Metis artist Candace Lipischak reaches for one of the light brown, circular pieces of material strewn across the table in her studio space.
She examines the outline drawn on it before placing it down on her scroll saw and with a flick of a button the blade starts to move up and down.
It takes a steady hand and plenty of concentration to cut through the porous material.
One slip of the finger and Lipischak may end up losing one.
Upon closer look the wood-like material actually exposes itself as antler, moose antler to be more specific, and the form taking shape is a small turtle.
These are skills Lipischak has honed through her years of practice specializing in antler carving.
“It’s a very hard material. I break a lot of blades because they’re very small,” Lipischak told APTN News from her home studio.
“It’s not like working with wood. It’s a lot harder than that.”
The Métis artist is one half of Fat Daug, an antler jewelry company she started with her dad. The name is shorthand for father daughter.
The idea for the company started five years ago when Lipischak’s father gifted her a pair of earrings he made out of a set of moose antlers he had for nearly 40 years.
“I already worked with wood and I love working with my hands so I asked him to show me how it’s done. It just became a passion after that,” said Lipischak.
She uses deer, caribou, elk and moose antlers to create intricate pieces like feather earrings, thunderbird and turtle pendants.
Sometimes she’s gifted materials to work with such as a set of muskox antlers, which part of became a tree pendant.
“I’m compelled by trees,” Lipischak explained.
Lipischak says making jewelry connects her to something larger.
“For me, it’s like having the spirit of the deer or moose live on instead of just sitting in a cabin somewhere. [My family] is not the type of people that hunt for trophies, we’re the type of people that hunt for the food we need to nourish ourselves,” she said.
“It’s our culture…so to use every part of the animal is hugely important.”
Lipischak relies on markets and workshops to sell her goods. Events that have been cancelled during the pandemic.
She says it’s been tough losing out on face-to-face contact. Those moments are about more than just business – they are opportunities to share and educate. With each piece comes a story.
And she thrives off those conversations.
“I’ve had a lot of comments like ‘wow, they’re light,’ or, ‘it feels good.’ I think that’s maybe what it is. [They are] feel good pieces,” said Lipischak.
She adds because the pieces come from nature people may have a sense of grounding without even realizing it.
Pandemic aside the past seven months have still been productive for the artist. Lipischak finished building her new studio after her old one burnt down and she has tapped into another creative outlet by working with tin found on her property to create multimedia pieces.
She also has a traveling exhibit with some of those pieces that began last year and continues into next year.