Sterling Silver Scrimshaw Cufflinks Made from Fossilized Walrus Tusk
This handsome pair of “Muerto Guapo” Sterling Silver Scrimshaw Cufflinks is handmade by Michelle Tapia. Carved out of 20,000 year old fossilized walrus tusk, Tapia uses a traditional scrimshaw method to capture this fun dynamic duo. Scrimshaw or hand etching is created by carving lines into the ivory and adding ink.
People who are familiar with scrimshaw are often times confused that a Spanish girl from New Mexico is working on fossilized walrus tusk. My designs are all from my heart and my culture. My love of animals and anything of beauty influence me most.” — Michelle Tapia
Scrimshaw is an art form that is considered by some to be the only art form that originated in America, since the art of Scrimshaw was first practiced by sailors working on whaling ships out of New England. Scrimshaw refers to scrollwork, engravings, and carvings done in bone or ivory; in this case it’s 5,000-year-old fossilized walrus tusk.
Fossilized tusk and teeth from walrus are gathered and sold by the Indigenous people, Yupik. The Yupik live on St. Lawrence Island, off the Alaskan coast on their traditional tribal land. They own the land, and have full recognized rights to excavate, dive offshore, or comb beaches for usable fossilized items during the summer thaw.
The Sterling Silver Scrimshaw Cufflinks are 3/4″ long x 1/2 wide.
Santa Fe artist: Michelle Tapia
Michelle Tapia learned the art of Scrimshaw and jewelry making from renowned Alaska native jewelry-makers, Denise and Samuel Wallace. She quickly picked up the art wand began her own line when the Wallace’s relocated from Santa Fe to Hawaii.
Tapia works from home in Santa Fe, carving each of her pieces by hand from fossilized walrus tusk. This ancient walrus ivory can be up to 20,000 years old. The designs are hand-inked and set in fine metals. Her pieces are inspired by animals and nature, her Spanish upbringing, and her Tibetan Buddhist philosophies.
The winner of numerous awards including five Best In Show at Santa Fe’s Contemporary Spanish Market, Tapia’s creations have developed a following from around the world.