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Heidi Robichaud

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"Ancient Ivories- A Pleistocene Encounter"

A scrimshaw original by Heidi Robichaud.

See the full scale view!

I came across this tusk a few years ago in Juneau, Alaska. The tusk was unearthed in Siberia about 10 years ago. It weighs 25 pounds and stands about three feet as it is displayed vertically. It is from a relatively young animal. The largest bull tusks can weigh up to 120 pounds.

The tusk is in excellent condition. The entire surface is polished and the few cracks and rough areas have been restored using resin patches.


I began the design process by establishing horizontal and vertical lines. This was somewhat tricky because of the double curved surface of the tusk, but without this grid to guide me, it would have been difficult to keep the proper perspective.

On my workbench, I used a variety of props to hold the tusk steady while I was scrimming and I also built a rough stand to hold it in the final display position. So, during the course of the two years I worked on the project, I was moving the tusk back and forth from my workbench to the temporary holder so I could step way back from it to check my overall design progress.

This is quite different from most of the smaller pieces I work on, the whole of which can easily be viewed from my workbench at close range.

I first visualized the design by imagining myself to be a human hunter crouching hidden in the beach rye, watching the scene unfold. I wanted to depict an encounter between a young mammoth bull and a sabertooth cat, with a few mammoth family members watching from a distance.  

I began by scrimming the animals and then gradually developed the background around them. I wanted to use the curve of the tusk to help take the viewers eye into the background gradually, beginning with the rocky outcropping on which the other mammoths are standing, into the winding glacier to the mountains and then into the clouds, which fade gently into the ivory.

From the distant glacier, a rushing stream, flows into the foreground. Finally, in the foreground is a piece of driftwood on a sandy beach. I'm sure there is a mink hiding under there somewhere.

The title of the piece, "Ancient Ivories, a Pleistocene Encounter", reflects both the prehistoric era in which the scene takes place, and the age of the ivory tusk itself, somewhere between 10 thousand and 60 thousand years old. Saber tooth lion tusks are also considered ivory.

The base is 3" thick laminated cocobolo, 16 by 24 inches, a beautiful hardwood grown and harvested sustainably in Mexico. I chose this wood because of its strength, weight and color. The tusk is mounted on the base with a 3/4" steel rod and can be easily removed. The piece could be mounted on a different base if so desired.    

See some base Views of the mammoth tusk.

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