Local Artist Takes His Craft By The Horns

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Looking at something from a different viewpoint takes time, effort and imagination. The time and effort are worth it when the end result is a unique work of art, says Glen Balmer of Mogollon Antler Art.

Balmer, a backhoe contractor by day, has been hunting and guiding for others for many years. His creative eye began to see art in the antlers that he, his son and hunting buddies would find. He took some antlers to Jackson Hole, Wyo. to sell, discovered a new art form and decided to give it a try.

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Glen Balmer of Mogollon Antler Art became interested in the art form after a visit to Jackson Hole, Wyo.

"I was fascinated by the chandeliers," he said of the art he saw there.

Then as he tried his hand at the complicated artwork, he found challenge and frustration. "I'm challenged by drilling the holes and hiding the wires, doing it really neat, I think it looks really cool," Balmer said.

His house is a testament to his 3-plus-year commitment to the trade. End tables, coffee tables, mirrors, wine racks and a chair -- all custom made with horns, horseshoes and even ivory elk teeth to add to the character and individuality of each piece.

Putting a piece together and designing it are the most time-consuming and sometimes frustrating part of the puzzle, Balmer said.

"It depends on the piece, sometimes I'll take it apart a half a dozen times until I get satisfied with what it looks like," he said.

Then he proceeds to drill out the antlers and hide the wiring and putty necessary to hold the piece together.

"You've got so many pieces that they may not go back together they way you planned," he said.

"You have to have a lot of patience to do this," Balmer said. "Several others have tried it but gave up." He claims his years of hunting, a sport that is all about patience, may have prepared him for this new hobby, but, he admits, he does not have patience in all areas.

To make the art really work, Balmer will sift through dozens of horns.

"You get a whole bunch of horns together and you are trying to make something fit and it can be frustrating," he said. "A lot of horns won't fit right in a certain piece you need certain horns to make it look right."

So how does this sportsman keep a steady supply?

In spring, around March and April, the deer and elk lose their antlers, and Balmer sets off horn hunting. In a good spring, he says he can gather 100 to 125 antlers, with maybe eight matching sets.

"In a spring, if you average three horns a day, you are doing pretty good," he said.

He also keeps that information close for hunting season, if you find horns in an area consistently, you know that animal will be back he said.

But the horns are not the expensive part, Balmer points out. He has had customers bring him horns to create a custom piece, thinking they will get a much better price.

"Seventy-five percent of the cost is fabricating and building, the cost of the horn is minimal," he said.

"To make it look good, stand up and be strong, that is where the craftsmanship and imagination part of it is."

And that is what folks are willing to pay for. His work goes from $45 for a single-bottle wine rack to $4,500 for a 6-foot-by-6-foot chandelier. This particular chandelier is made from 10 full elk horns, has 22 lights and weighs about 65 pounds.

To say it is a unique fixture is an understatement, there can't be another one like it. That is the uniqueness that keeps Balmer going and smoothes out the frustrations.

"It's the satisfaction after you get done, of really accomplishing something that is a challenge," he said with pride.

"If you do stuff that is not standard run-of-the-mill and is really unique, you get a lot of compliments. There is a lot of satisfaction in doing a real good job."

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