'Big Horns Ram, 2010' (Finished) by Shane Wilson (carved big horn sheep horn on granite base)

LINKS: Big Horns Ram - Complete Work in Progress Video

'Big Horns Ram, 2010' by Shane Wilson

'Big Horns Ram - Shatter, 2010' by Shane Wilson

'Big Horns Ram - Melt, 2010' by Shane Wilson
(big horn sheep horn carving granite base, big horn sheep horn granite base sculpture)


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'Big Horns Ram' (Photography) by Shane Wilson

A few shots from the photography session with Wildman Photography...

If you are an artist, it pays to always, always, always have your work photographed by a professional. Always!


Gary Wildman, Photographer and Dan, Photography Assistant
Gary Wildman with his assistant and computer guru, Dan.

Gary and Dan set up the shoot of 'Big Horns Ram - Melt, 2010' by Shane Wilson
Gary and Dan set up the shot for 'Big Horns Ram - Melt, 2010' by Shane Wilson

Dan and Gary check the results from the shoot of 'Big Horns Ram - Melt, 2010' by Shane Wilson
Dan and Gary check out the photos on the computer for exposure and detail


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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 44) by Shane Wilson

The horns and bases are brought together for the first time. A few more coats of the satin lacquer are still needed.

There is quite a contrast between these pics and the initial shots of the horns, prior to carving!


Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 44a

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 44b

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 44c


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'Big Horns Ram' (Granite Bases) by Shane Wilson

In order to choose the best colour for the granite base, I visited a granite kitchen countertop business here in Nanaimo, called PIGranite. They had hundreds of different slabs to choose from, so I brought the horns to the shop and tried them all on.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 43a
The colour that works the best for this colour of horn is called Blue Pearl. The stone is mostly blue with black flecks, but, and this is difficult to see in these images, there is an interference colour which appears peachy, pearlescent and matches the horns perfectly, while the blue provides a nice contrast.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 43b
As you can see, the magnets were bolted to the stone, which was custom cut, drilled and polished, and high density foam castors were added, to protect the surface upon which the sculptures are to be displayed, and to provide visual elevation from that surface.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 43c
The bolt and washer assembly are secured with more Sumo Glue (which expands to fill the gap between the drilled hole and the bolt) and Super Glue to secure the nuts. The magnets sit on top of the granite surface to keep the effect clean and to elevate the horn away from the base.


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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 42) by Shane Wilson

The washers are glued, then the overage was removed, cleaned up with the use of a few passes with a 1/8" straight burr.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 42a
In order to spray the horns with the lacquer, I attached two magnets to a scrap piece of 1"x6", then affixed the horns.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 42b
Lacquer goes on thin, so several passes were necessary.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 42c
I have tried a variety of finish glosses, but prefer satin applied over a gloss undercoat.

Lacquer finishes used in horn carving


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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 41) by Shane Wilson

Time to begin the process of mounting the horns onto the granite bases. After considering a number of different mounting scenarios, I decided that the rare earth magnet assembly, sold by Lee Valley Tools, offered the most elegant solution.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 41a
There are two parts to the magnet assembly: the magnet and a thick steel washer. The magnet will be bolted through a pre-drilled hole in the granite and the washer will be attached to the bottom of the horn.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 41b
I try to avoid mounting solutions that involve drilling and screwing parts to the sculpture itself, since these so often fail over time and end up cracking the horn or antler. So I am using Sumo Glue by Locktite as the only means for attaching the washer. If the glue bond fails, then the washer can simply be reattached using a similar glue product, but the sculpture will remain unharmed.


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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 40) by Shane Wilson

In this phase, I have cleaned up some of the lines around the design elements and have further refined the big horn ram's head, adding detail to the horns and roughing out the area around the visible eye.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 40


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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 39) by Shane Wilson

After publishing the update from the last phase to Facebook, I received feedback indicating that the shards might be a little distracting, with a suggestion that they be pushed off the horizontal to avoid the appearance that they are 'at rest'.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 39a
I have tried to incorporate this suggestion, changing the shape of two of the shards while adding the detail from the shattered 'path'.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 39b
The majority of the horn is now completely carved. All that remains is the final detailing on the big horn ram's head.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 39c


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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 38) by Shane Wilson

In this phase, the negative space along the back of the horn has been carved away.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 38a
In the image below, you can see the negative spaces created in both horns.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 38b
Note: The sculptures are meant to be viewed from a front-on position, so that these negative spaces create the illusion of the shapes of the big horn sheep as they rear into their ramming of their respective paths, while at the same time showing the continuity of the paths themselves into the sheep.


