Accident Leads to an “A-Ha!” Moment – Egg Harbor’s Dovetail Gallery and Studio

I have to sheepishly admit that having lived in Egg Harbor for the past six years, I have always wanted to visit Dovetail Gallery and Studio, but just had never found the time. I also have to admit that part of it was because I didn’t quite understand the concept of egg art. When I tell Kathy Mand Beck this at our interview, she nods her head and smiles warmly. She’s been asked this question before, and she has plenty of reasons for creating egg art. “Eggs are the shape of life,” she says. “Throughout history, eggs have been a sign of love and affection. I feel lucky to be able to work with a medium that represents so much.”

As the resident “egg artist” of Dovetail Gallery, Beck creates carved, etched, and painted egg shells in her studio on the Egg Harbor bluff. After donning her safety glasses, dust mask, cape, and headphones adorned with an ostrich plume (for inspiration!), Beck gets to work, personalizing eggs with names, dates, and designs. At the time of my interview with her, Beck is working on two commissions on the exact opposite of the spectrum – a colorful ostrich egg donned with bright cherries and birds, and for the other one – the symbol of the rock group KISS. “I’ve can’t even keep track of all of the designs I have carved onto eggs,” Beck laughs. “It keeps things interesting.”

Beck began her artistic career as a floral designer when she was a teenager, and by the time she was in her 30s she was studying stained glass art. However, she says, her foray into the world of egg art was an accident – literally. “I ended up with an injury to my right arm, and had to have hand surgery and two elbow surgeries,” Beck says. A short time after the surgeries, Beck purchased an air drill for etching glass. “The drill operates at 400,000 rpm, and doesn’t vibrate,” Beck says. “It’s perfect for someone that can’t use their hands for long periods of time.” She was in the doctor’s office when she happened to read an article in a magazine about a woman who did carved eggshells with a similar drill. She always liked holding an egg, and found the shape intriguing – so decided to get some of the neighboring farmer’s chicken eggs and try it for herself.

At the time of her injury, Beck was living in Richfield, which is northwest of Milwaukee. She was familiar with Door County, having come to the peninsula for years for semi-annual getaways. While shopping in Egg Harbor one day, she was dismayed to find that none of the stores she stopped in were carrying the namesake of the small village. “I couldn’t find one egg,” Beck says, “and I kind of had an ‘a-ha!’ moment.” Her fourth child had left the nest back home, and Beck felt like she needed to make some changes in her life. She decided on that trip that she would bring eggs to Egg Harbor – and open up an egg art gallery.

Even though Beck had a studio in which she did commission work, and had done many art shows, Beck admits that she jumped into the role of gallery owner “with both feet.” She moved fast, purchasing the space for the gallery of Highway 42 in September 1993. The cabin Dovetail inhabits dates back to 1873, and is an integral part of Egg Harbor history – Dr. Eames built the cabin as his home, and stayed in it while his larger house was being built. The gallery’s namesake comes from the fact that the joints on the cabin are dovetailed – but also because “an egg comes out from under a dove’s tail!” Beck laughs. With the perfect name in place, Dovetail Studio & Gallery officially opened on May 13, 1994.

Shortly after opening the gallery, Beck had another idea to jump into – actually, three ideas. “I started to wonder what the essence of the egg world was,” Beck says. “And I decided that if I was actually going to have this gallery and promote the beauty of eggs, I was going to need have to have three distinct egg items to show in the gallery.” The three goals were to have a prehistoric egg, a wild bird egg collection, and a Faberge egg – and have them all on display at the gallery. “I didn’t really have a timeline for acquiring these items,” Beck says, “but it was important to me to have them.”

Although it would seem like an amazing feat for anyone to obtain just one of these items in a lifetime, Beck has managed to obtain the three items in the 15 years Dovetail has been in business. The first was the Faberge Egg, which Beck located in 1998. The egg was created around 1910, and was commissioned by Tsar Alexander III and Nichols II.

The prehistoric egg was the next to be found. In 2003, Beck was having coffee with a business friend in Milwaukee, and told him of her dream of finding a dinosaur egg. “In a moment of serendipity, the man said, ‘I have a friend who has one,’” Beck says. “He said that her friend had it in a hatbox on a bookshelf for years.” The “friend” turned out to be the late Steve Nicolet of Milwaukee, who was a business acquaintance of Steven Spielberg. Nicolet was a candymaker who had created the “Jurassic Jawbreakers” for Spielberg’s blockbuster movie Jurassic Park. The egg’s “grand opening” at Dovetail was in July 2004, and has been authenticated as a real and rare Hypselosaurus egg through an MRI scan – which is on display at the gallery right next to the egg.

Besides the fact that it’s a real dinosaur egg, the egg (named “Infinity”) is amazing for three reasons. Hypselosaurus eggs were the first dinosaur eggs ever found, and they are the largest dinosaur eggs to date. Also, Infinity is special because it is the only prehistoric egg on display in the state of Wisconsin, according to the Milwaukee Public Museum.

The wild bird egg collection signaled the final piece in the puzzle, and arrived at Dovetail in 2007. The collection includes nearly 70 eggs. “I was standing in the store with a woman and her husband, and they told me that her father had a collection of wild eggs that was stored away in an old Gimbel’s box,” Beck says. “It turns out that all of the eggs were from the 1950s, back when eggs weren’t protected by the US Fish and Wildlife Department. He had collected all of them when he was a child.” After working with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior to get the mandatory permit granted to show the eggs in the gallery, Beck worked closely with Egg Harbor taxidermist Mike Orthober to identify the wild bird egg collection.

As if the three “essences of the egg world” weren’t enough reasons to visit Dovetail, the Egg Museum would drive the point home. Nearly 300 eggs from around the world are on display, including a working “radio egg” made by a student in Prague. Beck says she used to have the radio egg out so she could listen to the Packer Game, but eventually put it behind glass doors because “the men that would come into the store kept trying to turn the game up too loud!”

In addition to the store’s namesake, the gallery also represents over 100 artists, each one representing some of the best in fiber art, pottery and polymer clay (Author’s note – please go and check out Jon Anderson’s “FIMOCREATIONS” – you will be amazed), batiks, metal, and glass art. Besides being the gallery’s resident egg artist, Beck also designs a line of outdoor “Garden Angels” spires and also designs the copper garden sprinklers that her husband Tom Mand handcrafts.

Standing in the middle of the gallery she created from scratch 15 years ago, it seems that Beck couldn’t be happier. “I like to think of Dovetail as a magical blend of art and nature,” she says, “and I’m happy that I get to live that blend.”

Dovetail Gallery & Studio is located at 7901 Highway 42 in Egg Harbor. For more information about egg commissions or general gallery information, please call (920) 868-3987 or visit