Ivory Tips, Commissions and Tusks

Today was a busy day in Whitehorse.

At noon, I met at the Casa Loma for lunch with Sid McKeown and Earl Bennett to talk about ivory carving. Their interest in my work is no doubt based on the article that appeared in the Yukon News. We had an interesting discussion about ivory carving. It turns out that Earl Bennett is an ivory carver from way back. Many years ago he came to the Klondike and bought up great quantities of mammoth ivory. He worked as a carver for a while but gave it up in favour of becoming a banker. He has a friend, the son of the person who hired him many, many years ago, whose name is Bill Diment, who is an ivory carver today, and we discussed the possibility of travelling to see Bill in order to share our common interest.

Earl explained that PEG, or polyethylene glycol is useful as a preservative to stabilize ivory, if the tusk is submersed in the PEG when the ivory is still wet. The PEG replaces the water in the ivory and prevents the ivory from drying out.

Earl informed me that Erbach, a city in Germany, has been devoted to the art of ivory carving for hundreds of years. Also Dieppe, France, has quite a large population of ivory carvers.

Earl’s idea for a project is to cut a tusk up in cross section, carve it, and then stitch it back together again with sinew. That way the natural forces of the tusk won’t disintegrate the tusk while it’s being carved, and the tusk will be easier to work. I’m not sure about this idea, but it is something to consider.

Later in the day, after meetings of the Association of Yukon Communities, I spoke with the Mayor of Dawson City, Glen Everett, who wanted to commission me to create an ivory handle for the Mayor’s gavel (later changed to the 'Five Dawson Broaches'). Larry Bagnell, the administrator for the Association of Yukon Communities, commissioned me to carve a wolf in ivory (later changed to the 'Shooting of Dan McGrew').

After the meeting, at four, I visited Alex Seeley Jr, and purchased an ivory tusk from him for a thousand dollars in order to accomplish the commissions that I have received.