Translating Form

January 2017.

Can natural objects be made into ever lasting artifacts through interpretations of their form?

This project was a study in how we can interpret and enhance the properties of found objects of different materials through the use of an antler. By both creating and removing ambiguity of form through shaping and wrapping the antler in thread, I hoped to make an artifact that is both engaging and intriguing, bringing a sense of delight to the viewer.


It is not often that you see deer antler sheds in the woods. I came upon one only once in my life, during a fall run through Schenley Park, a small forest near to campus. I was enjoying my run when I saw a rather large leaf pile of oak leaves and noticed a pale, undecipherable object sticking out from the leaf pile. I stopped, sifting through the leaf pile to see a deer antler amongst the dead leaves. The buff color of the antler blended in with the earth it lay in. It seemed a strange and alien object when not attached to a deer. I wondered how the deer lost its antler - what was its story?

Part I: Translating Natural Form

The first step in this project was to feel the material and sand it entirely smooth. The goal was to make the antler seem man-made, yet keep the essence of the antler's original form. I was sensitive to the feel of the original antler and let it guide me through the process, smoothing out the rough surface and emphasizing naturally-occurring ridges already present in the antler. The antler was then painted white to create ambiguity in the form - it transitioned from antler to a man-made form reminiscient of an antler.

 The painted and sanded antler.

The painted and sanded antler.

Part II: Translating Interpreted Form

The final phase of the project was to wrap the antler in thread to further push the bounds of explicit and implicit meaning through form. It was now no longer an antler, but a representation of one, encouraging the viewer to inquire about what it represented. 

The thread coloring was based upon the vibrant deep blues and blacks of the Mikado Pheasant, an endangered bird native to Taiwan. It nearly became extinct when its geometric patterned tail feathers were used in traditional Taiwanese headdresses. I chose this bird due to its rich coloring and the fact that it is a little-known bird that I wanted to talk about to whomever viewed my finished artifact - a story on which I could elaborate. In a way, by interpreting the Mikado Pheasant onto my artifact, I would be as close as I could ever be to actually holding this bird.

mikado pheasant.jpg


After the completion of this project and the nearly 25 hours I spent wrapping the antler in thread, I found in myself a new sensitivity to the objects around me. There is something to be said about spending time with forms, shaping them in your hands and interacting with them over time - you build up emotion around these artifacts in your life. They have emotional sustainability because you've spent the time to appreciate them and I think that is something that will continue to drive how I think about products in the future.