Back in the 1970s, Gens Johnson got really interested in handmade and regional art. She started buying pieces from shops in Portland and across the Northwest.
“I bought two pieces that were scrimshaw, and they were done on whale ivory and walrus tusk,” she said.
Scrimshaw is a kind of carving – typically of boats and sea life. It was popularized by whalers in the 1800s.
“I was concerned when I bought it that it wasn’t elephant ivory, and I really didn’t think there was any problem with it being a sea mammal product,” Johnson said.