History of Scrimshaw

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History of Scrimshaw

Scrimshaw has been done in various forms by many peoples, African, Scandinavian, Native Americans, Inuit etc., but none made the art form as widely known, as popular, or as valued as the scrimshaw produced during the whaling era of America.

People began to collect scrimshaw for they saw its beauty and value as a form of art that could last through the centuries. Since ivory is a canvas that would last for eons if taken care of correctly, scrimshaw art may be passed from one generation to another as a treasured inheritance.

Today, whaling scenes, ships, sailors and mermaids are not the only things that are scratched into the ivory. Just about anything you would see painted has been portrayed in ivory. Color has been introduced to the art form, no longer limiting creativity to just a black and white medium.

While straight lines were only used for years, today a technique called stippling is done. Also microscopes and engraving machines have been introduced to the hand process to speed up production, profitability, and quality. Nevertheless, an artistic eye, patience, and exceptional hand eye coordination are still required to produce this kind of art.

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