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Art, Antlers & Adventure – Flathead Beacon

Art, Antlers & Adventure - Flathead Beacon

On a chilly winter day in 2002, Aaron and Jill Bork have been married of their parkas and denims whereas the solar set overlooking Prepare dinner Inlet in Anchorage, Alaska — the top of a day, however the starting of a life collectively. The newlyweds then purchased property in a distant space of one among their favourite locations.

“We built a log cabin with our own logs, a little sweat and a dream,” Aaron says.

The couple labored and performed arduous, and once they weren’t at their jobs or at their home, they have been out searching and filling their freezer with caribou or moose and gathering antler sheds, which Aaron used to mix his ardour for the outside and artwork into one thing uncooked and wild and delightful.

All these years later, Aaron continues to be creating lovely customized antler lighting and furnishings from deer, caribou, elk and moose antlers that always develop into the good-looking centerpiece of a house, in addition to detailed and complex scrimshaw and carvings on antlers that benefit a spot in effective artwork collections.

And Jill has remained a crucial companion in his inventive pursuits, primarily dealing with the enterprise finish of Montana Antler Works, which was initially referred to as Alaska Antler Works.

Regardless that the Borks grew up 15 miles aside within the Flathead Valley, they didn’t meet till Jill was in school and Aaron within the U.S. Navy and their paths crossed whereas celebrating the Fourth of July on the Backyard Bar in Bigfork. They caught one another’s eye and ended up speaking into the wee hours of the morning. A number of years would cross with solely occasional letters, calls and conferences, however ultimately the 2 have been reunited and shared the dream of shifting to Alaska.

A profitable hunt. Whereas gathering antler sheds Aaron pauses to absorb the great thing about an Alaskan winter day. Courtesy photograph

Although they have been in love with their way of life and with Alaska, in 2006 they made the choice to return to Montana to be nearer to household. Since then, they’ve bounced forwards and backwards between the 2 states. With three younger youngsters now, homeschooling permits them the pliability to spend autumn and a part of winter in Alaska. A lot of the remainder of the yr is spent in Somers, the place they constructed a house and a studio-store for Aaron. It’s a catch-22 for them as a result of once they’re in Montana, they miss Alaska, and once they’re in Alaska, they miss Montana.

Each places deliver distinctive parts and inspiration to Aaron’s antler work. Journeys to Alaska embrace looking for moose and caribou antler sheds, and the seek for sheds encapsulates a lot of what they love concerning the adventurous spirit of that wild and huge state. Their tales embrace shut encounters with grizzly bears and the joys of discovering sheds after following the motion of an animal for weeks throughout shedding season.

One yr Aaron was monitoring a bull moose for a month when he scoped the moose and found it solely had one antler. He instantly set out on a hike into the rugged panorama to seek for the opposite antler. He not solely discovered the shed, but in addition discovered himself 10 yards away from the magnificent creature. The moose checked out him and responded with a shake of its head, and the remaining antler dropped: a present from the wild.

Aaron Bork of Alaska Antler Works in his store in Somers. Justin Franz | Flathead Dwelling

Aaron says he has all the time been intrigued with antlers and has liked the treasure hunt for looking for sheds since he was a child.

“Antlers are God’s most fascinating creation,” he says. “They fall off and come back a little different each year.”

Aaron has typically collected antlers from the identical animal for a number of years, noting that “each antler is unique and tells a story,” with distinctive shapes, textures and colours that guarantee every of his creations is actually one-of-a-variety.

One other early ardour was artwork, certainly one of his favourite courses in class, and he loves to attract.

“I also took wood and auto shop,” he says. “I wasn’t a lot of a ebook learner. I appeared to do a lot better once I might have strong, actual issues to work with and work on.“

After Aaron and Jill moved to Alaska, these two loves merged when he started doing scrimshaw, an artwork type that originated with American whalers who carved whalebones to move time whereas out at sea. Right now Aaron makes use of scrimshaw on antlers to create cribbage boards and complex antler carvings, reworking a moose paddle into an eagle by carving the button finish of the antler to create a picture of the eagle’s head whereas the sleek tines depict feathers in flight.

A job in furnishings restore led him to a different dimension of his work when he started creating espresso tables from moose antlers, topped with glass to showcase the antlers. He then began to experiment with different furnishings, together with chandelier and pendant lighting, sofas and chairs. The outcomes have been a refined rustic type that mountain householders particularly beloved.

He credit certainly one of his first shoppers with serving to set up the enterprise and his status as an artist and a craftsman. The Alaska physician ordered two giant moose chandeliers and ended up ordering a number of items of further furnishings to embellish his worker lounge.

All the household enjoys the treasure hunt for antler sheds. Jill poses with child and moose antlers. Courtesy photograph

Aaron says he’s very specific and have to be proud of the piece himself earlier than he’ll ship it. He builds his personal crates and punctiliously packs the furnishings and lights to make sure protected supply. This arms-on strategy prevails in every little thing he does to take care of the standard of a product for which he takes nice satisfaction.

His consideration to element consists of taking the time to epoxy screw holes within the antlers and punctiliously paint the epoxy to match the various colours of the antler. He has created giant chandeliers that make the most of as many as 120 antlers that may take over 100 hours to finish.

Aaron’s work always evolves as he comes up with new concepts and methods.

“I have always loved to dream up and create things that I can make,” he says.

He just lately began incorporating wrought iron into a few of his chandeliers. An area blacksmith crafts the iron frames, however Aaron hopes to study blacksmithing — partly to have full artistic energy over his work and partly as a result of he likes to study new expertise.

The Borks have expanded their product line to incorporate extra reasonably priced gadgets, corresponding to wine openers, ice cream scoops and cribbage boards. Jill additionally makes silk-display shirts with the couple’s outside-themed designs. Sooner or later, Aaron want to think about scrimshaw extra.

An antler espresso desk by Bork. Courtesy photograph

“It is more of an art form and I like the quietness of carving,” he says.

As a enterprise proprietor and operator, Aaron values the liberty to be artistic and work his personal hours. The inventive nature of his work doesn’t all the time occur on the clock, and typically he finally ends up working late into the night time or on weekends. It additionally permits him to schedule extra round treasured household time.

Within the 10 years he has been doing his antler work full-time, he has accomplished lots of of chandeliers and furnishings items. He enjoys working with shoppers who need to be a part of his customized creations’ course of. It doesn’t essentially make the method simpler, nevertheless it typically makes for his greatest reminiscences and friendships. Orders come from all through the U.S., typically to furnish giant trip houses suited to the country fashion of the antler furnishings. He additionally will get orders from individuals who can solely afford one piece, which he says makes it additional particular as a result of it typically turns into a house’s signature piece.

One shopper ordered a chandelier that she entrusted Aaron to make together with her late father’s prized antler assortment. She was thrilled with the end result, calling it a “work of art that makes my heart sing.”

“My trust in his ability was well-founded,” the shopper continued, “and I regard the chandelier he created to be not only one of my prized possessions because of the beautiful engineering and artistry that now graces my home, but because it is a tribute to my late father — and Aaron sensed that.”

That is another approach that Aaron and Jill have revealed that it’s as a lot about coronary heart as it’s about artwork — doing what they love, in locations they love and with the individuals they love, as they journey to their subsequent journey.

To see extra merchandise and skim extra about Aaron and Jill Bork, go to their web site at or name (907) 306-9535.

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