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An elephant is one of those animals that every child learns to identify, yet is also an animal that most people rarely see. Consequently, while we are sure what an elephant is, it would be difficult for most people to sketch one with any degree of detail.
It is like the parable of the seven blind men who describe an elephant by running their respective hands over only one part of the animal. We can add a trunk to the front of a large bulky animal and put some big ears on the side of the head and maybe some tusks sticking out the front somewhere, but can we really give the picture any more specific information?
I came face to face with this when carving this piece. I started with the basics, but was soon faced with many questions like how thick and long are the legs relative to the body and how wide the head? Where exactly do the tusks and ears go? How many toes does an elephant have? There are also a large number of bumps and depressions in the skull and around the hips. Nonetheless, thanks to the internet, I was able to find the answers to these questions and make this netsuke sized elephant.
The elephant is carved from a single piece of moose antler and depicts a full grown Asian elephant porting a ceremonial blanket and pannier on its back.
5.5cm L x 4.4 cm H x 3.0 cm D
2.25”L x 1.75”H x 1.25”D
In layers of rock laid down 540 million years ago, the fossil record shows ancient life forms that have no precedent in previous layers. This zone is known as the Cambrian Explosion. This period is extremely interesting because, for some reason, the diversity of life increased dramatically, creating most of the currently existing animal phyla. Previously, animal life on Earth consisted of single cells or simple colonies. Why the complexity of diversity took off is unknown. Not only are most of the current animal groups represented in the fossil record, but dozens of other groups are also found, groups that did not succeed in making it to modern times and many of these types are the weirdest of all. It is estimated that 90% of the life forms that appeared during the Cambrian Explosion did not survive into successive geologic periods. Imagine what the earth might look like today if all those different forms were represented. This piece may help with your imagination.
Fantasia depicts many of the life forms existing in the fossil record as well as other forms of varying levels of abstraction. Considering how strange many of the life forms were, it could well be possible that the abstract forms I created actually are similar to ones that existed millions of years before the dinosaurs. Further, some of the weird ones still exist today.
The myriad pieces are carved from elk, moose and deer antler and displayed in a semi-dioramic manner. There are also a few pieces carved from tagua nut, for color and texture.
42 cm W x 46 cm H x 16 cm D
16.5″ W x 18″ H x 10”D
This montage style piece explores the concept of the garden and orchard. We are led to believe that these are places of peace and tranquility. To reflect this, the piece contains representations of walnuts, almonds, acorns, pistachios, peanuts, Manitoba maple seeds, strawberries, peas, asparagus, green onions, carrots and soybeans as well as numerous leaves. However, as every biologist, gardener and tree grower knows, the natural world is a battleground between the plants and the things that want to eat the plants. To this end, if you look closely, you’ll notice a number of creepy crawlies nestled in among the plant matter. Some you’ll recognize, like the caterpillars, nut, worms and snail. Others are less known, like the almond beetle, the land scallop, the asparagus ant lion, a peanut caterpillar, the onion lasso worm and the rarely seen predatory parsnip.
This piece is made from many, many pieces of elk, moose and deer antler as well as a few tagua nuts. The walnut, one almond and the soybeans with snail are removable for handling. The realistic renderings are interspersed with abstract shapes reminiscent of plants or plant parts. The various pieces are displayed on a backdrop of carved moose antlers and mounted on a base of Manitoba Maple.
51 cm W x 38 cm H x 18 cm D
20″W x 15″H x 7″D
Caterpillars crawl on the underside of a leaf. From the upper side, the leaf looks undisturbed, but when turned over, there is a hustle and bustle of insects stuffing themselves so they can become adults. Are the insects any less perfect than the leaf itself? Does their presence make the overall piece seem less serene? It is all in the eye of the beholder.
In actual fact, the purpose of these pieces is to provide a wish for true gardeners and plant aficionados. Every year, just when the plants are looking their best , along comes some bug or worm or fungus to disrupt the growth of the plants. If only the power of those invertebrates and fungi could be harnessed for good instead of evil. Thus, we return to the true underlying meaning of these pieces: May the tent caterpillars eat the weeds in your garden.
Each of the pieces is carved from a single piece of moose antler. The darker color of the inner antler material results in darker caterpillars crawling on a lighter leaf surface.
This box is made from a single piece of aged elk antler that has been sliced lengthwise, then hollowed out. The use of older elk antler allows for lines and cracks to show in the antler without reducing its strength and integrity. Because they come from a single piece, the top and bottom match so they fit together perfectly. The inside of the box is finished with beeswax giving it a honey-scented interior.
The exterior of the box is adorned with ivy vines and leaves. 31 leaves and numerous vines run the length of the top and along the front of the bottom. Vines from both halves overlap the other half disguising the separation of top and bottom. Care was taken to select antler of the same yellowish color for carving the leaves.
18cm W x 7cm D x 9cm H
7”W x 3”D x 3.5”H
I try to make most of my pieces as realistic as possible. Antler is ideal for this as it lends itself very well towards intricate detail. A few pieces have delved into the abstract realm and this is one of the most abstract that I have made.
