Ova to You, Dorothy Davis, Egg Fancier Extraordinaire

updated 03/27/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/27/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

For 40 years, egg decorator and collector Dorothy Davis of Irwin, Pa., has worked at her chosen art form. It's not an easy oeuvre—or an oeuvre easy, for that matter. But she kept at it, egged on by her husband, David, and now she has what may be the world's biggest egg collection. Davis estimates that she has painted 2,500 eggs and collected another 4,500 from other artists. No wonder Easter is her favorite holiday of the year.

While amassing her collection, Davis has become a sort of mother hen for artists who are just breaking into eggs. "I hand them an egg and ask them to do some of their work on it," she says. The egg that she hands them, it should be noted, has first been drained through a pinhole made at one end—otherwise the whole thing would turn into a bad yolk. Her collection now includes eggshell art by a T-shirt airbrusher, an Amish nature painter and a scrimshaw artist with a very steady hand. There is even a caricaturist who has left Davis with face on her egg.

But the basis for Davis's collection is the centuries-old egg-decorating tradition of Eastern Europe. In that part of the world, the gaily colored eggs have been used as gifts, religious objects and good-luck charms. (Davis's husband, also an egg artist, works in the Ukrainian pysanka mode, covering each egg with thousands of tiny colored beads.)

The Davises, both of whom are retired, travel the country in their van (which they call the Egg-Mobile), showing off their best examples to fellow eggers at arts-and-crafts fairs. They do, however, have a grand dream—an egg museum. There, David Davis, working with ornithologists and natural-history eggheads—hopes to reproduce the eggs of extinct birds. Dorothy hopes to display art from as many cultures as possible—all reduced to egg size.

While Dorothy Davis's art may seem incredible, it is also, for her, inedible. The egg queen of Irwin, Pa., is allergic to eggs.

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