I thought I'd start a photo essay as I work on a carving in antler. Awhile back Dustin asked about designing a carving made of antler. I hope this gives him some ideas as I give my reasons for doing what I do to a carving that will (hopefully) turn out well. I'll stay a few days ahead of my reporting to bleep out any mistakes
So, as I think I and others have mentioned, you can't treat antler like the homogenous carving material wood and ivory can be. The shape of the material varies too much, and the textures within are too variable to say 'I've got an idea, and I think I'll carve it in antler' . In my experience, you've got to start the other way around. A piece of antler suggests
what it will be and often you just have to go with it.
That said, I began with a piece of antler from the base where it meets the skull. This is often called the rosette, coronet, base, or probably a bunch of other terms
It represents a lot of opportunity to have fun with a variety of textures:
1. The skull bone at the base from which the antler grows
2. The frilly, contorted shape of the collar.
3. The white antler above it with both
4. rough, brown exterior and
5. spongey core
are five qualities worth exploiting.
It didn't occur to me to do this essay before I did some rough shaping, but here's the first picture after working with rasps and coarse sandpaper.
I've got in mind to do a chubby little sparrow about 3.5cm across. I'm choosing to keep the detail carving to a minimum and let the antler speak for itself and really shine. It'll be a stylized sparrow rather than something striving for realism. This means that in the finishing steps, everything has to be immaculate and top-notch
You can't hide poor finishing when there's no complexity to the form.
As you can see, the ruffled parts around the circumference give the impression of feathers on wings and tail. The core of the antler will present some color variety when polished and suggest the birds markings. It's important not to polish out all of the brown 'skin' of the antler. It will add color and I always think with antler, it's nice to show that it's antler -warts and all- than pretend it's ivory.
Also, the shaft coming out of the base had a little knob sticking out which allowed me to create the bird's beak. The head was kept to the side, off center, to generate some visual interest and asymmetry.