Arnold Bobby - Emu Egg Carver
Arnold, who is a member of the Kurruma tribe and originally from the Pilbara region, settled in Albany with his family a few years ago.
He is adept at creating traditional Indigenous art and happy to have turned his art form into a viable and successful business.
He became captivated by the art of emu egg carving for more than 20 years ago after spending many hours watching and learning the skills from a master craftsman.
When he eventually felt confident enough to carve his first egg he worked on it for around eight hours every day and took him more than a month to complete.
“I decorated it with a swan and cygnets, but the egg broke while I was carving it, so I had to patch it up. I learnt a lesson that day – there’s not an egg I can’t repair or use for other artwork such as earrings”, Arnold said.
His designs are achieved by carving the egg’s coloured layers, which range from a rough textured dark emerald green outer, through jade to a very thin and delicate pure white inner.
Because of the colour and texture inherent in each individual egg, every piece of carving becomes a unique work of art.
“The eggs can be different colours depending on the bird’s diet. For instance, a wild bird’s egg would be different shades compared to a bird reared in captivity,” Arnold said.Because emus are a protected species it is illegal to collect their eggs in the wild.
Therefore, Arnold has to be registered and licensed to purchase or collect mostly infertile eggs, which can only be only be acquired from captive sources such as emu farms, fauna parks and zoos.
To prepare an egg for carving it is pierced at each end so the yolk can be blown out of the shell and then polished with wet and dry paper to obtain a smooth finish.
After a rough pencil drawing has been made on the egg’s surface, the design is slowly created through many hours of scratching, scraping and carving.“Most of the time I just use a customised Stanley knife blade to do the carving”, Arnold said.
“I reckon each egg has around seven to eight different coloured layers - sometimes the shades have only the faintest difference in hue, but it’s enough to make all the difference on the finished work.”
Arnold’s carving mainly depicts Australian flora and fauna, but he has also commemorated family members by producing some stunning family portraits.
Emu egg carving first became popular in the mid to late 19thcentury, with Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists practising the craft.
During the last century Aboriginal people from Carnarvon kept the practice alive in WA, which they said reinforced their spiritual connections to other animals and birds - especially the emu, as well as the land itself.
If you'd like to see Arnold's carving for yourself, check out the collection of his work currently on sale at Whaleworld.
Whaleworld will be hosting Arnold as artist in residence during the October school holidays - phone them on 9844 4021 to find out specific times.
If you would like to commission Arnold to carve an emu egg for you, he can be contacted via the Albany Small Business Centre on 9841 8477.