Watching the Beautiful, Intricate Handiwork of Scrimshaw

Scrimshaw is a traditional art developed by 18th-century sailors on whaling ships. To pass the time during journeys that could last years, sailors took to hand-carving intricate, flowering designs in the cast-off teeth or bones of the whales they hunted. Whaling has long been outlawed, but scrimshaw lives on in the hands of masters like Brian Kiracofe, who showed his craft to the filmmakers at American Hand.


It's truly amazing seeing the enormous labor that goes into the often tiny works of art produced by master carvers like Kiracofe. With a steady hand, a discerning eye, and painstaking attention to detail, the end product is both historical and timeless. It's a fitting topic for American Hand, a documentary series dedicated to craftsmanship and artistic mastery. Scrimshaw may have begun simply as a way to pass the time, but what it's become is nothing short of art. [American Hand]

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now imagine doing this precise, intricate work on a ship that is in the middle of the ocean!