Quibbles, Niggles, and Tidings:
•Watch Video: CBS Channel 4 News Story on the art of Jim Stevens by Critic-at-Large Greg Moody.
•Jim loves scrimshaw but his monofilament art has been called "captured shadows" and "jaw-dropping" beautiful. The most often asked question is how he makes the art seem to hang in space and look both holographic and weightless.
*Jim will be in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
October 30–November 2 to receive the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival Gold Medal for Special Recognition in the visual arts.
Archeologists have discovered art work comparable to American scrimshaw that dates back to at least 100200 AD in North America; long before the sailors of the 1700's and 1800's actually created and gave name to the art form. Scrimshaw is the oldest of the very few art forms that are native to North America. While other cultures around the world certainly worked in ivory and bone, the style of North American cultures and that of the Yankee sailors were uniquely their own, making scrimshaw a traditionally American art form.
Today, Scrimshaw is still practiced by master scrimshanders and their work is highly sought after and collected. Perhaps the most noted collector was President John F. Kennedy, who even displayed many of his most cherished pieces of ivory scrimshaw in the Oval Office of the White House.
No animals are harmed as the result of work by responsible scrimshanders. The work seen here is all done on shed antler, bone, horn, legal elephant and most often, fossil ivories that can be as much as 10,000 to 50,000 years old or older. The fossil ivory used here is from the ice age giant, the wooly mammoth, or ancient fossil mastodon or walrus tusk, making it ethically and ecologically ideal for the traditional 14th wedding anniversary gift of ivory. Horn scrimshaw is most often seen on black powder hunting horns. The rare and beautiful woods used by the artist are primarily black Makassar and Gabon Ebony and equally magnificent Ironwoods from the African continent.
The art seen here is accomplished by stippling the solid surface area to create an image. Stippling is the creation of thousands of tiny holes that are then carefully filled with pigment to reveal a beautiful work of art.
Scrimshaw art is a slow and careful process where one mistake can ruin an entire piece. Creating ivory sculpture or carving or the intricate stone and shell inlay accomplished by Mr. Stevens in black buffalo horn are also equally unforgiving art forms. Scrimshaw, carving, and inlay work are not for the impatient. Each piece can take from 30 to over 900 hours to complete.
The greatest masters of the craft to have ever picked up a scribe are working today. Their techniques and the modern-day masterpieces they create have contributed greatly to the increasing collector’s value of this significant and historical American art form. This is the era of the finest masterpieces ever produced in scrimshaw.
What is most amazing about the art of Jim Stevens is that this award winning international artist is legally blind, with only a pin dot of vision remaining in both eyes. He lost his sight as a result of combat wounds suffered while serving in the U.S. Army. His loss of vision forced the artist to rethink his approach to the art he loves. Today he uses a combination of visual lenses along with his sense of touch to complete each of his works of art, and custom scrimshaw creations. Jim is the master scrimshaw and ivory craftsman for Fenton, the international jewelry design studio based in New York City, and he also teaches the art of scrimshaw at Trinidad State College in Colorado for the National Rifle Association Gunsmithing School. As an author, Jim has written three comprehensive illustrated books on the art of scrimshaw published by Schiffer Books, "Scrimshaw Techniques," "Advanced Scrimshaw Techniques," and "Powder Horns Fabrication & Decoration," to help others learn scrimshaw, inlay, carving, and more. Jim believes strongly in education to help keep the art form alive. His work can be seen at the Grand Lake Art Gallery in Grand Lake, Colorado, the Casa de Esperanza Art Gallery in Seattle, Washington, and Mystic Scrimshanders Gallery in Wickford, Rhode Island. In 2010, Jim was honored as a Kennedy Center Registered VSA Artist. VSA is a visual and literary affiliate program of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Click here for a personal message and to learm more about Mr. Stevens and his art.
Click on image for information and where to purchase these books.
"The most complete technical and aesthetic books ever written in the field."
While Jim does not do appraisals, he does invite those with scrimshaw, carving, ivory retoration, powder horn, inlay, jewelry, ivory grips, commissions, and related questions to email him. He is an artisan always willing to share his experience and knowledge to help or inform others as best he can. For appraisals he recommends the American Society of Appraisers "Find an Appraiser" referral system.
A final word on the art of scrimshaw
While collectors do appreciate the potential investment value of scrimshaw, that is not usually their primary reason for acquiring it. The handcrafting of srimshaw is part of our American heritage and each unique piece represents heirloom art passed down from generation to generation. It links us to our past and our rise from cave art to modern masterpieces. It also connects us to the extinct creatures that our ancestors once lived alongside.
Scrimshaw has the combined allure of history, fine art, and heritage. Maybe all of this is what collectors feel when they look at modern scrimshaw. No other art form in America has a longer history. No other expression of art has such significance or influence on the American spirit.