Scrimshander's: Scratching Out a Living
By Laurel Ciohon
Scrimshander’s owner, Gary Kiracofe, has been able to make a living what he loves to do for over 30 years. A schoolteacher who once just enjoyed art as a hobby has now been selling his beautiful scrimshaw art since 1979. Kirocofe’s original Scrimshander’s store was opened on Mackinac Island and is still open to this day. In 1992, Gary, his wife Dawn, and their family moved to Door County, where they opened their second store in Ephraim.
Scrimshaw means “detailed carving or engraving of pictures into bone or ivory.” It is thought be an old sailor’s term, which is who started the carving craft of scrimshaw. Gary and Dawn welcomed me to their Ephraim store this summer and I couldn’t help but notice all the unique and traditional American-made items that stocked the store. Gary’s ivory and bone etchings were displayed throughout the shop, along with scrimshaw artwork from over 10 other scrimshander’s from across the country, including work by his brother, Daniel Kirocofe.
Each artist has their own technique, and many types of ivories and bones are used as the medium. I noticed that each piece of scrimshaw is a handcrafted, signed original. Each image that is etched must be customized to each particular piece of ivory and the results are stunning! “American-made scrimshaw is an art form that is deeply rooted in our nation’s history” (Gary Kirocofe).
Scrimshander’s carries much more than just scrimshaw. They proudly carry a number of American-made knives, including Bear & Son, Buck Knives, Lone Wolf Knives, Randall Knives, Rapid River Knifeworks and William Henry Knives. New England weavers, Larry Brewster and Joan Pinney, handcraft the beautiful Nantucket baskets at the store. Scrimshander’s also carries Kurt Sperry handmade globes, Arts and Crafts style pottery made in Wisconsin, ivory jewelry mounted into 14K gold and sterling silver, money clips, ship models, antique ivory from Europe, Asia, Alaska and early America, ornaments and more.
Scrimshander’s in Door County is located at 10351 N. Water Street, North Ephraim, within The Shops of Green Gables. It is open April through December, Monday-Saturday 10am-5pm, and Sunday 10am-4pm. Visit Scrimshander’s online at Scrimshanders.com and sign up for their monthly e-newsletter. 920.854.5407.