Scrimshaw Artist Tina White

Tina White Scrimshaw "Looking down a gun barrel"When did you start scrimshawing, and what inspired you to do so?
I started 2003 while wintering over in Antarctica, at the time I’d just barely  heard of scrimshaw but my husband has been friends with Kurt Sperry for years  and we got to talking about trying my hand at it,later in Antarctica I ended up “borrowing some surplus cue balls from Recreation(I replaced them as soon as the first plane came in). I made a cue ball with all the historic huts and sites around McMurdo for a  carpenter friend who had done us a favor. He loved it so much he carried it  around in a Crown Royal bag showing it to everyone in camp. By the end of the winter I had made enough to pay for our stop in Fiji on the way home!

Tina White Scrimshaw "Night Watch"What materials do you use? Mammoth ivory, pre-ban ivory, tagua nut, synthetic alternatives?
I started out using top of the line synthetic cue balls  which is a great way to learn and relatively inexpensive. I mostly use Mammoth  Ivory but I have done commissions on whatever material the client brings in. I have a few tagua nuts but have never processed them for scrim.

What tools do you use? Do you make your own or is there a specific brand you prefer?
My two main tools are a carbide tip held in an antique wooden pin vice I got in New Zealand and your standard exacto blade. I have a couple of wonderful carbide  and bamboo specialty tools a bone carver friend made for me while I was doing a  workshop with him in New Zealand

What is a favorite theme that inspires you the most to commit your art to ivory?
I really love portraits, probably because they are still so challenging. Really, anything and everything inspires me, history,mythology, whimsy…I also  love doing pieces where the whale got the upper hand.

Tina White Scrimshaw "Mending The Sails"Do you make a living with your art?
Mostly, I do end up cooking at Remote Field Camps on the North Slope of Alaska or the Greenland Ice Cap to supplement my income(and always bring my scrim stuff  with me and end up supplementing that income with my scrim) I am also very lucky that my husband believes in me and keeps pushing me to just focus on my scrim.

How would a beginning scrimshander find materials to use?

I started out with synthetic cue balls which can cost about $7-$18 a piece they are very easy to get and are a little harder to scrim than any natural  material-but a great way to practice-they also add the additional challenge of working on a sphere which will make anything else seem easy.

Do you ever teach or mentor?

I am so new to the art I have been relying on the kindness and infinite patience  of the wonderful scrimshanders here in Bellingham.

What was your favorite piece to date, and what was it about it that makes it so memorable to you? 
I did a commemorative piece for Sir Edmund Hilary and was honored to be able to  give it to him in person and shake his hand. Such a wonderful person. Also a piece called the Night Watch based on a Frank Hurley photo from the
Shackleton Expedition, there is a really sense of atmosphere and history to the piece and also because I have stood in front of the stove they subjects are all gathered around.

What was the most difficult piece you’ve done, and what was the most challenging part of it? 
A client had a walrus skull that had been in his family for 150 years. He wanted  the tusks scrimmed with scenes of his Alaskan Native heritage. Along the line someone had glued one of the tusks into the skull and we couldn’t get it out to
scrim. I had to do an elaborate scene on the tusk with the skull attached. I had a big swatch of shag carpet to protect the skull from damage as I shifted it to  scrim.

Tina White Scrimshaw "Spinning Yarns"Can people see your art in person? Do you have a shop or do fairs?
I have a studio behind my house and anyone is welcome if you just let me know you’re coming. I do a local studio tour which is great fun. I have some pieces at the Scrimshaw Gallery in Sausilito,CA and Artisans on Taylor in Port
Townsend. I’ve done the Tall Ships Tacoma show and right now I’m getting ready to do the Pacific Arts Holiday show here in Bellingham.

Who’s work do you admire the most – is it scrimshaw, painting photography, engraving or something else?

My idea of heaven is a day at the Metropolitan Museum grazing on all the inspiration. I love elaborate medieval books and icons. I live a nomadic life and portable precious hand made works of art really appeal to me. As to
scrimshanders Scott Judge is a a huge favorite as are Kurt Sperry and Matt  Stothart (both have been really great at answering my millions of stupid questions)

What’s the average time you spend on a piece, for example, if it was black and white, and approximately 1″x3″? 
That all depends on the subject and detail. I have done pieces that size in a couple of hours or a couple of days. I have also done pieces smaller than that that have taken days. What I really need to start taking into account is the time I spend gathering research materials for a piece-which in reality could double the time I put into a piece.

While switching providors, I managed to lose my pics of Tina’s studio. I’ve emailed her again and hope to have the pics below back soon.  Thanks in advance, Tina!

Another pic of Tina White's studioTina White's cozy studio

Tina’s site – showcases much more of her works, and she can be contacted there for any questions regarding her scrimshaw, as well as corresponding with her on custom pieces

11 Replies to “Scrimshaw Artist Tina White”

  1. Tina – those boys in the boat (from the Essex) made it to South America yet? Or did the chicken need another coat of paint? They are probably down to the cannibalism by now! On my way to Nootka Sound for some salmon fishing – hope your summer is going well – Eric

  2. In 2003 and again in 2004, our company shipped cue balls to Tina at McMurdo in Antarctica. She made us the most beautiful, intricate, and personalized piece of art imaginable. It is a “company artifact” we’ve cherished for a decade.

    We’ve been trying to figure out how to best depict this for others to see. It is absolutely beautiful.

    1. Hi Scott, thanks for writing in! Tina does beautiful work. We’d be happy to put a couple of the pics up on her interview page. Just send the pics to “” with the subject “Tina White” and put a link to your site in the body along with the pics.
      We have a couple of questions regarding cue balls as they would still be a wonderful object to scrimshaw. Do you make any that would be “scrimmable” that are not made from ivory, and what would people ask for if you do?

    1. Hi Joe,
      You can find Tina on facebook. She is a Restaurateur and making some delicious looking food, but still does scrimshaw from what I understand. Just log into facebook and do a search for Tina White – she’s one of two that I found there.

      Hope this helps,

      Andrew Perkins

  3. I admire the 4 works that you have done for me daily. Have another offer for you. Please contact me. I have sent an e-mail to your old e-mail address but have not heard back. Capt. Mike

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