Monday, August 13, 2007

first scrimshaw

A friend of mine who is an extraordinarily talented engraver recently suggested to me that I try making some scrimshaw. I knew nothing about it, but jumped right on it, and OMG, I think this could become an obession. I ordered a new scribe tool, a DVD, a book, some ivory, and a few other odds and ends, and set to work learning. I've done pen and ink stippling, which is helpful. And I've done drypoint etching, which is more helpful. Scrimshaw is incising ivory (or plastic, bone, synthetics) and filling those lines/holes/scratches with ink/paint.

Impatient for my goodies to arrive, I did a "spoonshaw" a little over a week ago. This was done with a fairly dull etching scribe (less sharp = larger dot size) with 0-1.5X magnification, on the back of a plastic spoon.

The spoon was done using an old optivisor (1.5X) some of the time, and nothing when I got tired of wearing that thing. I later tried using a ~2X magnifying lamp, but it was so hard to get the image lined up just right so that I could see what I was doing. The pros use stereo microscopes. That's well out of budget right now but to my great delight I learned that my neighbors have one! So the next piece (the elephant) was done at 10X on a scope. WOW it's weird to work at high magnification! But it's necessary, there is no way to get the fine dots and fine detail with the naked eye. Under the 2X lamp, I thought I had areas solid black, but under the 10X scope, I could see more white between the dots than dots themselves! In time if this works out I plan to get my own setup but for now this is incredibly awesome to be able to use theirs.

I finally got all my stuff, and proceeded to really mess up my first attempt on ivory (pre-ban piano keys, if you are wondering). The elephant figure itself turned out pretty good but I made some big mistakes on this piece. I'm going to post it anyway but I must say it's not a good piece, I did a lot of experimenting with different techniques and did some damage along the way. But I learned, oh I learned... I'll just keep this one, or give it away or something, can't sell work that's not up to snuff. I will do a few more practice pieces before I try to sell anything. But.. this has some potential I think. I like it!

scrimshaw on ivory piano key (7/8 by 1-7/8 inches) made into necklace

Depending on your monitor resolution, this is about what I see through the scope:


Anonymous said...

You must have sooo much patience! I think they are really neat, little chicken ones would look really fab too. I think they would sell very well because they're so unusual and individual.

Do they take ages to do? I would imagine you can't work on them for long periods at a time or it would be quite tiring on the eyes, especially looking down a microscope.

Anonymous said...

All that detail! All that patience! Geez Louise! Well, all I can say is welcome to a new passion! I am looking forward to the future of Katherine Plumer's Fine Art & Jewelry!

Katherine Plumer said...

It does take ages, which explains the pricing that the professionals use. ;-) I can't work on it for long. I'll work for maybe 20 minutes at a time and then I have to get up and look around and give my eyes a break. So what I've been doing lately is going next door to use the scope for about 2 hours at a time, but taking a bunch of little breaks in that time frame. It's not an ideal setup right now, it kinda makes everything sore, but I'm grateful to be able to use it until I am able to get my own (assuming I stick with this).

I will definitely make some chickens at some point, though the market is more for wildlife, fantasy, and nudes.

Warning! I will be posting nude art! Hopefully nobody will be offended by that. Heck, we're all naked under our clothes anyway.