From Field to Foundry
A wilderness guide and outfitter for decades, David Bzawy is charting a new direction: reproducing the gorgeous shed whitetail deer antlers he finds in the Canadian wild
For more than three decades, David Bzawy has worked as a licensed guide and outfitter for adventurous urban types seeking complete immersion in the Alberta wilderness and a potentially once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lay eyes on the majestic whitetail deer, which grows far larger up north than its American counterparts.
Even in the off-season, Bzawy spends 160 to 180 days per year—and thousands of boot miles—trekking through the aspen parkland and the northern boreal forest to monitor the whitetail’s travel corridors. “I’ve always been the most at peace in the world when I’m out there being part of the rhythms of nature,” he says. “We all need fresh air and open spaces to enjoy and recharge in.”
Every now and then, Bzawy comes across whitetail antlers, which the bucks shed every season before growing a new, larger set. While the antlers are often concealed by thick grass or underbrush, he has developed a sort of intuition about where to find them, amassing a large collection that includes numerous matched sets—a truly rare find.
“Some of the antlers are incredibly beautiful, and, like snowflakes, no two are exactly alike,” he says. “They have a story.”
Displayed in the lodge-like home he shares with his wife, Lisa, the antlers never fail to make an impression. Many outfitting clients have offered to buy them, but the couple say they could never part with such rarified pieces. Instead, they founded Antler Design Concepts and, after much research, teamed up with Art Castings of Colorado, in Loveland, to reproduce the originals.
“The more common practice nowadays is to find the quickest and cheapest manufacturing process, usually offshore, and neither of us believe in that,” Bzawy says. “We wanted it to support our local communities, so doing it in North America was the only option for us.”
The pieces are handmade by local artisans using an ancient lost-wax casting technique, a painstakingly intricate multi-step process that can take weeks. But the result—a perfect replica of the original—is well-worth the wait. “Every little detail, all the blood veins that grew the antlers, really comes through,” Bzawy says, noting that people are astonished by their heft and permanence. “There’s no way somebody can do in clay what nature actually sculpted.”
While a bronze antler on a wooden plinth seems tailor-made for a rustic mountain retreat, the same piece takes on a far more modern look when covered in polished stainless steel and displayed on a Carrara marble base—just a couple of the many available combinations. “We wanted to offer a very classy, quality item that would fit into many types of spaces in a beautiful way,” Bzawy explains.
The couple works directly with interior designers and also sells the reproductions directly through their website, as well as at boutique retail stores and fine art galleries.
Though Bzawy continues to operate his outfitting business, Antler Design Concepts is taking more and more of the couple’s time, and they wouldn’t have it any other way. “We’re offering these rare collectables to a wider audience that might not ever get to experience them otherwise, and that’s very exciting,” he says. “I really appreciate working in this new world.”