MONETT, Mo. -- To the average person, it's an egg. But to Cindy Clapper, it's a potential work of art.
Clapper has been bitten by the "bug." Not the flu bug, but the artistic bug that entices someone with a crafty bent in their personality to take something ordinary and turn it into the extraordinary.
"I started decorating eggs when I lived in California in 1992," Clapper said. "These are along the same lines as Fabergé eggs. I made my first bunny egg in March of 1992. And I just got hooked on 'em."
Peter Carl Fabergé came to international renown for his design of decorative objects made of silver, gold and various gemstones native to Russia. His most beautiful pieces were the crafted Easter eggs he made for Czars Alexander III and Nicholas II.
Clapper admits that most of the eggs she has crafted have been given as gifts to relatives and friends, but she still has quite a collection for display, and lots of "raw" material with which to work.
"I have several blown eggs in storage," she said. "I got so hooked on decorating eggs, I bought my own geese so I could have a steady supply!"
While only the gander remains, Clapper has enough egg shells to keep her busy for the next several months.
She doesn't limit her crafting to duck eggs, though. She has worked with emu, quail, duck and ostrich eggs.
"I made a quail egg necklace for my mother in 1994," she said. "Anything you put on the egg, resin or glue, serves to strengthen it, so for the most part, people can wear them as jewelry. They're pretty durable. You just have to treat them as fine porcelain china."
Designs for eggs are endless.
"Besides jewelry, you can make jewelry boxes, carriages, even pieces with clocks inside them," Clapper explained, showing several books chock full of beautiful works that barely resemble the humble egg. "A little bit of rhinestones, pearls, velvet and satin, and you can create anything you can imagine."
Eggs also can be colored in a variety of ways. Toss out the old Easter egg dyeing kit, and pick up the pastel chalks, craft paint, even gift wrap and Christmas paper.
"I get so many ideas simmering in my head, it's hard to decide what to do first," she said.
Clapper looks at each egg with that mysterious artist's eye that can see beyond the surface to the beauty lying underneath, waiting for inspiration to hit.
"Being inspired about egg decorating is for the most part dependent on who the egg is going to," she explained. "What that person's likes and hobbies are, a special occasion such as a wedding or birth. Each egg has a different inspiration."
Clapper has also refined the art of decoupage, with special event announcements, holiday themes, scriptures and poetry.
How complicated is egg decorating?
"It's as easy or as complicated as you want to get," she explained. "You can easily and simply decoupage something onto the egg, or you can layer cutouts onto the surface and the inside of the egg to give the work depth. I did a diorama for my dad, who loves deer hunting. There are miniature trees, a deer and a fence inside the hollowed egg.
"There is no particular artistic inclination about egg decorating," Clapper continued. "Like everything else, if you have the drive, you can learn it. If you have a good teacher.
"One word of caution, though," she continued. "These are eggs. They can, will and do break."