Orchids, by their nature tend to have non-traditional flower shapes, so I decided to extend their unfamiliar shapes into more abstract ones to see where the forms ceased to resemble orchids. I used three orchid types–the traditional tube orchid, the Yellow Lady-Slipper and one called the Dragon’s Mouth. I started with realistic versions of each ( 3 tube orchids, 5 lady-slippers and 3 dragon mouths), then started playing with the shapes, getting more and more abstract until it ceased to be an orchid.
I also carved a bunch of leaves that were used to fill in the spaces and mounted the whole works onto a base of moose antler. Altogether, about 24 flowers are in the piece, but it depends on the viewer to decide how many of them are actually flowers and which are just shapes. The piece is very complicated, with leaves and petals hidden behind other leaves and petals, then roots and seed pods thrown in. What looks like an isolated leaf turns out to be a whole flower hiding in the shadows.
The multitude of shapes are carved from deer, moose and elk antler, as well as tagua nut. The shapes are mounted onto a moose antler platform, which is itself carved and shaped. The piece is displayed upon a poplar wood base.
24 cm L x 41 cm W x 36 cm H (9.5″L x 16.6″W x 14.5″H )
This piece started out as a 3D collage, a mix of individual organic shapes, each created in its own right, then amalgamated. However, as I was making the pieces with curves and bumps, I noticed that many of them were familiar. In hindsight, it should have been no surprise that my biological training and interests predisposed me to use shapes familiar to me as models for the abstract shapes. And if one is making abstract amorphous shapes, what better place to look then to the molluscs.
Molluscs, a group of animals having no bones, are basically bags of guts and muscle. They move by hydraulic and muscle motion. A familiar representative is the octopus, whose entire body functions like a bag of water, yet is able to effect the finest level of motor skill. Other examples are the snails, which can crawl along a razorblade edge and not be cut. Squids and cuttlefish are masters of disguise, able to transform the shape and color of individual skin cells. The bivalves, clams, mussels, scallops and oysters, are so well developed that they do not even need a head to function in their environment. Nauteloids, which look like an octopus hiding in a snail shell, were once the dominant life form in the oceans. And then we have the shells produced by these animals, in all their shapes and beauty. Each a mastery of mathematical curves and spirals.
I attempted to blend lifelike mulluscan shapes with abstract shapes to create a tableau providing a unified whole. Each segment was shaped and crafted so that it blended into the overall harmony. The diversity and unusualness of molluscs is such that it is often difficult to distinguish between the dozen or so molluscs and the abstract portions. The individual pieces are mounted on a piece of moose antler that it itself shaped to contribute to the overall effect.
Cornucopia is made from elk, deer and moose antler as well as some tagua nut. It is mounted on a base of polished Manitoba Maple with a natural edge.
35 cm W x 22 cm L x 35 cm H
13.5″W x 8.5″L x 13.5″H
A walking stick head should fit in the hand. It should be smooth, be ergonomically shaped to allow a good grip and be pleasing to the eye. A perfect shape for this is a cuttlefish–yes–a cuttlefish. The cuttlefish, like its close cousin the squid, is a cephalopod and related to, among others, the octopus. Besides being an intelligent hunter and predator of the oceans, the cuttlefish is a master of disguise and able to color and texture its skin to blend into its background, making it nearly invisible. It is also able to use this image changing feature to put on dazzling displays for courting and territorial defense.
This piece is carved from a single moose antler and is sized and shaped to be a pleasure to hold. The motif is a certain conversation piece and if necessary can act as a significantly effective weapon. The cuttlefish is fitted with carved glass eyes. The piece is mounted on a birch wood shaft.
A walking stick head should fit in the hand. It should be smooth, be ergonomically shaped to allow a good grip and be pleasing to the eye. A perfect shape for this is a toad–yes–a toad. Toads have been on the receiving end of bad press, being equated with slimy, obnoxious images. In reality, the toad likes to be left alone and is an effective predator of bugs. Larger toads have been known to consume mice and even small birds.
As legend goes, Chang-e, wife of the archer I, having drunk an elixir of immortality, turned into a toad and retired to live on the moon. Since that time, the toad is thought to bring longevity and immortality.
This piece is carved from a single moose antler and is sized and shaped to be a pleasure to hold. The motif is a certain conversation piece and if necessary can act as a significantly effective weapon. The toad is fitted with carved glass eyes. The piece is mounted on a Saskatoon wood shaft. The length of the wooden shaft has not been determined, so it can be customized to suit the user.
Dragons have become a popular motif for walking sticks, with the popularity of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. Their style and appearance ranges greatly. Like Lord of the Rings, this piece grew with the telling. Carved from a single moose antler, I started with a poorly shaped piece of antler and had to develop the image given what was available. Antler carving of this form is a reductive process, so once removed, material cannot be added back. The resulting shape reflects getting the most from the original shape of the antler.
The dragon is outfitted with matched Australian sapphires, rectangular in shape and tri-colored in hue. The piece is meant to be mounted on a walking stick that is long enough that the dragon is grasped from the side, as opposed to from the top. If desired, it is also very suited to be held like a sword. The dragon head is mounted on a Saskatoon wood shaft of distinctive character. Altogether, this is a walking stick for someone with a solid conception of their own image.