Tag Archives: carved from a single piece of moose antler
Everybody gets in a slump from time to time. I find that after I finish a piece, I develop a hesitation to start a new one. Maybe it is the abrupt change from finishing one piece and having to start with the planning and rough carving that attends the commencement of new work. Whatever the reason, I usually find myself in a slump after I finish a piece, a reluctance to start something new. Luckily I live in a style where there is usually something to do to occupy myself till the enthusiasm returns.
Ideas for new work, on the other hand occur when least expected and often in bunches. While working on something entirely different, an idea for an excellent piece may show up, or it may occur when I see something around the place, or am reading about something else. I keep a list of ideas written down so that when I am ready to start something new, I can decide from among several options. The list of ideas can also serve to build enthusiasm for starting new projects.
So this last slump was a double whammy because I had just finished a string of several projects and had used up all the items on my list. After completing all the spring work around the place, I was looking to keep my skills up, but didn’t have any ideas, nor was I really enthused about starting a new project.
In the past, I’ve worked on some small projects – little things – to keep the carving muscles in shape. One such activity that I like is to make leaves and feathers. I find they are often useful for inclusion in other projects later and are also nice things to give guests – particularly to kids. While making some leaves, one of the pieces of antler I selected had a flaw in it (not unusual) that resulted in a couple of weak spots – holes – in the leaf. In a case like this, one can either scrap the piece or incorporate the flaw into the design. I chose the latter and decided carve some caterpillars and attach them to the leaf to make it look like they were eating it and making the holes. It turned out kind of nice for a little project, but I felt that, to be honest, the caterpillars should have been carved from the same piece as the leaf. Glueing them on after is the easy way. Thus resulted in the next project.
I selected moose antler because it was flat and not to thick and proceeded to make two pieces – each a leaf that looks undisturbed from above, but underneath holds three caterpillars hustling over the surface and borrowing into the folds of the leaf. One would think that the difficult part would be the carving of the caterpillars themselves, but they were relatively easy. The hard part was making the underside of the leaf. Why? Because after the caterpillars were carved, the surface remaining had to smoothed until it looked like a leaf – and there were those caterpillars in the way. This involved a lot of sanding using a stick to hold a small piece of sandpaper. The after the surface was smoothed, it had to be carved to look like the underside of a leaf – i.e. the veins had to be carved into the surface, or in one case, the veins had to left in relief whole the rest of the surface was reduced.
The pieces turned out better than expected – for an unexpected reason. The center of a moose antler is spongy like all antlers. Some parts are very spongy with relatively big holes. Other parts are quite dense and can be carved. I choose pieces that were dense in the middle and the unexpected benefit was that when finished, the middle material turned darker than the outer material. Since the caterpillars were all carved from the inner material and the leaf surfaces all carved from outer material, the result is dark caterpillars crawling on a lighter leaf surface.
The caterpillar project got me thinking about how objects could be carved onto the surface of other objects and the wide variety of potential projects that could be realized using this technique – and the idea list is again growing.
We see them all the time, stuck up in corners of the garden shed or under the eaves of the house. Usually we are quite surprised to see them because they appear so suddenly. One day, nothing, then seemingly the next day there is buzzing around your ears and a wasp nest above you.
Nonetheless, we are still interested in the nests, their papery delicacy and the bustle of the insects crawling over and through it. This piece allows the observer to handle the nest without the danger of the stinging insects. The nest rests partially hidden below a branch, a world unto itself, wanting only to be left alone.
The wasp nest is made from a single piece of moose antler. Five wasps are carved on its surface, again from the single piece of antler, so that the whole is durable and meant to be handled. The nest hangs from a branch which, with its three leaves are all carved from elk antler. The nest attaches to the branch by means of a hidden magnet, so it can be detached for handling.
12cm W x 11cm D x 7cm H
5″W x 4.5″D x 2.5″H
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.
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.
Sixteen tadpoles are depicted swimming through the water. Like the piece itself, the story behind it is somewhat complicated. It begins with Chaos Theory, where harmony and order are found within what appears to be a disorganized set of information.
Part of the theory is that if we knew all the factors affecting the activity of a system, we could, theoretically, be able to understand it better. Within Chaos Theory, are objects known as “strange attractors” – strange theory, strange name. A strange attractor is an object that, as its name implies, attracts forces to itself, if they are weak enough. If the forces are too strong, the activity of a system expands into randomness.
What has this to do with the carving? Well, it is an allegory for Chaos Theory. The tadpoles are swimming in a murky water, creating waves around themselves as they move. The pressure waves in the water move away from the tadpole until they meet another wave from another tadpole. These are the strong forces. Around each tadpole is an empty space representing the weak forces. The little swimmers are, in fact, acting as strange attractors.
If only the pressure waves were shown, we would not understand why they are there. With the presence of the tadpoles shown, we can understand why the waves look like they do. We have found understanding. If only the rest of physics was this easy.
The carving is made from a single piece of moose antler. Tadpoles cover all sides of the antler piece. The smooth ridges and backs of the tadpoles, interspersed with grooves feel like movement captured in your hand. The eyes are facetted crystal.
If one were to try to imagine an alien life form that was very different from ours, a cuttlefish would be a very good example. Cuttlefish, along with their relatives the squids and octopi, are lacking in skeletons, relying instead, upon hydraulic forces and muscles to move. They are truly amazing creatures. Because they lack bones, their bodies are elastic and the muscles flow along their length, unhindered by joints or rigidity. The challenge as a carver was to use a hard, inflexible material like antler to create a piece that appeared to be soft and fluid. The result is a marvelous piece that fits easily into your hand and provides as much tactile enjoyment as it does enjoyment for the eyes.
The inspiration for this carving was a Japanese ivory netsuke. I was impressed by the detail and fluidity of the carving and attempted to duplicate the excellence of that unknown expert. The greatest challenge was to keep track of all the tentacles while removing the material to reveal their shape. The piece is carved from a single piece of moose antler. The eyes are Swarovski crystal.
9 cm W x 4 cm D x 3.5 cm H
3.5“W x 1.5“D x 1.25“H