I generally use cow bone. The material is typically sourced from various grocery stores in my hometown. You may recognize these bones as “soup broth bones.” Many people also buy these bones for their dogs to chew on!
Another, more textured and colorful material I use is red deer coronet (below), also known as “deer buttons.” This material is naturally shed when the deer sheds its antlers. It’s like the boney-glue that holds the antlers to the skull. The natural color and texture of this material adds a unique, dynamic dimension to my carvings and I’m enjoying exploring all the creative possibilities this material offers. I procure my deer buttons from the South Island of New Zealand, known as “Te Wai Pounamu” in Maori.
I also use some rare, antique, natural materials from Alaska and Siberia:
“Fossil” walrus ivory (below) is from St. Lawrence Island in Alaska. The Yup’ik people are native to the island and are the only people legally allowed to collect and sell raw fossil walrus ivory. I source all my material through a reputable supplier who complies with the CITES laws that govern the distribution of this material. This material was, and is, traditionally used by the Yup’ik to make various tools for hunting, daily living, and artwork. The coloring can vary quite a bit and can be white, cream, orange, red, brown, grey, or even blue. Darker and richer colors typically indicate an older piece of material. Although collectors and distributors refer to this material as “fossil” walrus ivory, it is not yet fossilized; rather it is mineralized. The material itself is 200 – 4000+ years old and will develop a deep patina as it is worn.
Walrus jawbone (below) is also from St. Lawrence Island and is harvested and used the same way as the “fossil” walrus ivory. However, the coloring of this material is more subtle and is usually a cream base with dark speckles. This material is 200 – 1000+ years old and will develop a patina as it is worn.
Oosik (below) is the walrus baculum which is the penis bone of the animal. It shares the same history and harvesting technique as the other walrus materials. Because of its density and strength, this material was highly prized by the Yup’ik and was used for tools and weapons. This material has a darker hue and presents in browns, greys, blues, and sometimes green. Oosik is 200 – 1000+ years old and will develop a patina as it is worn.
Steller’s Sea Cow bone (below) is sourced from the Commander Islands which are part of the Aleutian Islands in the Bering Sea. This animal was most closely related to the manatees of Florida and the dugongs of Australia. Sadly, this animal was hunted to extinction in 1768. As such, this material is 240+ years old and is starting to mineralize. The sea cow bone has an in incredible wood-like appearance and can be anywhere from light and creamy to dark brown with even darker striations.
The wooly mammoth ivory (below) I carve is usually from Siberia, but is also often found in Alaska. The wooly mammoth went extinct about 10,000 years ago and the material I use can be up to 50,000+ years old. The coloring of this ivory can be cream, beige, yellow-ish, brown, mocha, very rarely blue or green, and may have wood-like striations. This is a delicate material and should be treated as such. Do not expose it to water on a consistent basis.
Explore the Custom page to see a selection of carvings made from these various rare materials.