A Scrimshander is, of course,
someone who makes scrimshaw. I would define it as "someone who is crazy enough
to spend hundreds of hours making millions of incisions in ivory thousands of years
old". I'm happy to be that crazy. I started doing scrimshaw back in
1978. My first pieces were jewelry. Soon after I started scratching ivory, I
was introduced to Gary Kelley, a founder of the Miniature Knifemakers Society. He
was a great inspiration, and a fount of knowledge. Through him I was introduced
to some of the country's best custom knifemakers. Since those early days I've been
able to work with many of these knifemakers, embellishing knife handles.
much of my work is done on knife handles. The rest is done on custom
cuesticks, framed display pieces, guitars, jewelry, boxes, letter openers,
Most of the work
shown in my "Gallery" has been commissioned. The few pieces for sale have
a dollar price. I generally work by commission, and quote prices individually.
I do teach classes occasionally, and tutor individuals.
The United States'
scrimshaw tradition is generally recognized as beginning with the New England
whalers. We shouldn't ignore the Eskimo's work in Alaska, or that done in the
Orient. Interestingly, the oldest artwork in the world might be considered
scrimshaw: a small carving made from mastodon tusk could pre-date all existing art.
We are fortunate today to be able to work on the same material that this ancient
carver used. Most of my work is done on mastodon and wooly mammoth tusk.
usually defined as carving or embellishment of ivory or bone. Today's definition
would more likely be thought of as the intricate incising of ivory to produce images of
unbelievable detail. Look at the work of Gary Dorning or Anna Good, for
example. These define scrimshaw today.
Too often, I hear
people talk of "etching" designs into ivory. Etching is definitely not
what is done to create scrimshaw. Etching and incising are two entirely different
techniques. Incising and engraving could both describe the scrimshaw method. I
use extremely sharp scribes to scratch the surface of the ivory, and then rub paint or ink
into the incisions. I occasionally use a fine blade to cut lines for hair or a
ship's rigging, for example. Most of my work is done with a technique called
"stippling", employing dots or individual points to create the fine
shading. Often mislabeled as "pointillism", which is a style of painting,
stippling is a "technique". I know I'm splitting hairs here, but correct
terminology helps avoid misunderstanding.