Antler Refinement

This exercise explores the perceived language of objects that communicate with us to elicit interaction. It involved shaping and painting a found deer antler into a refined object that compels someone to pick it up and explore it with their hands.

My approach involved using both subtractive and additive sculpting techniques on the antler that drew inspiration from the natural state of the object. The refined artifact honors the original, but warps and exaggerates the features of the three-dimensional composition.



I began by tracing over images of the antler, looking at how the form could be clarified and dramatized. My explorations focused on exaggerating key features and transitions present in the form and adding defining edges that would carry through the object.


After sketching I began to interact and empathize more with the antler, letting it communicate to me what it should become. I spent time picking it up different ways and tracing outlines of my hand onto it. I also used tape to simulate additive alterations before applying Bondo—a thick, two-part polyester resin—to the back end of the form.


After experimenting with carving and smoothing the resin and antler together, I moved down the form, continuing to use tape and marker lines to plan my alterations. The tape created reservoirs where the prongs transitioned into one another, and I then filled these with more Bondo. This exaggerated the movement and severity of the prongs, as began to flow into each other more organically. As I smoothed out the resin I began to subtract from the antler as well, and the lines I had drawn started to take shape.



After my initial additive sculpting techniques gave me a sense of how the antler and resin interact, I worked to finalized my concept. As I began moving more easily between additive and subtractive shaping, my decisions became more intuitive and my alterations more dramatic.


The last drawing I did of the form. It was here I visualized the complex edge transition that happens between the second and third prong, in which the form twists over itself. Bringing this feature to life required precision work with fine rotary sanding bits and lots sanding by hand, as well as several more additions of Bondo and spot putty.


After all the feature lines and transitions were clearly defined, I finished the additive sculpting by filling any remaining uneven areas with more spot putty. After it hardened I began the long process of smoothing out all the surfaces with sandpaper. After major inconsistencies were resolved I began intermittently painting the antler in order to identify any course or uneven areas left on the form.


At this point the whole surface of the antler has been filled, painted, and sanded repeatedly. Here the surface is even and smooth after I worked my way up to very fine sandpaper. From here, I took the antler to the spray booth for its final coats of paint.



Achieving an even coat of paint across the entire form was particularly challenging, and involved many hours of waiting and meticulous, precise sanding and repainting of the more complex areas of the form. The result is an ethereal, flowing antler-like object that warps and elevates the naturally occurring form of a deer antler while still referencing what it once was. This project taught me to empathize with natural artifacts on a deep level and allowed me to push the limits of both natural and artificial material affordances.