Lake Helen artist Mike Anderson’s antler carving, Inner Conflict, on display in the Thunder Bay Art Gallery exhibit ‘Carvings from the North Shore’, from April 4 to May 25, 2014.

Lake Helen artist Mike Anderson’s antler carving, Inner Conflict, on display in the Thunder Bay Art Gallery exhibit ‘Carvings from the North Shore’, from April 4 to May 25, 2014.

 By Rick Garrick

THUNDER BAY — Lake Helen artist Mike Anderson first began carving when he noticed the image of an eagle on an antler about ten years ago.

 “So I decided to start from there and see what I could do and how far I could push them,” says Anderson, who had been producing paintings since he was in his twenties.“They’re always in there; you just got to get it out.”

Anderson has since sold his antler carvings to people around the world and a selection of his work —  Carvings from the North Shore — was on display in April and May, at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery. The artist led a walking tour of his exhibit for a crowd of interested art aficionados.

“People are amazed,” Anderson says. “A lot of people do not believe they are moose antlers. They think they should be dark brown, but they are white inside.”

Anderson says people often ask him if the carvings are all one piece.

“That seems to be the big question. But they’re all one solid piece. There’s no add-ons, except for the pickerel one where I put the marble eye on.”

Anderson’s antler carvings depict scenes and stories from his life in the Lake Helen area, located about 100 kilometres east of Thunder Bay on the north shore of Lake Superior.

“I always want to make my stuff with movement,” he says, describing an image of a pickerel chasing a minnow and a dragonfy with bubbles in the background of another carving. “That’s where the bubbles come in.”

Anderson sells his works for $900 to $3,200, depending on the size and the amount of work to complete the image.

“I’m not giving my pieces away,” Anderson says. “I’d rather keep them than sell myself short.”

His process involves grinding the surface down until it is smooth before sketching the image he originally saw in the antler.

“I make just a rough sketch of what I want in there and slowly work my way in,” Anderson says. “I use a power grinder, and then when I get down to the finish, I use files and sandpaper for the fine finishing touches.”

It takes him about six weeks to complete a carving.

“I just work at my own pace,” Anderson says, noting he usually works about five hours per day. “Sometimes I’ve got about two or three pieces on the go, so I don’t get bored with one. I can just jump to another one and work on that.”

Mike Anderson describes his creation of a Shapeshifter.

“It’s part human and (part) owl. Shapeshifters take on many different forms, so this one is being an owl, and it’s changing. It’s a deer antler, so it’s a smaller piece.”