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About My Work


……Home………Scrimshaw: • About Scrimshaw………• Animal ………• Botanical………• Fantasy………• Miscellaneous

So…What is Scrimshaw?

Scrimshaw is a type of “belino” engraving art form, similar to metal engraving techniques. The surface is painted black with removable acrylic paints and the illustration area is drawn in 'negative' highlighting the shadows.
A sharpened metal scribe is used to engrave into the surface of the ivory, similar to scratch board illustration.
Then the black is removed from the overall surface and thinned black oil paint is carefully touched to the engraved illustration. When paint is properly thinned, the pigments travel the engraved lines and leave un-engraved areas the white ivory surface.
The Inuits and Polynesians traditionally added color to their scrimshaw creations unlike the Atlantic sailors who only had black lamp soot to color their artwork. To add color, areas are “scribed” between the black lines and color is applied with the same technique as the black paint.
The resulting piece is heirloom quality and because of the materials used, will be a treasure; handed down for many generations.

I am an award winning and juried painter, illustrator and a jewelry designer and made my living for years illustrating manuals, catalogs, magazines and childrens' books. Scrimshaw is the perfect medium allowing me to freely carry on those skills and incorporate my original artwork into beautiful jewelry.

I work from photographic reference and from my imagination and enjoy finding unusual antique illustrations to work from such as antique kimonos, Victorian publications, etc.

Commissions are always welcome. Many of my commission clients send me photos of pets and family to scrimshaw. I create scrimshaw cabochons for basket makers and woodworkers. If you are an artist who would like to incorporate scrimshaw into your own creations, please feel free to contact me. There are not many subject forms that I cannot illustrate.

All scrimshaw designs are accompanied by a certificate authenticating the art form and describes the scrimshaw art form. It also includes important care information so that your scrimshaw creation will maintain it's beauty and be an object that will continue to gain value and be treasured for generations to come.

My Scrimshaw Illustration is divided up into categories.
Click on one of the links above…

About my construction methods…My bails are large enough to fit even the largest chains and magnum chains. The embellishments on my bails are my own signature design elements. I make my bail structure longer so that it extends down the back to the bottom of my structures for stability and so that the pendant doesn't "spin" when it is worn like some shorter bail constructions tend to do. This is also one of my own signature design elements. It takes more metal material that way, but offers a much better construction than shorter versions. Also, all of my bails are "closed". Bails that are open and just turned under in the back run the risk of the pendant falling off the chain when the wearer moves in certain directions. To me, that is not an acceptable construction.
My scrimshaw pieces are mounted on black enameled hardwoods or faux bone. I'd love to use repurposed ebony, but the laws enacted against the use of ebony are so restrictive and confusing, that I don't want to inadvertently break those laws and so choose not to use it. There are no laws restricting the use of repurposed piano keys thankfully.
I fuse my own glass for the "Cosmic Grapevine Collection" and the Dichroic Earrings shown. I polish my own stones for the most part - every now and then I find polished stones and purchase them from other stone artists. I do not facet stones and so purchase all of those from other artists.
I constantly "play" with my designs in an effort to improve my product and make them as stable and durable as they can possibly be hoping that they will survive as treasures handed down to future generations.

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All designs, all photographs, all material on this site © Denise C. Smith / JewelryArtSmith 2020. No rights or permission granted to reproduce any design, photograph or material
contained on this site for any reason without written permission or contract. All correspondence should be directed to: artsmith@jewelryartsmith.com.