|Whale's tooth with view of Amsterdam, MB0282|
Scrimshaw is pieces of carved and colored whale tooth or bone. Although whale tooth and bone were the most common materials for scrimshaw, examples can also be found of tusk, ivory or bone from other sea or land animals. Carving animal tooth and bone is a practice that goes back centuries, but the term scrimshaw came into use in the 19th century- as the whaling trade was exploding worldwide. Whaling ships would embark on trips that lasted years and the whalers often had ample time on their hands. The act of creating scrimshaw, called scrimshandering, was a detailed art that could easily occupy many hours and whalers could then bring the finished products home to their families and friends as souvenirs from their time abroad.
|Scrimshaw clothespin, MB0070|
|Whale's tooth with|
family scene, MB0036
- Block of white soap
- A ball point pen
- Black washable poster paint
- Wooden carving tools (such as this one available at craft stores)
- Sponge, cut into small pieces
- Paper plate
- Newspaper or craft paper to cover work space
- Smooth off soap surface with wooden tool
- Use point of wooden tool or the point of the pen to carve image (the pen will not make any marks on the soap). Carve whatever image you want. It can be a meaningful representation of something you love or a beautiful design. It’s up to the artist!
- When carving, be careful not to press too hard, the soap may split.
- If the soap is dry, the soap particles can irritate your throat, so don’t breathe too deeply!
- Use sponge to apply paint. Use enough to get into the carving to make the entire image appear. Wipe away excess paint, using the sponge as well as paper towels to get the desired look.
- Let the paint dry.
- Share your art with friends and family- regaling them with tales of your time on the high seas!
By Alexa Drolette, Museum Programs Manager