HOW TO WEAVE AN ANTLER BASKET
Handwoven antler baskets come in many shapes and sizes. Since no two antlers are the same, no two antler baskets will ever be the same, similar, maybe, but not the same. Deer and Elk antlers are naturally shed each year about February/March. Almost any muledeer, whitetail deer, elk or moose antler will do.
The ribbed style of weaving is what I use when constructing a basket. I prefer to incorporate the antler into the framework of the basket by drilling holes thru the antler and inserting the round reed thru the antler, thereby, making the antler an integral part of the basket. Many baskets are made first, or boughten and then an antler is tied on with leather lacing, while very nice looking, it is nothing compared to the workmanship of a truly handwoven antler basket.
I drill my first hole completely thru the base of the antler above the burr. I then run my reed thru the basket and determine the basic framework best suited to the curvature of the basket. I usually drill 3-5 more partial holes about one quarter inch deep. Then if need be, I'll drill a hole opposite, usually in the tip area of the antler. This is where I decide the depth of the basket. Choose your reed and lashing and secur the ends to the basket.
Then begin weving about 2-4" or until the space between the reeds is one to two fingers in width. You can then add more ribs. I use 3/8" reed for a tighter weave and a stronger basket. A beautiful accent is to vary the width of the reed. I also add ribs so very rarely is there a space between the ribs that is wider than two fingers width.
Continue weaving the basket unti finished. You can use all flat reed, flat and round reed, natural rushes, vines, and more. Your imagination is the limit. Depending on the weight of the antler and the shape of the basket, I will add antler buttons to the ribs. These not only add to the decoration of the basket but also stablized it and prevents it from rolling.
After the weaving is completed, which can take 4-40 hours of weaving time, not counting the frame building time, I then put my finish coat of basket wash or danish oil on the basket. Staining reed, is similar to staining wood.
I like to accent my baskets using deer buckskin and then tie on a metal or antler concho with leather lace. I then use a variety of feathers including wild turkey, pheasant( a variety of these feathers also!), grouse, or purchased feathers. The ones you don't want to use are from predator birds, hawks, falcons, eagles as they are protected. Contact your local Game Warden for more information. I remove the feathers from the skin, one at a time and place them under the concho and the buckskin and create a design. I then add my choice of wood, metal, glass, ceramic, my lampworked glass beads, or other trade beads.
I sign and date my baskets on the bottom. About ten years ago, i was chosed by the QVC home shopping channel as one of twenty artisans to represent the state of Wyoming in their "Quest for America's Best" show that aired. While I prefer to do one of a kinds, I did do almost 300 similar baskets for them to sell. It was a learning experience for sure! They were all made in under 8 weeks.
Enjoy your baskets, simple care will keep them as an heirloom to be passed down for generations.