Trade Beads with Scrimshaw by Walker Goldsmiths is dear to my Scrimshaw loving heart. Many years ago when we were first starting in this jewelry business I would create Scrimshaw pieces on Ivory that Owen would set in silver or gold. The best material to scrim on is fossil mastodon or fossil walrus tusk ivory and these are legal. I still have a very few pieces leftover from those days. When I came upon this Scrimshaw bracelet signed by Willie Topkok I researched him determined to use it somehow in a trade bead necklace and found that he is a wonderful artist in many Inupiaq traditional techniques. What is Scrimshaw? It really is one of the most important truly American folk arts. It originated with whalers in the 1600’s using their spare time and whale teeth and bones to etch upon with sharp tools, then blackening the surface so the etching shows up well. It started out with primarily a nautical focus, but was used to portray and decorate anything made of Ivory or bone.
Willie Topkok is an established Inupiaq artist, who scrimshaws beautifully. He has a unique style that really appeals to me. When I found a bracelet that had segments showing scenes from Inupiaq life I just had to share and use the scenes scrimshawed on Fossil Walrus Tusk Ivory with Fossil Walrus Bone and Trade Beads: Blue Russians, Venetian and Czech Cobalts. This one featured here is a beautifully done Scrimshaw scene of a Sea Lion on an ice flow.
The 2 large Cobalt beads are Bohemian faceted beads from the early 1800’s. The beautiful Blue Russians just had to be incorporated in this necklace for historical reasons. The Russians used these cobalt hand faceted beads as payment to the natives on the Alaska coast for Sea Otter pelts in the 1600’s. The natives used them on their attire and further traded them to other people for goods. They were and still are in high demand. Of course, using Fossil Walrus Bone and Ivory was a must along with the beautiful colors of ancient Ice Age Mastodon Ivory beads. Czech Cobalts are gorgeous and always used well to space and protect the other beads.
Fossil Walrus Ivory Scrimshaw by Willie Topkok, Fossilized Walrus Bone, Trade Beads: Mastodon Ivory beads, Blue Russians, Venetian and Czech Cobalts.