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FAQ If you have a question concerning Shane Wilson or his art and you don't find the answer below, please feel free to contact him for an answer. An email link can be found at the bottom of each page.
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Where can I buy Shane's work?
You can commission or purchase work directly from Shane or purchase some of his work in antler from Arts On Atlantic.
Does Shane sell carving materials (antler, horn or bone)?
Moose antler is probably one of the best materials for carving, providing a range of possibilities, given its large surface area. Like the caribou, the outer layer is hard and holds detail and polish well. The inner antler is porous, however, in the fresh antler this layer is quite solid and holds moderate detail and polishes reasonably well. In older antler that has weathered, this inner portion is often degraded and does not hold detail or polish well.
Every now and then, someone may come across a moose skeleton, with skull and antlers intact. The skull is quite large and has considerable bone mass, making it an excellent medium for carving in addition to, or in conjunction with, the antlers.
Moose are plentiful in the Yukon - over 200,000 strong. They shed their antlers, like caribou, every year after mating season. This leaves a large quantity of antler lying around in the bush to be picked up and carved.
Moose are also hunted for meat by Yukoners. About 5,000 are taken annually. The government has been encouraging hunters to take the whole animal out of the bush after the hunt, including the antlers. This is difficult for many hunters, since the antlers weigh a considerable amount. In the past, antlers were often left behind in the bush. This new policy means that local artisans have access to another source of moose antler.
What about caribou?
There are two kinds of caribou in the Yukon: Barren Ground and Woodland.
The Barren Ground Caribou are quite small and live in the northern part of Yukon. The reindeer from northern Europe are domesticated form of Barren Ground Caribou. These are the caribou we hear so much about in the dispute over the northern slope of Alaska. Oil companies want to drill, but the native people who depend on the caribou to sustain their way of life, fear that drilling will drive the caribou away from the only place they can safely calve.
It all comes down to mosquitoes.
The north slope is exposed to ocean winds which blow the mosquitoes away. To give you some idea of the problem, imagine being attacked by a cloud of billions of mosquitoes - they cover you, getting into your face, eyes, ears, mouth - you can't help breathing them in. Such a situation could prove fatal! If the caribou were to be driven off the north slope, their calves would die, not being able to run away from the mosquitoes - or dying of sheer exhaustion in the effort.
Woodland Caribou live in the boreal forests of northern Canada and are much larger than their northern cousins.
Caribou antler is shed every year, after the fall rut. It is thin and column-like with small palmated areas at both ends. It makes great material for smaller carvings. Like moose, the portion of the antler with the strength, is the outside layer. This layer is thin, but holds detail and polish. Inside, the antler is quite porous and does not hold detail or polish well.
Is mammoth ivory legal to use?
The mammoth roamed the Yukon between 12,000 and 14,000 years ago. Our earliest ancestors knew the mammoth and depended on it for a source of food, shelter and warmth.
In present day Yukon, placer miners find mammoth ivory on a regular basis as they wash away old stream beds in search of gold.
The government's current policy regarding mammoth ivory is to encourage its use in the local carving industry. This is due to the fact that there is a surplus of mammoth ivory in museums and other institutions around the world. It is felt that the use of mammoth ivory will reduce some of the pressure on living elephants. It is possible to export the ivory outside of the territory and country, but preferably in a finished state.
As a material for carving, it is quite unstable, which is understandable given its long internment in a frozen state deep underground. It drys and cracks without the stabilizing effects of sealants and glues. However, once stabilized it makes for a wonderful medium to carve, finishing to a high polish.
The tusk in the picture is about 10 feet (3 meters) along the curve. It has been curing for several years (curing is the process where the tusk is kept frozen on the surface, allowing it to dry slowly and adjust to the present day atmosphere) and weighs 140 lbs (60kgs). When it came out of the ground, it likely weighed between 250 and 300 lbs (110-140kgs).
Do you need a CITES permit to purchase a walrus ivory carving?
The walrus tusk is very similar to the mammoth tusk in composition. However, these tusks are only available with a permit from the Arctic Artists' Co-operative in N.W.T. and come from hunted walrus. The walrus are hunted by the Inuvialuit for food. The tusks are made available to the artist's co-operative as a by-product. In order to export this material outside of Canada, a CITES permit is also required.
The tusks are small, compared to the mammoth tusk, weighing 2-3 lbs (1-1.5kgs) and range from 40-70 cm in length.
Do sheep shed their horns like moose and caribou?
Dall Sheep and other mountain sheep, like the Stone and Fannin, roam the high spots of Yukon and northern B.C. They are marvelous animals with eyesight similar to an 8x pair of binoculars!
Their horns grow throughout their life, getting a little longer and more curly each year. Males grow their horns much larger than the females in order to do the manly thing and butt heads once a year to win the favour of the fair damsel.
Horns become available for carving in one of two ways: through natural mortality and hunting. Sheep live to be 12 - 15 years old. When they die, scavengers clean the bones but leave the horns to weather on the rocky slopes. Occasionally, a hiker will come across a set of horns and give them to me for carving.
Otherwise, the majority of horns are provided by hunters. Local hunters are usually only interested in the meat and so donate the horns in order to make full use of the animal.
Hunting is closely regulated in the Yukon, so that the sheep populations are in no way threatened by this activity.
The horn is composed of striated material, similar to our nails and hair. It is held together with incredible force and so can be difficult to work with, often binding tools. When finished, the horn is translucent, allowing light to pass though, generating a pinkish hue and very pleasing to the eye!