Early American Life Magazine Announces its Directory Selections

Big News for little Stone Hollow Studio:

Early American Life mageal2017azine has announced the selections for the 2017 Directory of Traditional American Craftsand it includes my scrimshaw!!

This is the 21st time that Stone Hollow Studio has been selected for the Directory.  I’m delighted and honored to again be placed in the company of the best traditional artists in the nation.  (Whoo-hoo!!)

The complete Directory was published in the August 2017 issue of Early American Life magazine.



The Sketchbook Project 2017 Completed!

img918A sketchbook–every artist’s constant companion–is where artistic ideas are worked out. Sometimes the ideas inspire large works of art; sometimes the idea simply ends on the page; sometimes the sketchbook stores ideas for future use.  Generally, the sketchbook remains an artist’s private world.

The Sketchbook Project offers the public a peek into that private world as it connects artists from around the world. We artists are each assigned a topic, provided with a sketchbook and given a year to fill the book based on that topic. It’s always a challenge–and I love being part of this huge global project. The books go on tour from time to time, and are permanently housed in the Brooklyn Art Library in New York.

So, I’ve just sent off my 8th contribution to the collection!

This year, my assigned topic was, “Woods, Forests, Wilderness.” It’s a topic I thoroughly enjoyed as I represented each season in nature.

Please take a look! Be sure to enable “Show Info” in the upper right corner of your screen, so you can view my comments for each sketch.

All my previous sketchbooks in the Brooklyn Art Library collection can be viewed under the Gallery tab of StoneHollowStudio.com.

Missouri’s 2016 Ornament for National Christmas Tree Display

Wow, oh wow!!!

Missouri's 2016 Ornament

Missouri’s 2016 Ornament

Really, words escape me on this one:  Several months ago, the National Parks Foundation asked me if I’d like to design the ornaments for the Missouri state tree at the 2016 National Christmas Tree Display in Washington, D.C. again—the 6th year I’ve had this tremendous honor. (Of course, I said, “Yes!” just before I fainted…..).

So I set to work, creating a very special and meaningful design.

Using reverse-glass painting with cotton and faux-ice embedded on the inside of the ornaments, the 2016 ornament exemplifies what I believe to be the spirit of this season: A tall pine tree is blanketed in snow reaching up one side of the ornament. From the top of the ornament and down the other side tumble frosty ice crystals, highlighting “Missouri” and “2016,” both painted in cool blue. A ring of people in silhouette, clasping hands, encircles the ornament. The figures represent a vast diversity of people: adults, children, persons with disabilities—all connected by the gentleness of the season. The brilliant stars of night shine down to illuminate them. The delicate crystal surface they stand upon represents our fragile planet, upheld by the wish for “Peace on Earth – Good Will to All.” The background of the ornament is a rich, metallic blue.

In previous years, I’ve worked with school students to produce the Missouri ornaments in previous years. This year, however, I was allowed to select the group myself. I chose to honor Missouri women by giving them a part in the ornament project.  These women represent a diversity of inspiration, experience and backgrounds. Some live in retirement facilities or with assistance, some are caregivers, all lead inspirational lives in their own quiet way.  One of these wonderful women is 100 years old (Mrs. Lois Miller of St. Louis); she was born the same year that National Parks Foundation was founded. The birthdates of those I titled “The Senior Ladies”  span an amazing six decades (the women were in their 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and 100!!). These women embody the calm beauty of this season. I was privileged to share this project with them. Click here to see the process of making the ornaments.

The 94th lighting ceremony in Washington, D.C. was historic, as President Obama’s last Christmas in office and his final public address. Click here to watch the lighting, with musical performances by James Taylor, Yolanda Adams, Marc Anthony, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Kelly Clarkson, Chance the Rapper, The Lumineers, Simone Manuel, Eva Longoria Baston,  and the U.S. Air Force Airmen of Note.

Oh, yes…..and I was there, too!

Just a few days later, back in Missouri, I presented the ornament to Missouri Governor Nixon during the lighting ceremony of Missouri’s Official Christmas tree in the Capitol Rotunda.

My feet still haven’t touched the ground.

Painting the inside of the ornaments.

Painting the inside of the ornaments.

100-yr. old hands, working on the 2016 ornament.

100-yr. old hands, working on the 2016 ornament.


Studying Ancient Scrimshaw at the Peabody Essex Museum

Scrimshaw is the art of the early American whalers. For years, I’ve enjoyed working in this historic medium, preserving its practice for future generations.  But it wasn’t until recently that I had the great privilege for extensive study of the work by those early scrimshanders—up close and personal at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts.

It was there, in the hometown of so many early whalers, that I thrilled to walk the streets these mariners walked, see the harbor where they docked their massive ships and even take a peek at the very houses in which they lived. I cannot described how exciting it was to view the work of their gnarled hands and share, just a little bit, in understanding how they created these works of art. Perhaps it was this very place–Salem– that made a difference in how they created their artwork. Certainly, there is a certain “something” in the air in this place that transports visitors back in time.  It doesn’t require a lot of imagination to envision how Salem looked and sounded a couple of hundred years ago when the whaling industry thrived here. Wow!!


