured bronze legs.



so interesting to understand why one inlaid object looks, as you say, dead and another almost vibrates with movement. Thank you for this meditative piece.
Hello Lisa and thank you for your comment. There are so many details that go into making something that retains the potency and precision of the design while allowing the energy of the craftsperson to come through. In any discipline, the development of skills and the defining of 'best process' needs to be carefully taught and monitored. These slow and difficult crafts have been disappearing for many years or the process switched to use faster or inferior methods. Like with all things - painting, wine, poetry for instance - a discerning eye (or ear) can see and appreciate something done with conviction and thought and passion. We would not want to do things any other way. Kind regards, Alex
I do a bit of eggshell mosaics myself. I would like to know how lacquer colored with pigments is used on top eggshells which have been inlaid on wood or whatever.How do the eggshells retain their natural color ? I use polyurethane to protect my work. Regards, Adelene Basu.
Hello Adelene, eggshells are made almost entirely of calcium so they are very white throughout their structure except on the outer surface. Duck eggs and the inside of chicken eggs have been used to create white areas on lacquerware because it is so diffcult to make pure white lacquer. If you apply a coloured layer over the eggshell and then sand back then you reveal the white of the eggshell contrasting against the pigment. If the lacquer you use is transparent then you can cover the eggshell and still see it through the lacquer. So if you want a blue surround to the eggshell crackle you can apply your blue lacquer and then sand back. We prefer natural lacquer than synthetic 'lacquers' because it lasts much longer than synthetics and can be polished beautifully. Hope this helps. Best regards, Khun Jerd, Eggshell Master, Alexander Lamont
Hello, i do of eggshell mosaics myself and i have an interest of different way to apply the eggshell. Let me know what natural lacquer do you use. And how long that should be dry?
Hi Mira, Different artists use different lacquers, glues and sizes to stick the eggshell. We normally use the lacquer extracted from the tree. This can take 10 days for each layer to dry depending on the colour that we add.
Thanks for answer me. Please, could u tell me where can I buy natural laquer. Who is selling that laquer?
Mira, this is one our favourite lacquer suppliers :

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