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A scrimshaw peice by Ginny Hall depicting four mammoths.

The Art of Scrimshaw

Scrimshaw is the name given to scrollwork, engravings, and carvings done in bone or ivory. It takes the form of elaborate engravings or etchings on the surface of the polished bone and then ink is applied to the porous lines. This intricate and collectable art form has evolved into the highly prized works done by Artists of the Pacific North West and is now known for it’s colourful images and fine detail. In her work, Ginny uses only polished mammoth ivory not elephant or walrus ivory.

The History of Scrimshaw

Scrimshaw is derived from the practice of sailors on whaling ships creating common tools, where the byproducts of whales were readily available. The term originally referred to the making of these tools, only later referring to works of art created by whalers in their spare time. Whale bone was ideally suited for the task, as it was easy to work and was plentiful. Early scrimshaw was done with crude sailing needles, and the movement of the ship, as well as the skill of the artist, produced drawings of varying levels of detail and artistry.