Active in Agriculture & Arts

A family that CREATES together, stays together . . .

Our family grew up dying and decorating hard-boiled eggs every Easter.  A few years after our move to Calgary in 1973, Mom (Rita Boyle), my younger sister (Suzanne Boyle), my "baby" brother (Robert Boyle), and I attended a free Fort Calgary family event and learned how to make Ukrainian Easter Eggs (pysanky).  I continued the tradition over the years, but found it very difficult to find fresh un-marked eggs to use, so in the mid-1990's, I called the Agriculture Section of the Calgary Stampede and asked if they could recommend a local hobby farmer.  They kindly put me in contact with Ted Braunwarth.  It was a pleasant surprise to learn that he was the one who put together the chick hatchery and exotic fowl and duck habitat exhibits at the Calgary Stampede that had fascinated and delighted our family for so many years.  Mom was raised on a Saskatchewan farm, so whenever we visited the Stampede, our first destination was to the chick hatchery and Country Critters tent to visit all the baby animals and miniature horses and donkeys and other farm animals, before we headed over to the barns to meet the different breeds of horses.

Ted graciously invited Mom, Dad, and I out to his family farm near Chestermere, Alberta, and we met his family and his amazing menagerie of fine-feathered and furry friends, including a gentle giant of a moose who could be ridden just like a horse, as well as a friendly emu bird who laid his head on our shoulder and followed us around like a puppy dog to peck at one of the sparkling buttons on our coats.  He proudly showed us how his hatchery and incubators worked.  Ted had such a humble, gentle manner about him, and he also had a great love and respect for the birds and animals placed in his care, as he helped to foster and raise orphaned and injured birds and animals.  He even put together a wondrous biofact display showcasing the infertile eggs collected over the years from many different species of songbirds, ratites, and birds of prey, ranging from the miniature hummingbird to the monstrous ostrich, to help educate children of all ages.

This is a photo taken in July 2003 at the Calgary Stampede of Ted (who has since passed away) and me on the auspicious occasion of Ted's 50th Anniversary of volunteering at the Calgary Stampede.

Ted became "my Grandpa Ted", and, over the years, he generously saved and gave me many infertile hen, duck, goose, pheasant, and guinea fowl eggs to use in my egg art, as well as my first black-green emu egg and ostrich egg.  Ted saved a brown chicken egg for me that was the first egg laid by one of his young hens, and it was so tiny that it did not even have a yolk in it, so I created a Fimo baby chick hatching from the egg with its head and feet sticking out.  He would not take any payment for the eggs, so one of the ways I found to thank him was to create some special egg art just for him, including a goose egg with a colour pencil scene of a Canada Goose family outside and a handmade Fimo baby gosling hatching from an egg inside, a guinea fowl egg with a colour pencil portrait of his special moose, and an emu egg made into a barn with a baby donkey inside.  Ted was the first person outside my circle of close friends and relatives that I showed my artwork to.  As I was growing up, ultra-realism and wildlife art were not as accepted as it is today, and my high school art teacher (who advocated a more abstract style) ridiculed my efforts, devastating my fragile self-confidence with her report to my parents that “I had no talent”.  Thank goodness I listened to my heart (and my parents and siblings!) and kept creating my wildlife-themed art on paper, ceramics, and eggs in the comfort and security of my family's home.  With the encouragement of Ted and my Mom, I gained enough confidence to enter my pysanky ostrich egg, ceramics, and coloured pencil drawing in the 1997 Calgary Stampede's Creative Arts & Crafts Competition for the first time, and, to my astonishment, I was awarded ribbons for all my entries.  In March 1998, I became the youngest hatchling under the wing of our mother hen, Doris Lockerbie, as part of Calgary's Fowl Eggers, and our group took the art of egging to new heights as we enthusiastically experimented with different mediums and techniques.  For the next couple of years, I entered my egg art in the egging class, as well as in many non-egging craft classes, and I was so honoured when I learned that the Judges accepted them and awarded ribbons for all my entries.

After some major surgeries that curtailed my art for a few years, I celebrated my 50th birthday in 2011 by completing and entering a gourd basket carved with baby ducklings, as well as one of Ted's goose eggs made into a Cowboy boot (with a sleepy Fimo kitten inside and two Fimo mice peeking out from underneath the heel), and, to my delight, both entries were awarded 1st in their respective classes and 1st in their respective sections.

I have saved the Judges' comments which were written on the back of all my entry cards since 1997, and I treasure them.  Thanks to my family, Ted, and the other ostrich and emu breeders I have had the privilege of meeting since 1998, as well as thanks to the positive feedback received from so many volunteers and Judges at the Calgary Stampede, I have continued to CREATE art as a hobby to my heart's content, and I have gained enough confidence to connect with other egg and gourd artists throughout the world by way of the internet so as to share my creations and the techniques I have pioneered and learned.  Hope you enjoy some photos of my egg and gourd art located at:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/leemboyle/sets/72157600909019109/

Lee Michele Boyle