In ‘Heirloom Machine,’ Kate Van Vliet Catalogues Daily Routines One Eggshell at a Time — Colossal


#Kate Van Vliet

November 6, 2023

Kate Mothes

“Chimaera: Green #12.” All images © Kate Van Vliet, shared with permission

Kate Van Vliet’s Fault Lines series began with a neighborly gesture. “While sequestered at home during the pandemic with twin infants, our neighbors started giving us fresh eggs from their backyard flock,” she says. “The colors of the eggs were so beautiful, and as the shells accumulated on our kitchen counter each day, I knew I wanted to use them in my artwork.”

As Van Vliet began to reassemble the eggs, each shell catalogued a passing day. “When I became a mother, I found myself in this ritualistic madness, each day repeating the day before and hoping for a different result,” she says. “As the leftovers of those actions accumulated on my kitchen counter, I saw that my life had become an open edition of the same but different days.”

In a solo exhibition at Paradigm Gallery + Studio, Van Vliet examines her roles as mother and artist, exploring the idea of becoming an “heirloom machine,” a concept which lends itself to the title of the show. Creating small objects infused with both routine and memories, she examines the relationship between the meticulous repair of everyday objects and the historically invisible labor of women.

Van Vliet meticulously applied archival tissues and adhesives combined with mica to strengthen each piece. “Lots of research was involved in the physical repairing of the eggs,” she says, continuing:

They aren’t ceramics, but I wanted to celebrate imperfections by adapting the kintsugi method to repair the eggshells. I also researched ways that Ukrainian Pysanki eggs are conserved by museums. I combined what I learned with my sensibilities as a printmaker to make a repeatable method of repair that would be stable over time and work with the hairline fractures that occur in the eggs.

If you’re in Philadelphia, you can stop by Heirloom Machine through November 26. Van Vliet also co-founded the community printshop BYO Print, which is relocating to the Paradigm Arts Building building this winter. Visit the artist’s website and Instagram to see more of her work.


A sculpture of numerous repaired eggshells assembled into a tube-like structure.


Speckled eggs in a plastic dispenser.

“Candy Everybody Wants”

Brown eggshells repaired into a small sculpture.

“Donut (Chocolate)”

Four repaired duck eggs, displayed on stands.

“Egg Canoes: Duck #12-15”

A round sculpture made of repaired egg shells, displayed on a small stand.

“Donut (Mint)”

Repaired eggshells, connected in a cluster.


A blob-like shape of repaired egg shells.

“The Blob”

A coil-like form made from numerous repaired eggshells attached to one another.

“The Kiss (Pretzel)”

Brown egg shells attached into a cluster.

“The Tickler”

A sculpture made of numerous eggshells, combined to form a tripod structure.


#Kate Van Vliet


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