A local resident has found a more decorative spin to the traditional mounted animal horn display — turn the trophies into useful household lamps.

William Dean Shipley used to restore antique furniture but has shifted his efforts into an art form that has already garnered him award recognition.

“I used to work on big antique furniture, but I hurt my back and can’t move heavy stuff around so good anymore,” Shipley said. “But this is a great way to keep busy.”

It is also a great way to express some creativity, as Shipley begins his projects with nothing more than some deer antlers, used lamp pieces and the basic idea of a finished product in his head before making his mental picture a reality.

He said he got the idea from Western magazines, but found the lamps to be cost prohibitive. Similar lamps in catalogs can run in the thousands of dollars.

“I figured if I can’t afford to buy one, why not just build one myself?” he said. “I just started putting them together and that’s what I got.”

Not to say the craft is easy. Shipley spends a lot of tedious time just positioning the antlers in order to give them balance.

But the hardest part, he said, is gathering the antlers. Not so much because they’re hard to come by, but because they don’t always go together very well.

“It’s definitely an art form. You can’t just put two horns together and expect it to look right,” he said.

Shipley began his newfound artistry by building a chandelier out of eight deer horns, a decoration for his own home. Since then he has assembled three more lamps — one is a floor lamp and the other two are desk lamps.

The most recent three projects were entered into the Stephens County Free Fair, and Shipley basically ran the table with the judging. He was awarded first place for the floor lamp, and second and third place for the two desk lamps.

Even entering all three lamps took a little cleverness. Shipley entered the floor lamp as a leather craft (it has a rifle, a long horn and a metal post held together with leather straps), one of the desk lamps as a woodworking project (the base is made from wood) and the other desk lamp as an open division craft.

If everything matches up properly, Shipley said he could build a lamp within a day.

He gets most of the pieces from thrift stores or garage sales, giving used lamps a second chance with a whole new look.

Some of the electrical parts come from a supply store and the lampshades from a department store, but everything else is recycled material.

And Shipley sticks with a natural look. He doesn’t stain the antlers, and the lamp bolts are covered with furry hide.

Although he has only been building the lamps for less than a year, he said he might expand into some other handy antler-based household furnishings like bowl holders, wine bottle racks and bookends.

Shipley has considered turning his craft into a business, but he wants to clarify some legalities first. There are laws that prohibit killing game for profit, but he hopes to find an exception for using animal horns.

In the meantime, Shipley is hoping to find a deer rancher to be his antler supplier and will be happy to build a lamp for hunters who supply the antlers.

Those wishing for a closer look can see his three award winners on display at Marlow Mercantile for the next two months. Just don’t expect to take them home.

“I have had offers on those, but I’m not sure I’m ready to see them go,” he said.

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