Scrimshawed Tusk, mid-19th century Walrus tusk Made on board an unidentified British whaleship L: 23 3/4 in, W: 3 in (L: 60.3 cm, W: 7.6 cm)


Louis Le Breton (French, 1818-1886) L’Astrolabe and La Zelee in the Torres Strait, 1843 Oil on canvas Paris, France H: 49 in, W: 80 1/2 in, D: 4 in (H: 124.5 cm, W: 204.5 cm, D: 10.2 cm)


Model of Ship-of-the-Line Seduisant, 1800-1825 Bone, wood, cordage, ivory Made in an unidentified British Military Prison H: 19 in, L: 27 in, W: 8 in (H: 48.3 cm)


Whale’s Teeth and Pie Crimper, 19th century Whale ivory, baleen L: 11 1/4 in (L: 28.6 cm)


Scrimshaw of Brigantine Chinchilla & Brig Tamaahmah (c1825) by Edward Burdett while in Hawai’i


The Susan Tooth, by Frederick Myrick, 1829, carved on board ship, while en route to Nantucket

I’d like to share a few images from this part of my memorable studies. I hope you are as intrigued as I was to view these great works.img_2947

Federal Interstate Ivory Ban

Here at Stone Hollow Studio, we’ve worked hard to preserve the historic American artform of scrimshaw for nearly 40 years. Although originally done by sailors on whaling ships at a time when the world accepted that industry, scrimshaw is the artform, not the material upon which it is etched.
To that end, we have always supported laws that protect endangered species.  Over the years, I’ve discovered that I can scrim on many different materials (cow bone, deer antler, some synthetics) to keep the art of scrimshaw alive, without using ivory.
In that same spirit of environmental concern and preservation, I have recycled antique ivory piano keys, salvaged from damaged instruments–keeping them out of landfills, using them to make something beautiful. Perhaps you’ve purchased one of my bookmarks made from these old recycled keys. (If so, thank you!).
Now, however, things have changed:
The US Fish and Wildlife Department has finalized a new regulation prohibiting the sale of any ivory in interstate commerce. This new rule takes effect July 6, 2016. No items made with ivory (even recycled) can be shipped out of state starting July 6th.
However, the law allows me to continue making and selling my recycled piano ivory pieces at shows within the state of Missouri, and to ship ivory products to addresses in Missouri, as this regulation only effects “interstate commerce.”
As of today, ivory found in antiques or imported into the United States prior to 1989 is legal to craft and sell in products.  I have taken great care to ensure and document that my artwork contains only this “pre-ban” ivory from  antique piano keys. This not only guarantees legality but also ensures we are not contributing — and never have contributed–to the poaching of elephants, walruses, or whales.
For many years, I have offered my bookmarks made with synthetic piano keys for my customers outside of the U.S. I will continue to have these available for anyone who want bookmarks shipped to addresses outside of Missouri. The look is nearly the same; the recycled keys are old (synthetic keys were used on pianos as early as the 1940’s); I still etch every line by hand, but these keys are just not made of ivory.  Any bookmarks that I make using synthetic keys will be identified with a certificate noting that they are, in fact, synthetic.
Preserving the artform of scrimshaw is what matters, not the material that it’s etched upon.
If you have questions or concerns, please contact us. Detailed information on the law change can be found at: https://www.fws.gov/international/travel-and-trade/ivory-ban-questions-and-answers.html

Twenty times?!!!

The Directory of Traditional American Crafts is the gold standard for contemporary artists working in historical arts.  Conducted annually under the auspices of Early American Life magazine, the Directory is prestigious and competition for inclusion is very keen.

The 2016 Directory, published in the June 2016 issue of Early American Life, is the twentieth time “Mike” Ochonicky’s scrimshaw has been selected. Twenty times…!!Slide A Slide B

According to Early American Life, “Those whose work is selected for listing in the annual Directory of Traditional American Crafts are allowed to display the Directory logo on their work and in their advertisements for a limited period after their selection. This honor identifies their work and assures the public that it was produced by one of the best traditional artisans working in America today.

The Directory of Directory of Traditional American Crafts®  was established in 1985 to showcase the talents of artisans and craft people working in the styles, media, and traditions of early America. They are following in the footsteps of the people who laid the foundation of the American nation, making both useful objects and art–and most important of all, where the two collide.

Two goals underlie the Directory. It is meant to preserve and to educate. Without preservation, the skills and knowledge to create these objects will be lost.  Although centuries from now some historic re-creator might revive the product, he can never be sure he truly duplicates the efforts of his predecessors. Once lost, a skill is gone forever.

