Hayden Haynes, Indigenous Antler & Stone Carver from Perrysburg, New York (US)
Shaping and carving antlers (and bone) is a practice that has been done for centuries upon centuries across the world. Today, the art of antler carving is quite different from the utilitarian objects (tools, awls, hooks, etc.) made long ago by the Iroquois people.
I belong to the Seneca Deer Clan and live on the Cattaraugus Reservation.
When I was about 9 or 10, my aunt gave me a Dremel power tool for my birthday. She explained that I could make things with it. I never used it because I didn't know how, and I didn't know what to make. But I kept that Dremel with me as I grew up. In my early 20s, I would frequent the Seneca-Iroquois National Museum in Salamanca, NY. I was fascinated by the carvings on display. I was inspired by works by Stan Hill, Sr., Norman Jimerson, and Wayne Skye to name a few. That is when my interest in carving began.
At that same time, I was into really into hunting, so I had a lot of antlers lying around. One day I pulled out the Dremel tool my aunt gave me and began experimenting with antler carving. That was about 15 years ago.
At first, I was carving simple eagle heads and other things that I based off the carvings I saw at the museum. This gave me a guide on how to shape different pieces. Once I became skilled at using a Dremel, I began carving with a Foredom tool. This enabled me to take my skills and execution to a different level because of the high quality and minimal vibration in the Foredom hand pieces.
Today my carvings continue to evolve. I aim to create works that are different from what has already been done by Native carvers, both past and present. I am constantly honing my relief carving skills and my portrait carving skills and generating new ideas and pieces never before seen in antler carving. Additionally, I am incorporating more and brighter colors into antler work. This is a somewhat foreign idea to traditional antler carving, but to advance the art and make what I do unique, it is something I feel good about doing.
One of the most common questions people ask me is, “How long did it take you to learn how to carve?” My answer is the same every time, “I am still learning.”
Nya weh (Thank you) for reading.~ Hayden Haynes