Roadtrippin’ 2023: Alaska Horn and Antler

Tom Cooper shows us around his shop and how he creates his carvings at Alaska Horn and Antler
Published: May. 18, 2023 at 6:37 AM AKDT
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STERLING, Alaska (KTUU) - Many folks in Alaska use caribou, moose, and sheep as a resource — for most, that use is usually for subsistence.

But Tom Cooper is different, as he takes horns and antlers he finds in the wild and turns them into beautiful carvings at his shop on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska Horn and Antler.

Cooper got his start in antler carving in 1983, and since then he’s taken on running his shop full time.

“It was a little struggle for a couple of years because I was still learning and I was not a natural-born carver,” Cooper said. “I had to work at it to get it to look halfway decent.”

Cooper creates carvings out of animal horns and antlers, but there is plenty more variety when looking around his shop, including ivory carvings from Alaska Native artists, jade carvings, and rocks.

“I jokingly tell a lot of people I carve antlers to support my rock addiction,” Cooper said.

He gets most of his horns and antlers by purchasing them from people who will scavenge them while they’re outdoors.

Cooper says that he can usually create an antler carving per day, which seems to come from years of honing his craft and taking true pride in what he does.

“It’s just a sense of accomplishment when you get something done that you did with your own hands,” he said. “I don’t know. It’s just — I’m sure the same thing as people doing music or anything else.”