has the right touch
Crestwood resident will appear
at The 1887 Corner Store in March
(March 2007) Richard Hutchings remembers seeing
six whale teeth on President John F. Kennedys desk when he was
a child. A form of scrimshaw artwork, Hutchings never dreamed he would
one day create the exquisite, finely detailed work that graced a former
U.S. presidents workspace.
courtesy of Mike Carter
Hutch Hutchings has honed
his talent since being encouraged
by fellow scrimshaw artists.
Always artistic, Hutchings grew up colorblind and took
to pen-and-ink drawing as his choice of medium. Scrimshaw is a
step past pen and ink, said this former commercial artist. His
style is a combination of different pen and ink techniques made to work
Hutchings, 53, of Crestwood, Ky., on March 24 will demonstrate the art
of scrimshaw at The 1887 Corner Store in downtown La Grange. He will
appear at the store from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. amd display his unique
pieces of jewelry, knife handles, cigar holders, belt buckles, pistol
grips, daggers and bolo ties.
The Inuit and other native groups along the Northwest Coast practiced
scrimshaw for centuries. It was adopted by Yankee sailors aboard whaling
ships on the Pacific Ocean around 1817 to 1824. It began as a leisure
activity for these whalers who were often away from home on monotonous
two to five year voyages.
Whalers used scrimshaw to create common tools. The result was a functional
object made from the by-products of harvesting marine mammals, as whalebone,
baleen and jawbones were in abundant supply. Whale teeth were even part
of a whalers pay, which in turn could be used for trading goods
Whalers scratched patterns or pictures into the surface of whalebone
or whale teeth with a knife or sail needle. Next they would rub lampblack
over the scratches and an image would appear.
of Richard Hutchings
Mammoth pipe tamps (above) and
an 1890 whale tooth (below).
Relying on this centuries old art form, Hutchings crafts
knife handles and blades. It is an art form encouraged by Gil Hibben,
a La Grange-based knife maker who has sold his work to top-name Hollywood
stars. Fourteen years ago, Hibben suggested Hutchings give scrimshaw
a chance, and Hibben has been the one to keep me going,
said Hutchings. Thinking that Hutchings was quite an artist and had
never tried scrimshaw, Hibben knew he would succeed at it.
It takes a real artist to make it look like a photo, said
Hibben of Hutchings work. He said Hutchings has the initiative
and desire to transfer what he sees onto the ivory and make it lifelike.
Hutchings also does reverse scrimshaw, usually on buffalo horn from
India and Thailand. The result is a black and glossy background, with
the design sketched in white ink, said Hibben, who has collaborated
on many projects with Hutchings.
Through experience Hutchings has refined his skill to produce outstanding
works that are functional as well as decorative. He produces many customized
cigar cutter handles and knives sold all over the world at premium cigar
His choice of material is mammoth ivory, pre-embargo elephant and water
buffalo horn. His work is beautifully detailed with scrimshaw carvings
of grizzly bears, jumping bass and antlered elk, sci-fi characters,
playing cards and historical figures.
For many of his pieces, Hutchings often uses mammoth ivory, which is
found in the Artic and Siberian permafrost. Ivory diggers locate and
sell these fossil remains of the Wooly Mammoth that died during the
last Ice Age.
The outside of the mammoth ivory is called bark mammoth. The inner layer
is a creamy tan color known as clear-cut. This inner layer is similar
to elephant ivory.
Hutchings began using the excess mammoth bark from his knives to create
jewelry when he realized it would make attractive pendants and earrings.
Some of his jewelry is embellished with scrimshaw artwork.
Mammoth ivory is expensive, but available, said Hutchings.
Since elephant ivory cannot cross international boarders, he uses mammoth
ivory because there are no trade embargoes on it. The cost of using
mammoth ivory is reflected in the prices of his work, but customers
get their moneys worth when they purchase an item from Hutchings.
When people view his work for the first time, I get a mixed reaction,
he said. His daughter, Katherine, often accompanies him to exhibits
and said guests are amazed at how you can get so much detail into
All work is done by hand without the use of machines. There is
such great detail that it looks like a picture, said Katherine.
Using flawless handpicked ivory, Hutchings said, different pieces
hold ink better than others. Color is added by rubbing a Q-tip
over a piece, wiping of the excess ink, and what is left will settle
into the scrimshaw etchings, said Katherine.
Hutchings said his wife, Julie, and his daughter are supportive of his
career. Katherine said: Im really proud of him.
A lot of people do scrimshaw, said Hutchings, But
most dont craft the material they scrimshaw on. Hutchings
also crafts leather sheaths for his knives.
The ones who become interested in my work become collectors,
said Hutchings. Its fun finding the next collector.
Richard Hutchings accepts custom orders and
can be contacted at (502) 241-2871 or via email at: email@example.com.
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