Sarah Lee: Eggshell Sculptures of Earth’s Most Ancient Denizens

Exclusive Interview with Sarah Lee, 1st Prize Winner of Beautiful Bizarre Magazine Founders’ Emerging Artist Award, 2023 Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize

When picturing a crocodile, few of us would conjure up an image of something delicate, but for found-materials sculptor Sarah Lee, their likeness is best captured using one of nature’s most fragile materials: eggshells. Through the remarkable medium of eggshell sculptures, Sarah captures the foreboding intensity of the crocodile’s smile, the rough-hewn edges of its durable hide, and the grace of its reptilian motions.

In every facet, her work is a study in contradiction. From the materials she creates with to the subjects she depicts, she plays with the idea of softness and vulnerability versus strength and fortitude. Even the scale of her sculptures–often striking in their vast proportions–is carefully chosen to stun viewers and ask them to stop and consider how this giant, ophidian mass can be so elegant and alluring.

“Yin and Yang”
Sculpture: Quail eggshells, clay, resin, fiberglass, plastic
1st Prize
Beautiful Bizarre Magazine Founders’ Emerging Artist Award Winners 2023

Every element of Sarah’s artistic practice is the culmination of a truly unique procedure created by years of following her natural curiosity. She stumbled upon her gift for sculpture through inquisitiveness about an unusual assignment in a drawing class. Her talent was developed and refined in her father’s auto body shop where she drew inspiration from the cast off materials of the trade and learned techniques from the body shop workers.

Her signature medium–repurposed quail egg shells–came about as an experiment sparked by her mother’s insistence upon making the most of every opportunity to recycle. Each miniscule piece of eggshell she uses in her work is scrupulously cleaned, trimmed to the shape of an individual scale, and painted in a time-consuming technique by which the artist delicately builds colour layer-by-layer.

Through this intensive process, Sarah births eggshell sculptures which are as fantastically striking as they are undeniably beautiful. In wandering through the familiar spaces of her life and seeing the materials she found there with a gaze all her own, Sarah has crafted a medium unlike any other. As another appreciator of the reptilian form, renowned palaeontologist Jack Horner once said, ‘chance favours the prepared mind.’ And none but Sarah’s own could’ve produced these extraordinary pieces.

In this exclusive interview, we’ll delve deep into Sarah’s past to learn how she came into her uncommon artistic perspective, how she chooses the animals who inspire her, and find out the materials and techniques she utilizes to produce her singular and mystifying eggshell sculptures.


How did you get started in sculpture?

I stumbled into sculpting almost by accident while taking a drawing class. Our assignment was to create a realistic-looking sculpture from found materials. Our instructor believed that success in this task would indicate a natural talent for drawing. It intrigued me, and I decided to give it a shot. That’s when my passion for sculpting began to develop.

Initially, I lacked experience in sculpting, and my early creations were quite fragile. I used air-dry clay and Sculpey, and this was also when I first started experimenting with eggshells since we were required to use found materials. It was a lot of trial and error because I had no knowledge about building armatures or understanding the baking time of Sculpey. I ended up breaking and burning many of my early sculptures.

However, despite the initial challenges, I created my first eggshell sculpture in that class, a white snake, which I still keep to this day. Interestingly, our instructor later told me that I was a better sculptor than an illustrator and suggested I consider changing my major. So, in a way, I proved his theory about measuring drawing skills wrong!

What techniques have you learned to bring your visions to life? 

After realizing that Sculpey was essentially ‘adult play-dough,’ I set out to find more stable and durable materials for my sculptures. Luckily, I had a supportive father who owned an auto body shop. He allowed me to roam freely in his shop and pester every mechanic and bodyworker to learn about the materials they used for car repairs.

I carved out a little corner for myself in the garage of the shop, surrounded by scrap metal, bumpers, and tires. It was all trial and error; I experimented with materials like fiberglass and Bondo, even welding scrap metal from damaged cars to create armatures for my sculptures. Occasionally, the employees would watch and offer their advice. The interesting thing was, most of the guys at the shop didn’t speak much English, so I had to communicate using sound effects and gestures. Sometimes, I resorted to Google Translate to help me converse in Spanish.

Despite the language barrier, they became my greatest mentors, and we’re still good friends to this day. Through them, I learned that communication goes beyond words. As long as there’s a human connection, understanding each other isn’t a problem.