Education is the key to preservation. We must learn from our predecessors, not just how but why–the full story of where a particular art or craft came from, how it evolved, and how the best results can be achieved. Participants in the Directory in some way educate, either by taking apprentices under their wings, by giving demonstrations at museums, conventions, and fairs, or by publishing. In addition, the Directory jurors provide feedback to participants to help them improve the quality and historical integrity of their work.”

The 2016 judges included esteemed representatives from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Historical Society of Early American Decoration, Winterthur Museum, Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, Old Sturbridge Village, Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, Frontier Culture Museum of Virginia, Schwenkfelder Library & Heritage Center, Scottish Rite Museum & Library, Blue Ridge Institute at Ferrum College, Southern Highland Craft Guild, as well as a plethora of independent antiques experts.

Missouri Life Names Its Favorite Missouri Artists

Congratulations to Missouri Life magazine for publishing its 100th issue in October 2015!  The publication serves as the cheerleader for the Show-Me State.

And it was an unexpected thrill to be named as one of Missouri Life‘s Favorite 10 ArtistsMoLife100 in that special issue. In celebration of the 100th issue, Missouri Life selected their ten favorites in ten different categories of topics, including Missouri Artists:

“Michelle ‘Mike’ Ochonicky is almost part of the Missouri Life family.  Her artwork has been featured in the magazine many times because she continually does outstanding work.  In fact, she has been named one of the top artists in the country by the highly respected Early American Life Magazine for the past nineteen years.  We truly believe that her scrimshaw is unparalleled, even at the national level, and that she is a true gift to this state.”

Aw, gee…(I’m blushing)…thanks to Missouri Life for such kind words!



Ochonicky Designs Missouri’s 2015 Official Ornament

If you heard a recent “thud,” that was no earthquake. It was me, keeling over after being asked to design Missouri’s ornament for the 2015 National Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C.—for the fifth time!!

Missouri's 2015 OrnamentThis year’s ornament is symbolic, designed to honor the National Park Service’s upcoming centennial (2016) and the 50th anniversary of the Gateway Arch (2015), a National Park Site in St. Louis, Missouri. Imposed on the shape of Missouri are the locations of the 5 National Park sites in the state (marked by red stars and the Gateway Arch itself), 6 National Trails that cross the state, and 1 National Riverway located in Missouri.

Reverse side of the Missouri ornament (Curious what these locations are? The sites are: Jefferson National Expansion site/Gateway Arch in St. Louis; Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site in Affton; Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield in Springfield; Harry S. Truman National Site in Independence; George Washington Carver National Monument in Diamond. The National Trails are: Lewis & Clark Trail, Oregon Trail, Santa Fe Trail, California Trail, Trail of Tears, Pony Express Trail. The National Riverway is the Ozarks Scenic National Riverway in the south/central part of Missouri, a favorite journey for canoeing).

ornament still

Presenting the 2015 Missouri ornament to Governor and Mrs. Nixon

The state of Missouri is covered in celebratory gold, and partnered with the symbol of the National Park Service. The ruby red background makes the ornament look like a holly berry. Topped off with handtwisted gold wire, and the reverse side proclaims “Missouri” in gold as well. “2015” on the top and “100-yrs. NPS” on the bottom completed this year’s design.

Eighty students from North Maple Park Middle School in Kansas City worked with me to replicate my original ornament. Each had a part in the process of making the ornaments that headed to Washington, D.C. Great group of young artists!

See how this year’s ornament was designed and made by clicking here.


Many hands make the project more fun!

Students working with me……..


Hot Off the Press!

Ochonicky's "cakes" pictured on pages 53 & 94

Ochonicky’s “cakes” pictured on pages 53 & 94

St. Louis (Missouri) celebrated its 250th birthday in grand style by commissioning artists to create giant “birthday cake” sculptures, placed throughout the metropolitan region.

To commemorate that huge project,   250 Years-252 Cakes:
The Definitive St. Louis 250th Anniversary Cake Book, written by  Eileen P. Duggan with stunning photographs by Matthew S. Nolan, is now available at the Missouri History Museum Gift Shop.

Cake sculptures by Mike Ochonicky are featured on page 53 (Lewis & Clark State Historic Site) and on page 94 (Manchester City Hall).  Have your cake, and read it, too!

Early American Life Names Stone Hollow Studio to its Directory

Sometimes what begins as an ordinary day can become very exciting:

Image1Early American Life magazine just announced  that Mike Ochonicky’s scrimshaw has been selected for its 2015 Directory of Traditional American Crafts. This is the 19th year that her work has been selected to join this distinguished group.

For the past 46 years,  Early American Life has promoted traditional craftsmanship, providing national readership with comprehensive information on early American crafts, their history, their function, and the importance of their preservation. In addition, EAL is committed to promoting individual craftspeople and their artistry.

Wrote Directory Manager Alexandra Dreka, “Your work was selected as being of the highest quality. As a Directory artisan, you rank as one of the most talented of them all. We are pleased to list your name and work in our August 2015 issue.”

The Directory issue will be on newsstands on June 16th.