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Monday, April 19, 2010

Nautical Folk Art- A Dealers Passion

Shad carved from white cedar by Jac & Tricia Johnson for Skipjack Nautical Wares.  L 72" W 24" D 4
I feel inclined to begin this blog by stating that throughout the 30 plus years of being a dealer, appraiser and collector of period American Furniture as well as fine and decorative arts, that I have received the greatest pleasure from collecting American folk art. We have also been fortunate to have represented some of the best contemporary folk artist from around our great country. Our focus today of course is nautical/marine folk art, both period and contemporary and a number of collectors have found their way into our gallery doors to acquire them. Here are a few great examples that have adorned the rooms and walls of Skipjack throughtout the years.

This early 20th century sailor-made folk compass box was hand-carved from walnut with whale bone clasp and keep. A carving of a mermaid carrying a light in oval adorns the top of the lid and a carved star in circle centered on the box front. The gimballed compass was made by Wilcox & Crittendon and dated to the 1920's.

Essex Whaler Weathervane by Steve Hazlett
This elegant ship and whale weathervane depicts the classic whaler Essex boat guided by Captain George Pollard, out of Nantucket on August 12th, 1819. This weathervane captures the history of this great voyage.It was perhaps an incomparable aid in forecasting the maritime weather. Although the boat motif is popular in maritime folk art, wooden examples are rarely found today, merely due to the unpredictable weather conditions in New England that these boat weathervanes endured. Handcrafted from a single heart pine beam and board. Iron and copper is applied to the piece. Cream, green, gray and blue buttermilk paint is applied in numerous layers to produce an as-found crusty appearance. The piece is hallmarked and placed on a metal museum mount for display. Carved by New York folk artist Steve Hazlett. 45L by 36H by 4D Folk art carvings by Steve Hazlett

Early 20th century folk made sailboat with wooden sails, artist unknown.
This early 20th sailboat featured all wood construction including the sails with painted composition seas. This example would typically be found in a wooden diorama box.

"Deep Sea Charter" trade sign hand-carved and painted by Jac & Tricia Johnson.

This wonderful marine folk art trade sign is reminiscent of the days of Ernest Hemingway where deep sea fishing was prevalent at many fishing marinas. This sailfish was hand-carved from cedar and measured 60 inches in length.  

Marine folk art carving of a horseshoe crab by Jac & Trishia Johnson.

Another favorite carving created by the Johnson's was this Horseshoe crab carved out of yellow pine with walnut stained finish. The horseshoe crab is wall hung with kinetic tail (swings) L 36" W 24" D 4-6"

19th century sailor-made rope basket

Sometimes wonderful folk created pieces are quite simple in construction. I can envision a sailor making this knotted basket during his leisure time aboard a great sailing ship.

Early 20th century mermaid weathervane, artist unknown

This New England weathevane was hand-carved and painted then applied to a metal arrow directional.  Artist unknow.  Measured approximately 30 inches in length. Wall mounted using a custom made iron bracket.

Hunter and  dog weathervane, early 20th century

The provenance that accompanied this unique (almost comical) weathervane suggests that it once decorated the roof of an old hunting lodge from the Back Bay region of North Carolina. Constructed from two sheets of metal creating a full-bodied perspective and mounted on a metal directional. Retained an old dark red painted surface and mounted onto contemporary wooden stand.

We will be featuring other great nautical folk carvings in the weeks to come including pictures from a customers private collection. You can read more about American folk art by visiting our blog "From Sidewalks to Rooftops": Outdoor Folk Art. 
Click here to go to Skipjack's Nautical Living home page.


  1. The rope basket is pretty amazing..., and one day I'll have a neat weathervane too!

    Maya Completely Coastal

  2. Creating a theme that is exclusive and geared towards sailing the seas can be as rewarding as it’s challenging. A fantastic area to begin is with obtaining some visual inspiration. A preferred painting or even a magazine article could be something that you can draw ideas from. After you have created some basic ideas, you should take into consideration what type of furniture you want to use.

  3. Creating these items surely require huge amount of effort, patience and craftsmanship. I can tell that all of them were produced by hard work.

  4. A very nice informational blog.Keep on making such important blog post.Your work is really being appreciated by some one.


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