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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 37) by Shane Wilson

I have begun to rough out the inner portion of the family/cultural history path's curved lines.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 37a

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 37b

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 37c


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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 36) by Shane Wilson

In this phase, the borders of the family/cultural history path have been roughed out.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 36a
Next I'll design the inner portion of the path with curved lines, curved against the curve of the horn itself to provide contrast and interest within the sculpture.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 36b

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 36c


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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 35) by Shane Wilson

Finished, almost.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 35a
The carving is complete, including the signature on the reverse.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 35b
I have included a close up shot and one from the extreme right side (below), so that you can see how the effect was achieved in relief.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 35c
Remaining to be done: mounting on a pearl blue granite base and finishing with an acrylic spray. But first it is time to return to the partner horn and finish it to the same point.


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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 34) by Shane Wilson

In this phase, the negative space under the ram has been carved away, leaving the ram's rearing, abstract, silhouette.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 34a
The face and horns are marked for the final detail carving.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 34b
The horn is marked in a slightly stylized fashion to reflect the path detail.


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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 33) by Shane Wilson

I have decided to cut out a section of the back of the horn to give more of a stylized profile of the ram as it descends from its upright reared position into its collision with the path.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 33a
The shape of the negative space will mirror the curve of the horn.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 33b
The tedious work of finishing the fine detail, strand by strand of horn fibre, is also in progress in this phase with the upper half of the horn completed.


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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 32) by Shane Wilson

The full path is roughed in, now to clean up the design and put the final touches on the melted portions. I'll save the final detailing of the ram's head for last.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 32a

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 32b
(big horn sheep horn carving, big horn sheep horn sculpture)

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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 31) by Shane Wilson

The first four are done, now for the two larger ones ...

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 31a

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 31b
(big horn sheep horn carving, big horn sheep horn sculpture)

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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 30) by Shane Wilson

Continuing to work the path ...

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 30a

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 30b
(big horn sheep horn carving, big horn sheep horn sculpture)

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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 29) by Shane Wilson

In this phase, I have begun to add the raised border detail to the 'history' path.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 29
This will involve lowering the background plane on the rest of the horn.
(big horn sheep horn carving, big horn sheep horn sculpture)

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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 28) by Shane Wilson

In this phase, I have further shaped and refined the ram's head. The pathway of the past has been roughed in and more of the horn in behind the design elements of the melting path has been removed.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 28a
The inside of the horn has been cleaned up, with the top layer removed. In order to reach into the horn to address some of the carving beyond normal burr and hand piece range, I used a carbide, rounded over straight burr on an extended 1/4" shaft.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 28b
The extension adds an additional 4" of reach, but extra care is needed when using this burr with powerful high speed grinders like the Flexible Shaft Foredom. Any play in the shaft is exaggerated at 4" and the precision of the grinding is reduced considerably. For rough work, though, the extension works well.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 28c
Another consideration, especially with horn, is the tendency of the burr to get caught on the grain of the horn and cut wildly. To avoid this, a careful, brushing stroke works best. Avoid applying pressure to the burr.
(big horn sheep horn carving, big horn sheep horn sculpture)

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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 27) by Shane Wilson

The head has been further roughed out to create a 3-D impression. It remains to add the finer details.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 27a
The background has been refined around the head and the band roughed in to gauge the effectiveness of this element in the design.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 27b
(big horn sheep horn carving, big horn sheep horn sculpture)

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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 26) by Shane Wilson

I have decided to pass the strip pattern by the portion of the design on the horns immediately behind the rear horn of both rams.
Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 26
This will help fill the gap in the pattern on the 'melted' horn caused by the removal of one of the tabs of horn to allow for carving the head in greater relief.
(big horn sheep horn carving, big horn sheep horn sculpture)

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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 25) by Shane Wilson

The background has been reduced along the entire horn, lessening the impact of the background and allowing for more emphasis to be worked into the ram's head.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 25a
The overall effect is somewhat confusing visually, so I'll need to give the background design more thought before proceeding.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 25c
I'll focus on the ram's head first. Doing so may help a complementary background design to come more properly into focus.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 25b
(big horn sheep horn carving, big horn sheep horn sculpture)

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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 24) by Shane Wilson

There is a difficult decision to be made at this point in this carving. The detail of the melting background immediately behind the rear horn of the ram's head will need to be eliminated in order to allow a higher relief to be achieved in the rams head.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 24
The entire subsurface arcing behind the head will also need to be reduced considerably.
(big horn sheep horn carving, big horn sheep horn sculpture)

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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 23) by Shane Wilson

