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Rose Valley artist creates beauty from animal skulls

Although he creates art in many forms, local artist Jason Borders partially works in one heady medium: skulls.

Borders, who moved from Portland to Rose Valley nine months ago, uses a drill to carve on animal skulls of all sizes. The intricate, geometric patterns he etches and drills into the bleached bone make the carvings look like white embroidered lace.

He said he’s worked on the skulls of smaller animals, such as raccoons and coyotes, as well as other animal parts like jawbones and antlers, but his favorites are those of large animals like horses, black bears and longhorns.

Once, Borders, 31, said he obtained the skull of an Ankole-Watusi cow, the horns of which are 10 inches in diameter at the base and as long as Borders’ armspan. The skull itself is the size of a human torso.

Borders said he obtained the Watusi skull, as well as the longhorn skulls, from a ranch in Texas, but most of his more ordinary bones are given away by local farmers and hunters who have no use for them.

“My favorite way to do it . is just going out to people’s farms,” he said. “If people have animals that they butcher, or even if they don’t, they tend to have a place on the property somewhere that the bodies go. I’m always excited to find someone that’s like, ‘Oh yeah, go back there and grab whatever you want.’ ”

And he doesn’t always use animals that were killed: Borders said he gets his horse skulls after the equines die naturally.

Borders, who originally hails from Lexington, Kentucky, said he has always been drawn to animal symbolism.

“I’m inspired by myth and anthropology, anything old,” he said.

As far as carving bones, Borders said that practice began after his mother- and father-in-law gave him a Dremel drill for Christmas.

“I’ve always collected bones,” he said. “I’m always looking for a different medium to work with in the same way, and I had all these bones, so I put two and two together.”

One piece he recently completed consists of a series of patterned chalkboard relief carvings. Although the carvings seem to have unusual shapes at first glance, when put together, the pieces create a wolf or coyote-like animal.

After attending the Columbus College of Art and Design in Ohio, Borders and his wife, Elizabeth, moved to Portland when she got a job at Portland State University and he continued to pursue his art career. He wanted a rural lifestyle, hence their move to Rose Valley eight years later.

Borders’ art is consistently featured in Portland and New Orleans galleries, and some of the larger pieces featured on his website sell for thousands of dollars. Some of his art sells through his galleries or websites. Occasionally, he’ll get a specific request and work on commission.

According to Borders, he’s sold some of his pieces as far away as Ireland and the U.K., and his art has been shown in Berlin.


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