ROCHESTER, Minn. — When Joseph and Laurel Lake moved from Wyoming to Rochester about two years ago, they dragged a huge pile of antlers with them.

Joseph Lake, a longtime metal fabricator, loved hiking and searching for the naturally shed antlers of deer, elk and moose. However, the accumulated stack of pieces was taking up a lot of space in the Lakes’ new home.

Shed-hunting, a nonviolent alternative to traditional hunting, was a popular hobby in Wyoming, he said.

“A lot of people do it for monetary gain,” he said. “We had quite a stack collected.”

He’d done “nothing but look at them,” he said. “And my wife got tired of looking at them.”

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A table made by Joseph Lake. Contributed / Lake AntlerWorks
A table made by Joseph Lake. Contributed / Lake AntlerWorks

So Lake decided to justify the collection by using them. He needed a desk for the new home, and had seen other creative people make chandeliers and ornaments out of the materials.

After his first success using live-edged wood and those antlers, he realized there was a market for his furniture pieces. Thus, Lake AntlerWorks was born.

“It turned into a pretty fun hobby,” he said, which has paid off with accolades.

Lake attended the Western Design Conference in Jackson, Wyoming, for the first time in mid-September and won “Best Artist in Mixed Media.”

The conference is a juried one, geared toward Western culture. In terms of woodworking, that means “old and natural,” Lake said.

“It tries to be in tune with the natural world, using natural materials, and in a lot of ways, keep them in their natural form.”

In the past couple of years, Lake has picked up the woodworking skills that his welding and metal fabricating background didn’t cover.

The Lake AntlerWorks booth at the Western Design Conference. Contributed by Lake AntlerWorks.
The Lake AntlerWorks booth at the Western Design Conference. Contributed by Lake AntlerWorks.

“You can research a lot of things online,” he said. “Attaching antlers (to wood) is not really one of them.”

Lake is hesitant to give away his trade secrets, but said he uses bolts to secure the slightly more brittle materials together.

“It’s my artwork and it’s what I like to do,” he said.