What drew you to eggshells as a medium? How did you learn to manipulate them to create fantastical sculptures?

I grew up in a household where wasting things was a big no-no. My mom had this habit of reusing stuff like paper towels, grocery bags, and even Starbucks cups after washing them. Meanwhile, my dad was into salvaging car parts to fix our cars or sell them later. So, we were all about repurposing and giving things a second life. That’s where my fascination with eggshells began.

One day, we had a massive family gathering, and I was helping my mom crack eggs. We had so many leftover eggshells, and it felt incredibly wasteful. That’s when it hit me – I could find a way to repurpose these eggshells. Ever since that moment, I’ve been collecting eggshells.

Working with eggshells turned out to be quite a challenge due to their delicate nature. However, I found immense satisfaction in learning just how much I could control and transform this material into sculptures. My goal was to create a striking contrast by combining the fragility and vulnerability of eggshells with the sturdiness of metal armature and fiberglass sculptures. I wanted to explore the themes of opposites, like yin and yang, fragility and strength, vulnerability and durability, and ultimately find that delicate balance in between.

What are some sources of inspiration that you draw from when creating? Have any of your pieces been sparked by a specific moment or feeling?

My passion for animals led me to explore creatures that embodied both strength and vulnerability. I began this journey with reptiles because their scales, much like eggshells, serve as protection. I took it a step further by replicating these reptilian scales with eggshells to demonstrate my mastery of the material. And from there, my creative exploration continued.

My passion for animals led me to explore creatures that embodied both strength and vulnerability. I began this journey with reptiles because their scales, much like eggshells, serve as protection.


One especially notable element of your work is the scale and how that juxtaposes with the tiny size of the materials you use, quail egg shells! What tools and techniques do you use to help your sculptures defy gravity?

In my artistic process, I take great care in hand-cutting each eggshell to precisely mimic the scales of reptiles. This level of detail has resonated with my audience, and it’s something they genuinely appreciate. Interestingly, my inspiration for this meticulous work came from an unexpected source – a visit to a nail salon. Observing the precision tools used by manicurists to trim and shape nails intrigued me. I decided to invest in my own nail kits and cuticle cutters, which proved to be incredibly useful for shaping and cutting the fragile eggshells.

One of the most time-consuming phases of my creative process is undoubtedly the cutting and gluing of the eggshells. I’m faced with a choice: whether to preserve the eggshells in their natural color or to apply a delicate layer-by-layer painting technique. I’m careful to strike the right balance, ensuring that the texture of the shells remains intact. After this meticulous process, I seal the entire project with automotive-grade sealants. This step significantly enhances the durability and longevity of the eggshells, surpassing their typical lifespan.

I acknowledge the organic nature of these materials, which means that over time, they may naturally deteriorate or change. The eggshell “skin” may gradually fade, but the foundation and structure will persist. I find a certain beauty in the concept of impermanence, recognizing that nothing truly lasts forever. This perspective brings me satisfaction, as I’ve been able to breathe new life into these eggshells, giving them a second chance to shine in my artistic creations.

What inspires the balance between how delicate your subjects appear and their large scale?

Larger sculptures usually radiate an aura of strength and dominance, which can often be intimidating to viewers. I wanted to employ this visual strategy to convey a message. Much like many creatures in nature, which exaggerate their size to deter predators and compensate for their vulnerabilities, I sought to reveal this dynamic in my artwork.

Larger sculptures usually radiate an aura of strength and dominance, which can often be intimidating to viewers. I wanted to employ this visual strategy to convey a message.

Your work often features reptiles–lizards, turtles, and snakes. Do you feel affinity for any particular species?

In a way, I aspire to emulate the qualities of a crocodile: strength, independence, and a position as a top predator in the food chain. I’d rather be the predator than the prey, ensuring that no one can take advantage of me in any way. My aim is to live a peaceful life, much like crocodiles, who rarely encounter adversaries.

What inspired your winning piece, Yin and Yang? Did your vision for the piece change at all as you brought it to life?

My winning piece, “Yin and Yang,” took inspiration from various sources. Initially, I was intrigued by the contrast between opposites in nature, like fragility versus strength and vulnerability versus durability. I envisioned a sculpture that would juxtapose the delicate beauty of eggshells with the robustness of metal armature and fiberglass.

