...a word that has come to be associated with the art of etching, engraving, incising the surface of ivory and bone.
Originally popularized for Americans by Yankee whalers, now, in America's post-whaling era, this art lives on. The artistic excellence and technical proficiency of the modern scrimshander has evolved far beyond the scope of the best of the antique pieces .
Pictured on many of these pages are prime examples of modern scrimshaw at its best. Generally, the pieces shown on these pages have been inspired by combinations and interpretations of photographs and paintings, and have been created utilizing the stipple method of scrimshaw, a dotting technique that can achieve precise clarity and resolution of image in much the same way a photograph can. The work is all done by hand, and is most intense and painstaking.
The scrimshaw material most commonly used by these featured artists is fossilized walrus ivory. This material is excavated by the Siberian Yupik Eskimo from their old village sites on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Strait of Alaska. Mammoth and mastodon ivory, also found in Alaska, will also be seen on these pages. Whale's teeth, the type of ivory traditionally associated with scrimshaw, and most commonly used by the whalers of old, have, since 1976, been under federal control in America, and are not so readily available for public consumption. Hence the use of the more easily obtainable fossil ivories. The fossilized walrus ivory is, in some instances many thousands of years old; some are relics and artifacts of the Eskimo past and threaten no species living today. The same is true for the ivories of the mammoth and mastodon, who lived mostly prior to the last ice age. These old ivories have a beauty and patina uniquely their own, and have taken on highlights of coloration in accordance with the minerals they have lain in the earth with for so many years.
In the following pages view state-of-the-art examples of one of the few white American folk arts.