It was a small cardboard box with a clipper ship on the cover. But when graphic designer Robert Weiss received the gift 17 years ago, the contents changed his life. Inside was a scrimshaw kit, a novice’s chance to try his hand at the ancient art form. Robert’s friend, back from Nantucket, thought he might enjoy a new medium. It had a real raw toothI polished it and followed the directions to etch a picture of a pretty bad ship, recalls Robert from his home studio in Norwalk, Connecticut. I just fell in love with it. The experience was enough to turn Robert from graphic artist to scrimshander. Small rooms decorating ideas In his studio, various teeth line two shelves, along with books about marine historyfrom biographies of Herman Melville to tales of whaling days. Next to his computer and phone are the original tools of scrimshanding, a sharpened sewing needle and India ink. Today Robert wields a #16 X-Acto knife as he works on a portrait of Melville. Showing evidence of his training at Pratt Institute and additional portraiture classes, he etches the author’s beard, drawing it in hair by hair. Then he smudges on India ink and rubs it off, the beard appearing as if by magic.