Friday, September 28, 2012

Scrimshaw, the art of the sea.

My first memory of being exposed to scrimshaw was when at fourteen years old, or so, my father took me to an exhibit of it at the New Bedford Whaling Museum in Massachusetts. I fell in love with the art form on the spot. Of all Americana ephemera, the nautical realm is probably the one i find most fascinating – and whale tooth engraving, scrimshaw, is a perfect example of why. Intricately crafted and delicate, yet impossible to separate from the manly act of hunting the largest animals on the planet, scrimshaw retains and encapsulates everything that makes a romanticized life at sea an inviting one.

The true origin of the word scrimshaw is unknown, although one theory claims that it derives from nautical slang meaning "to waste one's time." The employment of carving and engraving whale teeth originally emerged in the form of canes, yarn winders, birdcages and all kind of tools that sailors would forge from the excess bones of the whales they harvested, and emerged as an art form secondarily when sailors would carve designs in their spare time in the early 1800s. Unfortunately, this act created a market for whale teeth, and as a consequence, the harvesting of whales specifically for their teeth became extremely profitable and rampant. Sperm whales were hunted until their species nearly collapsed, and today, scrimshaw is a form of contraband. Nonetheless, antique scrimshaw is an amazing slice of American whaling heritage.

I love the idea of using scrimshaw in an interior and would at every possible opportunity. Having only ever had one client who had actual pieces of scrimshaw I can tell you that the opportunity does not present itself nearly often enough. At any rate I wanted to share some of my favourite images of some pretty amazing pieces, please enjoy. And here is a little whaling song to listen to as you have a look at everything.

The engraved designs on whale teeth, bone, tusk or shell - was the product of boredom on the voyages that could last for years. These beautiful objects express homesickness, longing and adventure.
Jagging wheels (pie crimpers) are among the most common scrimshaw items carved by American whalemen in the 19th century. They were useful, as well as decorative kitchen implements. The fluted wheel was used to cut dough or seal the top of a pie crust to the sides before baking. This example’s shaft is in the form of a snake or sea serpent, with a tongue in the shape of a three-tine fork. The fork was used to decorate or poke holes in the upper pie crust to vent the steam created by baking.

This is just an amazing piece.
Any Moby Dick fans out there? Well here is a wonderful depiction of Queequeg.
The lovely handle of a scrimshaw cane.
I just love this collection. The bottom piece has a cribbage board carved into it.
JFK is probably one of the best known collectors of scrimshaw and always had pieces on the Resolute Desk (FYI: the desk is made from remnants of the Resolute warship which was salvaged from the Arctic by a whaling vessel in 1885). In 1962 Jacqueline Kennedy commissioned a large whale tooth to be polished and scrimshawed by scrimshander Milton Delano for a Christmas gift to the President. The tooth has the Presidential seal scrimshawed on the whale tooth. JFK thought so much of the tooth that Jacqueline Kennedy buried him with the tooth in his casket.
A piece from JFK's collection.
And another one.
From the B.R. Judge Collection:

 For anyone interested in learning a bit more about JFK's scrimshaw collection
If you are interested in scrimshaw in general Scrimshaw and Scrimshanders
is an absolutely wonderful resource.
I only just came across this book while putting this post together and am sure
 Ingenious Contrivances, Curiously Carved would be a fabulous addition to any
 book collection...I ordered one immediately.
So there you have it, my little tribute to a beautiful and historical aspect of a truly American art form.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sunday Morning Classics.

As you all know, yesterday was the first day of Autumn. I do hope everyone had the chance to see the post I did about it, if not click HERE. Being my favourite time of year I wanted to pick a most appropriate piece of classical music for the first "Sunday Morning Classics" post of the season.....appropriate, if perhaps a bit cliched I suppose.

At any rate my selection is the "Danza Pastorale" (Autumn) section of Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons", an absolutely beautiful piece of music. It is played by Julia Fischer on violin and she is accompanied by The Academy of St. Martin In The Fields from London and was performed at The National Botanical Gardens of Wales. Enjoy.

Finding this video was my first time hearing anything by Julia Fischer or The Academy of St. Martin In The Fields and must admit to being quite impressed with both. I do hope you have been too.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Welcome Autumn.

Autumn is without a doubt my favourite time of year (with Winter trailing a very very close second) so I am quite excited that today marks the beginning of the season. The days begin to shorten and a wonderful chill creeps into the air, it is when one can start pulling out their tweeds and wools from the back of the closet. To be honest I had all my tweed sport coats and wool tartan slacks out and ready about three weeks ago I have been so incredibly eager for Autumn.

It also seemed a perfect time to update the image on the Bastion & Lark banner, what do you think?

As there isn't really to much more to say here are a few wonderful images to help get everyone ready for the changes to come, I hope you enjoy them....oh yes, there is a bit of music at the end as well.
Completely charming no?
"Autumn in New England, Cider Making" by George Henry Durrie (1863)
This is a picnic I would love to be a part of.
Beautiful isn't it? I heavily associate pheasants with Autumn.
A great image...and the front gate to my future home.
And here it is.
I could just walk down this road for hours.
Some tweeds all ready to go.
And some wool tartan slacks ready to go with them.

Whatever your plans this Autumn make sure to get outdoors and enjoy it as much as possible. Make sure to be mindful of the colours all around you and the smells in the air, they should be enough to keep you inspired year round.

Happy Autumn,
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