Crafty Manolo » Inspiration Gallery: Scrimshaw

Inspiration Gallery: Scrimshaw

By Twistie

via Blackbird Blog

Scrimshaw is a controversial craft, and rightly so, considering its best-known materials. Whalebone and elephant ivory are scarce and getting scarcer. the good news is that using them for scrimshaw has been outlawed for a generation. The bad news is that many people don’t realize that most current scrimshaw is done with either heritage ivory (reused antique materials, such as broken ivory pieces or fossilized ivory) or with new, imaginative choices such as ostrich eggshells, tagua nuts and even man-made materials like acrylic.

The two gorgeous pieces above, obviously, date from the days when whalers on their way home from the hunt would pass some of the time by making amazing pieces of folk art for their loved ones back home. Obviously I’m not in favor of continued whale hunting, or the killing of elephants for their teeth. I’m glad both materials have been banned.

Once the work is divorced from the slaughter of endangered animals, though, it’s a rather spectacular craft. And made with sustainable materials, it’s still thriving around the world.


This spectacular piece by Texas scrimshander (the correct term for a scrimshaw artist) Linda Karst Stone, for instance, features subtle but exquisite color highlighting the beauty of nature. It’s done on a hippo tusk.


This gorgeous cuff bracelet by Jessica Kagan is carved on mammoth ivory. Want.

via All Tucker’d Out

As for these gorgeous scrimshaw motifs, they’re carved on acrylic. That’s right, acrylic. They’re designed to adorn baskets, but you might find the inspiration to create something similar for a piece of jewelry or an inlay on a piece of furniture.

Remember, if you’re buying scrimshaw be sure to inquire into the materials used and how they were acquired. And if you decide to make scrimshaw, source your materials carefully. Don’t get on the wrong side of the law for your craft!

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