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Rick Hutchings, Scrimshaw Artist


Rick Hutchings, 47, has been an artist his entire life: He is a former commercial artist and the painter of a series of Kentucky wildlife prints published in 1984. But he is also a skilled knife maker, and the encouragement of friends he met through that interest led him to scrimshaw carving. Fellow knife maker Gil Hibben gave him some raw material, and Rick was off to explore a new art form.

Five years later, Rick has become a skilled carver. He spends his evenings and weekends working in his basement studio, creating a wide variety of beautiful, detailed scrimshaw carvings on knife handles, belt buckles, pistol grips, daggers, bolo ties, and other items. Rick often draws animals—grizzly bears, jumping bass, antlered elk—but his creations also include sci-fi characters, playing cards, and historical figures. He looks many places to find inspiration for his work; magazine art, he says, is “a wonderful resource.”

When starting a piece, Rick first makes sure that the bone, antler, or synthetic material is sanded smooth and sealed with wax. Then he draws the image with a fiber-tip pen, following with a carbide needle to scratch the image into his material. This technique adds depth and shading to the image. Rick may also create multi-colored scrimshaw images by using different colored inks, or use a dark horn material filled with white acrylic to create what is called reverse scrimshaw.

The final step is to add India ink to darken the image. After wiping away the excess, Rick seals it once more to create the final piece.

Scrimshaw is considered an American folk art form. During the 19th century, sailors often carved to pass the time, creating intricate designs on whale teeth or walrus tusks. Ships, animals, plants, and nostalgic scenes of home were common subjects.


Program 333

Robert Franz of the Louisville Orchestra, music from singer-songwriter Paul K and Joee Conroy, and scrimshaw artist Rick Hutchings. (#333)





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