Hammered In The Mountains
By: Pedram Parvin (Western Hunter Magazine)
Most of us long time hunters have a set, or if we’re lucky enough, a bag of elk ivories that we have laying around that we have always wanted to do something memorable with, but never have. I found myself in this exact situation, when I came across Autumn Fahnholz of Hammered In The Mountains. I was amazed by her attention to detail and her ability to capture the essence of a hunt through her work. I reached out to Autumn to learn more about her story, her work, and her life experiences. Autumn shared with me how far her work has come, and how it all began as a devoted hunter.
With a background and bachelor’s degree in Biology, she expressed that finding a year-round position that she was passionate about in Salmon, Idaho was not easy to come across. Her life experiences from working with the Idaho Fish & Game taught her a lot and led her to learning western bright cut engraving from a local silversmith. That is where Autumn’s interest with silver and becoming a maker was immediately sparked.
She expressed to me that she knew from the very beginning that engraving wasn’t what she wanted to delve into, so she went her own way carving her own path. At the time she did not have a lot of money to her name. In fact, her first hammers, files, and pliers were purchased from the trading post in Salmon. They were well used and had a little rust on them, but that was not going to stop her from using them. While working random jobs with not much to do in the evenings during the cold and dark winters, she found herself sitting at a makeshift workbench in a little primitive cabin in the mountains. Autumn spent countless hours and nights trying to figure out how to solder, saw, forge, and stamp silver by hand, and there it was, Hammered In The Mountains was born.
Teaching herself this skillset came with wasted silver, failure, frustration, and more experimentation than she could begin to mention. However, when she would finally start to see the end result of what she had imagined, that moment of joy significantly outweighed all of the bad. Two years ago, Autumn took a big chance and decided she wanted to become a full-time silversmith. Although she knew it was the right decision, it was not an easy task with losing a steady income. Her husband, Benjamin, was behind her 100% of the way and paid the bills until she could get on her feet. Benjamin and his family own and operate Life-Like Taxidermy in Carmen, Idaho. Her husband, his dad, and his brother have entered in many taxidermy competitions over the years and in 2019 Benjamin brought home a Best in World Title with a pedestal antelope, and his brother Brandon, a 2nd Best in World Title with a life-size Mountain Lion.
Their passion and attention to detail with their clean and precise work when recreating animals is something she looks up to. She learned a lot from those guys when it comes to detailed work and strives to keep her work neat and clean just like them. The passion and tradition with hunting in the Fahnholz family is something that runs deep through their blood. While the guys at Life-Like Taxidermy are recreating animals from memorable hunts, she has also found a way to relive those memorable hunts with her very own skillset involving elk ivory. The Fahnholz name values family, tradition, and the stories that come from their times afield and strive to create things that will not only last a lifetime, but can be passed down to the next generation with a story behind it.
In life there are small moments that cannot be summed up by simply looking at the physical actions that have taken place. There are times when those actions hold a meaning deeper rooted into our souls, forged into our hearts and minds by the preparation, determination, hard work and faith we put forth. One instance that Autumn recalls took place deep in the wilderness on one of the most physically demanding hunts Benjamin and her had ever embarked on. After sealing the deal on potentially the bull of her lifetime with a perfect cross canyon shot, they made their way up to the huge bodied bull elk. Flooded with emotions that one can only feel after taking part in such an amazing hunt, Benjamin got down on one knee and asked her if she would spend the rest of her life with him. Some may have questioned the fact that he did not have a ring in hand, Autumn however, knew that the moment they shared on that mountain could be forever symbolized by creating something with that bull’s ivories. Where a person lacking in the ability to relate to and know such feelings might just see a tooth from an animal, she saw an opportunity to memorialize a life changing experience. She has since made him a ring and still has the other ivory she plans to use in a very special piece for herself. Benjamin and his brother, Brandon, still wear matching pendants from a bull hunt that they shared together years ago. For their family, there is no better way to symbolize the bonds and ties created in the mountains and woods.
Autumn’s true passion with Hammered In The Mountains is to turn those elk ivories into wearable memories. As an avid backcountry hunter herself, she knows the significance of each hunt and how those memories are so meaningful to us all. Her handcrafted, rugged, and creative hard work is an extension of your hunts and celebrations. Three custom pieces that she just finished up for the Western Hunter Magazine are a men’s elk ivory ring, a talisman, and a Benchmade Hidden Canyon knife inlay.
Hammered In The Mountains jewelry is sawed, soldered, forged, hammered, stamped, filed, sanded, and polished all by hand making each piece irreplaceable. Her work is meant to be used and worn, and people are always asking the stories behind these pieces, which gives you an opportunity to relive each of the amazing hunts and experiences all over again.
If you're interested in a custom piece, give her a call (814-221-2408) as she would be happy to hear about your hunt and work with you to capture exactly what you are looking for. You can also see and choose from any of her previous elk ivory work on her website Hammeredinthemountains.com Autumn's work is meticulously designed, ruggedly crafted, and handmade for hunters, by a hunter.