I am now ready for the fine details on the ram's head, which have been sketched out in red coloured pencil. The idea will be to exaggerate the indented areas a little bit to create enough shadow to make the detail sing at a moderate distance.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 23
Sheep horn is a difficult medium in which to create fine detail, since the pattern of the horn itself tends to dominate the composition.
(big horn sheep horn carving, big horn sheep horn sculpture)

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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 22) by Shane Wilson

As it is important to keep working both horns at the same time, I have switched back to the 'melted' side and have begun to rough in the planes on the ram's head.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 22a
You can see the relief nature of the carving in this second photo.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 22b
(big horn sheep horn carving, big horn sheep horn sculpture)

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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 21) by Shane Wilson

In this phase, I have worked to refine the ram's head, adding some detail and restoring the balance and proportion using the initial reference image.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 21a

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 21b
(big horn sheep horn carving, big horn sheep horn sculpture)

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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 20) by Shane Wilson

In this phase, I have completed roughing in the broken area behind the ram's head.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 20a

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 20b

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 20c
(big horn sheep horn carving, big horn sheep horn sculpture)

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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 19) by Shane Wilson

In this phase, I have begun to rough out the broken area behind the ram's head.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 19a

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 19b

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 19c

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 19d
(big horn sheep horn carving, big horn sheep horn sculpture)

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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 18) by Shane Wilson

In this phase, I have worked exclusively on the left horn.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 18a
The rearmost planes on the ram's head and body have been recessed and the horns have been established in their final positions.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 18b
The jagged background roughing in has begun above the ram's head.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 18c
(big horn sheep horn carving, big horn sheep horn sculpture)

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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 17) by Shane Wilson

In this phase, I thought it was time to bring both horns together to begin to even out the design over both sculptures.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 17a
I have also removed the photocopied template from the horn on the right side and identified the major planes on the ram's face.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 17b
The recessed horn on the right has also been roughed in, while the major planes are again penciled in on the left horn.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 17c
(big horn sheep horn carving, big horn sheep horn sculpture)

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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 16) by Shane Wilson

In this phase, I have begun to shape the torn/melted elements to give them some life in 3D.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 16a

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 16b

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 16c
(big horn sheep horn carving, big horn sheep horn sculpture)

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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 15) by Shane Wilson

In this phase, the background horn material has been reduced to create the effect of popping up the torn/melted elements.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 15a

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 15b
(big horn sheep horn carving, big horn sheep horn sculpture)

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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 14) by Shane Wilson

In this phase, the back of the horn behind the ram's was carved away to create the negative space around the head.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 14a
Following this a small 1/8" rounded over straight burr was used to create a depth outline around the melted elements.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 14b
This will enable me to remove horn around the elements to a uniform depth, creating the illusion that the horn is melting and flying apart as the ram charges through.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 14c
Large 1/4 " ball and cylinder burrs were used to remove the bulk of the horn behind the ram's head.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 14d
(big horn sheep horn carving, big horn sheep horn sculpture)

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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 13) by Shane Wilson

I have begun to refine the outlines of the 'melted' horn and to begin clearing the horn material around the big horn sheep's head, using the same tools from the last phase with the addition of the straight, single-fluted 1/8" burr.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 13a

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 13b
(big horn sheep horn carving, big horn sheep horn sculpture)

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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 12) by Shane Wilson

The outlines of the second horn have been roughed out and plenty of horn removed using the band saw and both a 1/4" shafted ball burr on the Foredom and a rounded over 1/8" straight burr on the NSK micromotor grinder.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 12a

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 12b
(big horn sheep horn carving, big horn sheep horn sculpture)

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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 11) by Shane Wilson

The image is slowly beginning to appear. It will be necessary to remove more background material on the rear side of the ram's head, to allow the back horn to recess further, enhancing the 3D effect.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 11
(big horn sheep horn carving, big horn sheep horn sculpture)

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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 10) by Shane Wilson

An intermediate step. This is the beginning of the 'messy phase' when the design element is being roughed out and the artist despairs of creating something that will resemble the real thing.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 10a
It is important to stop and look during the carving process, marking the next steps carefully - in this case with a red pencil crayon.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 10b
Avoid marking the carving with permanent ink or graphite, which tend to become trapped in the fibres of the horn or antler and discolour the sculpture.
(big horn sheep horn carving, big horn sheep horn sculpture)

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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 9) by Shane Wilson

I have decided to include the candy cane element on some of the shards, indicative of their place in the path prior to the ram breaking through.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 9a
It is time to begin roughing in the ram's head. The object is to create the head in high relief to give the impression that it is breaking through on a 3/4 angle. This will not be easy as sheep heads are a marvel of weird angles and impossible curves.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 9b
As a first step, I have used a pointy burr to pierce the paper template to give some idea of the placement of the primary structures. It is very easy to lose one's way at this point, so for the next few days I'll take it slowly to allow the 3D image to build and rebuild in my mind.
(big horn sheep horn carving, big horn sheep horn sculpture)

