David's First Ship, carved at the age of 6
Carving in wood and ivory at age 6
David's First Ship, carved at the age of 6

About the Carver

Early Years & Family

David Warther II, born in 1959, is a master ivory carver living near the city of Dover in northeast Ohio. According to David's parents, he began carving from elephant tusk ivory at the age of three. At the age of six, David carved his first ship, a Viking vessel. With the creation of his first ship, David's destiny was launched and he began carving even more ships with a passion and a keen interest in detail that has now spanned over fifty years.

Originally, David's love for ships was less of an interest in maritime lore and more of a fascination for the graceful lines and beauty each ship exhibits. At age thirteen, David developed his unique hand filing and sanding process for making the ivory "string" for the ship's rigging; a technique that is a signature of his artwork.

Later David would tell folks that at the age of thirteen you can do anything; nothing seems impossible and one feels invincible. He thinks if he would have waited until adulthood to develop the method of making ivory threads, he would probably have said it was impossible. These ivory threads are seven thousandths of an inch in diameter (.007"), twice the thickness of a human hair.

A talent for carving had been in the Warther family for several generations prior to David's arrival. His great-great-grandfather was a cabinet maker and woodcarver in Switzerland in the early to middle 1800's. David's grandfather, Ernest "Mooney" Warther, was a renown carver of steam engine models, also using wood and ivory. When David was a child, his grandfather was actively carving and at the same time showering David with a great deal of love and encouragement.

David's father, a skilled knife maker, was able to convey closely held family carving techniques to his artistic and enterprising son. David's concept of carving "The History of the Ship" was undoubtedly spawned from his grandfather's lifelong project of carving "The History of the Steam Engine".

Developing the Art

While the development of the ship spans many centuries, its history was just becoming known when David was a kid. It has only been since the early 1960's that modern man has learned, primarily through underwater archaeology, what ancient ships were like, how they were built and how they worked.

In his late teen years, David began studying the history of ship development and later became a member of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology (INA) at Texas A & M University.

By age 17, David had mastered his special technique of making ivory rigging and was poised to create his first major carving. He had made scores of smaller ship carvings, but they lacked scale, accuracy and intricate parts. His first major carving took him over a year to complete and was a scale replica of the Coast Guard Training ship "Eagle" that still sails for the Coast Guard Academy. David was able to acquire blueprints and technical drawings of this three masted bark from the Academy. Many of the drawings were copies of the original German drafts from 1936 when it was originally built as a training ship for Germany's navy.

David learned to read blueprints on his own and was quick to convert the metric based plans to his English methodology. David is decidedly eccentric and labels himself the most anti-metric soul on the planet. The "Eagle" was fashioned of walnut wood and trimmed with ebony wood, ivory and abalone pearl.

David's goal of carving the history of the ship quickly took shape as he entered his twenties. After delving into greater research he soon found himself carving ships from ancient Egypt to those of modern times. It was at this time he decided his future works would be in solid ivory. Scrimshaw, the art of ivory engraving, would be employed to convey deck planking, doors, windows and other details.

Ivory had been employed by maritime artists for some time and scrimshaw was a maritime art form in itself. However, nobody had combined the two art forms with David's mastery and attention to detail. The rigging would be made of his "ivory string", a named affectionately given to his intricate ivory rigging by mid-westerners.

David fashioned the bases of his ships from ebony wood for contrast, a design idea keeping with the traditional art theory from ancient Greek times of "dark-to-light;bottom-to-top."

The bases of David's ships are in the shape of a blunted pyramid, a design he developed for his first ship, the Coast Guard's "Eagle". The angles of the pyramid would be 23-1/2 degrees from 90 which equals the tilt of the earth and is a sound maritime figure.

As time passed, David began accepting Schopenhauer's theory of artwork which states that an element must be missing for art to be attractive to the human eye, spirit and mind. In a painting, the third dimension is missing and in David's three dimensional carvings, color would be missing.

At first, David's solid ivory carvings employed only a little color. The decks would be dyed brown to appear like natural wood, or a tiled cabin roof on an ancient ship would be dyed red to add realism. However, within a few years David had steered exclusively to the natural ebony and ivory to attain the black and white look for which his carvings are well-known.

Ancient Egyptian Ship Lioness of Thebes
David buys legal estate elephant tusks
Ancient Egyptian Ship Lioness of Thebes
carved of estate old elephant tusk ivory
David in the carving shop.
David in the carving shop.
an expert in knowing the laws and regulations regarding the buying and selling and gifting of elephant tusks and ivory carvings
David in the carving shop.

Commitment to the Art Project

Deciding early in life that his project was a lifelong endeavor, David knew the challenges to create the artwork and to keep it as a unified and educational exhibit would be significant. In his early twenties, David displayed his carvings at major museums and galleries on America's east coast including Mystic Seaport and the Nantucket Historical Museum.

David began carving full-time at age 29, and at age 34 he opened a carving exhibit in the nearby village of Sugarcreek which is considered a tourist enclave in the heart of Ohio's Amish country. David found himself carving every day amidst interested visitors and groups from bus tours as well as the local schools. However, ten years after opening David had to make the painful decision to close the exhibit for the benefit of the long-term goal of the art project.

After closing the exhibit in 2003, David was able to focus his full attention on the carving project and then in the past year to the construction and fitting out of the new 10,000 sq. ft.exhibit building. David's carving studio has been incorporated into this new building, where he exhibits his special techniques and greet visitors.

David's evenings are devoted to his family and to a musical instrument parts business he started years ago. In addition he has become an expert in knowing the laws and regulations regarding the buying, selling and gifting of estate elephant tusks and ivory carvings in the US.

David believes that his inborn interest and natural carving ability has resulted in an art collection that is highly educational in its conveyance of human history and progress. Of his creative abilities, David believes the words from the Bible would apply when Christ says, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). 

Location and Hours

1775 State Route 39
Sugarcreek, Ohio   44681
(330) 852-6096
Current Hours:
Open Mondays from 10 to 4.
Open Tuesday through Saturday 9 to 5.
Closed Sundays.

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