Crypto Whaler Basque Harpoon
*Mespilus germanica wood, iron, silver, goat leather, bull horn, oil painting
*Each harpoon is custom made with its very own silver engravings and oil painting that depict the story of the person that owns it.
*Contact me for more details or to commission your own Crypto Whaler Basque Harpoon.
*The piece depicted here has already been SOLD.
Probably one of the biggest memes in crypto.
This piece tells the tale of a crypto trader, or crypto whaler, through the story of the Basque whalers.
It is a collaboration between three different artists, Beñat Alberdi (Makila-shaft), Jon Alberdi (harpoon head and myself (painting, idea and production).
Each harpoon is made out of a Makila, a traditional Basque walking stick, a harpoon head that is an exact replica of the harpoons used by the Basque whalers and has personalized, unique oil paintings and engravings that depict the story of the person that commissioned the piece.
Why the Basque?
'The Basques were among the first to catch whales commercially, as opposed to aboriginal whaling, and dominated the trade for five centuries, spreading to the far corners of the North Atlantic... "for [they] were then the only people who understand whaling", lamented the English explorer Jonas Poole...The trade had reached such importance in the Basque provinces during this time that several towns and villages depicted whales or whaling scenes on their seals and coat-of-arms.' Wikipedia
'The Basque were the master whalers of their day. This was one of the first large scale economic enterprises of Europeans in North America. For some 70 years, Basque whalers made the dangerous, month-long journey across the Atlantic to hunt whales and produce the oil that lit the lamps of Europe.'
The Shaft - a Basque Makila
Since ancient times, walking sticks have been a symbol of strength and power, authority and social prestige. The heads of the various tribes and communities were often distinguished by the size and elegance of their stick. They became a widely used accessory of elegance and social status in the 16th century.
The Makila is an elegant walking stick, a Basque symbol of nobility and respect as well as a security element.
It is entirely hand-made through a manufacturing process that has been maintained over various centuries. The reliefs of the piece of wood proceed from incising the wild medlar in the forest. This operation causes the sap that rises through the tree branch to swerve round the cuts and to form the designs that characterize the “makila”. The branch is cut in winter, peeled in a furnace, stained with quicklime and heat straightened. It is adorned at the bottom with a brass, alpaca or silver ring carefully hand-engraved with Basque motifs. The other end of the rod is topped with a horn grip fixed by means of a threaded sleeve covered with plaited leather. The silver ring at the top is engraved with a personal phrase that characterizes its owner.´
Beñat Alberdi is the only artisan in the Spanish Basque country that still uses these techniques. I met Beñat in his studio and from the beginning I knew he was the perfect guy for this.. his studio still had that charm of being a family business and a craft learned from father to son. They have made Makilas for Kings, Popes and heads of state. To check out his work visit:
Here is a video of how it´s done:
The Harpoon Head
I wanted the harpoon to be as close as possible to the harpoons that were used by the Basque whalers, so I contacted the
Red Bay basque whaling station in the north eastern tip of Canada which is a Unesco World Heritage Site that provides the earliest, most complete and best preserved testimony of the European whaling tradition. They kindly provided information and photos about the harpoon used by the whalers
´Gran Baya, as it was called by those who founded the station in 1530s, was used as a base for coastal hunting, butchering, rendering of whale fat by heading to produce oil and storage. It became a major source of whale oil which was shipped to Europe where it was used for lighting. The site, which was used in the summer months, includes remains of rendering ovens, cooperages, wharves, temporary living quarters and a cemetery, together with underwater remains of vessels and whale bone deposits.´
Iron, the material the harpoon head is made of, is also very important in Basque culture. The harpoon head needed to receive the same respect as the shaft. I had to find an expert blacksmith.
Jon Alberdi is a very interesting man. He has been forging iron since he was 13, practicing it for half a century now. He learned the craft from his father. He also lives in a region known for its iron mines. Jon made this harpoon in the traditional way and it turned out that it wasn´t his first... when visiting his studio, he told me that he actually made the reproductions of the whaler harpoons for the
The shaft is divided into two parts.
The paintings on the upper part tell the story of the person who commissioned the piece - maybe a crypto whaler – someone who took a risk on bitcoin and crypto, someone that started this voyage, and what that voyage is about for them. Each story is told through different symbols and images, different colors and different silver engravings.
The paintings on the lower part tell the story of the whalers and are inspired by schrimshaw engravings.
Scrimshaw is scrollwork, engravings, and carvings done in bone or ivory. Typically it refers to the artwork created by whalers, engraved on the byproducts of whales, such as bones or cartilage. It takes the form of elaborate engravings in the form of pictures and lettering on the surface of the bone or tooth, with the engraving highlighted using a pigment. Because the work of whaling was very dangerous at the best of times, whalers were unable to work at night. This gave them a great deal more free time than other sailors. Early scrimshaw was done with crude sailing needles, and candle black, soot or tobacco juice would have been used to bring the etched design into view.´wikipedia
So what's your story?
We all have an interesting story to tell. What events in your life were game changing? How would you depict them?
These harpoons will form a sub series of crypto whaler portraits.
Don't hesitate to contact me to commission your Crypto Whaler Basque Harpoon.