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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 8) by Shane Wilson

I have begun to rough in the cracking design around the sheep head.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 8a
From the images below you get a further sense of the stock removal 'behind the scenes' to allow light through around the head, giving the impression that the ram is breaking though.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 8b

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 8c
(big horn sheep horn carving, big horn sheep horn sculpture)

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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 7) by Shane Wilson

I have begun to add back in the cracking portion of the design and an additional element, a candycane, expanding stripe, that will be incised into the horn to give the path a sense of dimension and placement in space.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 7
(big horn sheep horn carving, big horn sheep horn sculpture)

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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 6) by Shane Wilson

In this phase, I have cleaned up the design elements and have begun to establish the planes relative to one another.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 6a
I have also begun to work out how the negative space around the ram's head will look relative to the path it is breaking through.

The lines marking the cracks in the path have disappeared due to the removal of horn material, but they will be reapplied and carved into the horn in a future phase.


Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 6b
This shot shows the stock removal from the back of the horn.
(big horn sheep horn carving, big horn sheep horn sculpture)

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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 5) by Shane Wilson

In this phase, I have begun to rough out the design on the big horn sheep horn with the angled pattern.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 5
(big horn sheep horn carving, big horn sheep horn sculpture)

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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 4) by Shane Wilson

When cutting out sections of the horn along the thinner base, I have found that it is better to carve the grove with a rounded over straight burr, rather than try to cut the section with a saw.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 4
This prevents the horn from binding on the blade, which horn is prone to do.
(big horn sheep horn carving, big horn sheep horn sculpture)

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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 3) by Shane Wilson

The bandsaw was used to remove larger stock along the edges of the design.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 3a
The sheep horn catches the saw when it encounters the border between the solid outer portion and the inner pulpy section. This can be a little dangerous, so it is important to hold the horn securely.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 3b
It is possible to see how solid the horn is along the cut sections.
(big horn sheep horn carving, big horn sheep horn sculpture)

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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 2) by Shane Wilson

As so often happens, things change.

I started off with the concept of the two rams charging each other and had in mind a kind of Mobius curve, wherein each horn was carved along a path from tip to base and back up the other side, curving over on itself at the end of which the ram's head, to be realized abstractly, would be carved at the moment when the ram drops into the collision at the end of the charge.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 2a
But the more I worked the idea the more I liked the concept of the ram breaking through its own path.

The idea is synonymous with a personal journey toward maturity.

We are all the product of a history, a past, the end product (for the moment) of generations upon generations of those who have gone before. We are the product of family, culture, religion, race, on and on.

Part of becoming an adult is coming to terms with our heritage as we make our own way, not completely breaking with the past but nearly so.


Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 2b
These two sculptures form a set, each telling the same tale of individuation and maturity, but from the perspective of two very different personalities.

The one is cool the other hot.

The left horn shows the ram shattering its way through its path, like breaking glass or fracturing ice. The right horn shows the ram melting through its path, molten tears evident in its wake.

Angles and Curves.


Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 2c
Appropriately, this sculpture set has been commissioned by a proud father for his two sons, each different - both making their way in the world.

I am going to have to change the name of the sculpture set, but need to give the matter more thought.

(big horn sheep horn carving, big horn sheep horn sculpture)

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'Big Horns Ram' (Phase 1) by Shane Wilson

In the first phase, the outer material of the big horn sheep horn is removed.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 1-1
This includes the damaged or broomed portions at the end of both horns.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 1-2
Note the creamy to black coloration of the horn, with some translucence beginning to appear.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Phase 1-3
(big horn sheep horn carving, big horn sheep horn sculpture)

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'Big Horns Ram' (Begin) by Shane Wilson

This commission will be carved into a pair of mountain found horns from a big horn sheep who died of natural causes.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Begin-1
The commissioner asked to have a sheep head and abstract pattern carved into each horn, which will be given as gifts to his two sons.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Begin-2
For the purposes of the In Progress narrative, the horn on the left will be known as Left Horn, and the horn on the right will be known as Right Horn.

Big Horns Ram, by Shane Wilson - Begin-3
The name of the piece is a play on words between the medium and the subject matter. The horns will be carved to give the appearance, when the two horns are placed together, of two big horned sheep ramming. These are also very big thick horns, from a mature, adult, male, big horn sheep.
(big horn sheep horn carving, big horn sheep horn sculpture)

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