During the creative process, I encountered challenges due to the fragility of eggshells, which required me to adapt my techniques. However, the core concept remained consistent throughout – Yin and Yang represents a balance between opposing forces, such as negative and positive, dark and light. I sculpted these twins to illustrate how these opposing forces can be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent, emphasizing their need to coexist. The final piece reflects this concept and evolved accordingly from its initial idea to completion.


The element of eggs and eggshells go beyond just your medium–they’re also a frequent subject of your work. What do eggs and hatching symbolize for you?

Firstly, eggs and hatching represent the concept of birth and rebirth. They symbolize new beginnings, growth, and transformation. Just as a creature emerges from its shell, there’s a sense of emergence and evolution in life itself. This theme allows me to delve into the concept of ongoing change and growth.

Additionally, eggs can embody fragility and vulnerability. The shell represents a protective barrier, but it’s also delicate and easily broken. This duality mirrors the contrast between strength and weakness, resilience, and vulnerability, which are recurring themes in my work.

Furthermore, eggs and hatching can be seen as a metaphor for the human experience. They symbolize the potential within each of us, the journey of self-discovery, and the emergence of one’s true self. It reminds us that we all possess untapped inner strength, waiting to hatch and flourish.

In essence, eggs and eggshells in my art signify the cycle of life, the interplay of opposing forces, and the potential for growth and transformation. They provide a rich and versatile symbol that allows me to explore these themes in depth within my sculptures.


What do you hope viewers will feel when they interact with your work?

When viewers interact with my work, my aim is to evoke a profound sense of awe. I want them to be captivated by the intricate details and craftsmanship that I’ve poured into each sculpture. The hope is that they’ll develop a deep appreciation for the meticulous artistry at play.

Additionally, I strive to foster a deep appreciation for nature, animals, and all living things. Through my work, I aim to create a connection between the viewer and the natural world, inspiring a sense of wonder and respect for the beauty and diversity of life on our planet.

Moreover, I hope to convey the importance of recycling and sustainability. Using repurposed materials like eggshells, I emphasize the transformative power of recycling to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. I want viewers to see the value in repurposing and appreciate the second chances that materials, and indeed all living things, can be afforded.

Ultimately, my work carries a message of life and rebirth. I want viewers to feel a deep connection to the themes of growth, transformation, and the potential for renewal. Through these emotions and reflections, I aim to create a meaningful and impactful experience for those who engage with my art.

Additionally, I strive to foster a deep appreciation for nature, animals, and all living things. Through my work, I aim to create a connection between the viewer and the natural world, inspiring a sense of wonder and respect for the beauty and diversity of life on our planet.

Why did you enter the Beautiful Bizarre Magazine Art Prize?

I entered the Beautiful Bizarre Magazine Art Prize with several goals in mind. Firstly, I aimed to win and gain exposure for my art on a global scale. Additionally, I saw the competition as an opportunity to expand my network, connect with fellow artists, and be inspired by their work. Lastly, entering was a way to support my deep passion for art and share my creative vision with a wider audience.

What do you feel you have gained from this experience?

Participating in the Beautiful Bizarre Magazine Art Prize has given me greater confidence, expanded exposure for my art, and valuable networking opportunities. Winning recognition from this prestigious platform boosted my self-assurance as an artist. The competition’s exposure has broadened my art’s reach, while networking opportunities have led to new creative insights and connections within the art community, enriching my artistic journey.

Would you recommend it and encourage others to enter? If so, why?

Yes, I highly recommend it. Entering the Beautiful Bizarre Magazine Art Prize is a great way for artists to grow. It gets your work out there, helps you connect with other artists and art fans, and gives you a boost of confidence. Plus, seeing what other artists are up to can be super inspiring. So, if you’re passionate about art and looking to grow as an artist, this competition is a fantastic opportunity.

Sarah Lee Social Media Accounts

Website | Instagram

About Author

Ren Riley is an aspiring bounty hunter librarian, but until that job becomes a real thing, she works as a graphic designer, freelance writer, and marketing consultant. She holds a Bachelors of Science in Biology from Middle Tennessee State University and a Masters of Education Policy from the University of Washington. In her free time, she enjoys creating digital collages with a focus on futuristic elements and self-portraiture; her work has been shown at the Holy Art Gallery in London. She is the Editor of I, Enheduanna, a zine focused on up-and-coming feminine and non-binary creatives.


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