Scrimshaw is an art form that´s almost synonymous with the Azores. Since the 19th century when American Whaling ships first entered Azorean harbors and took on local crew, the artistic and household use of whale teeth and bones has been a tradition here.

Today the creation of scrimshaw is kept alive by a Dutch artist who chose to call Faial home nearly 30 years ago. Since then, his works of art have been sold over the whole world.

John van Opstal and his wife Joke live on the hillside known as Espalamaca, underneath the statue of Maria, overlooking Horta. John creates scrimshaw using whales´teeth taken by Azorean handheld harpoons over 50 years ago.

The artist, who signs his work simply "John",welcomes visitors to his home to learn more about the techniques of scrimshaw. For prices from 50 to 1.500 euro visitors buy more than just a beautiful souvenir.

John van Opstal makes now also paintings of high quality

15 x 20 cm




Banda da Vila 17c
9900-088 Horta – Faial
Azores – Portugal
T: 00 351 292392720
M: 00 351 967176317




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