The Truly Original American Art of Scrimshaw
by Artist Terry Christian
History of Scrimshaw Scrimshaw is considered a truly original American art form. The whalers took up this hobby as a way to pass time on the long voyages away from home. The sailors were considered to be "shirking their duties" as a result of this activity. That phrase became the definition of scrimshaw.
On the 3 to 5 year journey at sea, boredom would set in as whales were not always sighted. Months could pass between kills. So the sailors began to take what was at hand (whales teeth, sail needles or a knife, lamp black) and scratch artwork into the ivory.