Kelowna artist and jewellery maker Lori Mairs suspects there’s something the littlest bit mystical about her jewellery. Like maybe the handcrafted pieces of antler mounted in silver have some of the magic of the forest contained within them.
“People say that once they buy it, they wear it all the time. It’s almost like they have this experience,” she said. “Physically, they love to touch the antler.”
Lori started dabbling in jewellery making close to two decades ago, but started working bits of naturally shed antler into her work about four years ago. Just over two years ago she started Public Bone, her distinctive jewellery line that features the unique material.
“I’m interested in items in nature that are in sympathetic union with the body,” she told The Pear Tree. “I have a real respect for nature and the earth. I feel in harmony with those things.”
Lori uses only shed antlers, from moose, deer, caribou and elk. Each has a different texture, density and grain. Moose, she reports, have very dense, hard antlers that are a bit of a challenge to get through, even with a band saw. Mule and white tail deer, on the other hand, have much more pliable antlers that are more forgiving, while cutting through an elk antler is like cutting through butter.
After cutting the antlers into smaller pieces, Lori cleans the pieces a couple of times before cutting them into smaller pieces and sanding them. The pieces are then polished and set into the silver – sometimes accompanied by raw ruby, pearls, zincite or Swarovski crystals.
Rather than turning each piece into a certain shape or look, she works with what suits the pieces.
“It’s almost as though they have their own request for the end product, as if they have a request,” Lori related.
Since no two pieces are ever the same, each necklace or set of earrings is like a miniature work of wearable art. It even comes with its own number, certificate of authenticity and guarantee that the antler was shed and not hunted.
“Most of my customers are artists or people who are interested in the arts and understand the value and work that goes into each piece,” Lori said.
“There’s a lot of jewellery that’s called one of a kind but there’s a different skill involved and it is often more like assemblage, where items are ordered and compiled – whereas I work from the raw material. People understand that when they buy a piece of Public Bone jewellery they’re buying a piece of my art – just small and wearable.”
– Words and photos by Lori-Anne Poirier