Made in the Midlands

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Posted: Saturday, July 6, 2013 12:00 am

Story by Dan McCann

There is something reassuring about Johan Pedersen's handiwork – a stunning reminder in this digital age – that craftsmen still create pieces that are solid and beautiful. And very real.

In his skilled hands in his home workshop in Blair, north of Omaha, small tables made from Douglas fir and dark walnut, tiger maple and padauk become works of art.

“I like the natural beauty of the wood to speak for itself,” says the Danish-born Pedersen.

His tables have clean, simple lines – a nod to his Danish heritage and the principles of Scandinavian design. Stainless steel pins join the wood and heighten the modern uniqueness of each piece.

Pedersen emigrated to North America with his family as a very young child. Work opportunities drew his father, a mason, to Canada first and then, about four years later, to Blair. That was in the early 1960s.

“I got held back in first grade because I would read American textbooks and speak them out in Danish,” laughs Pedersen who earns a living, like his father did, as a full-time mason.

Woodworking is a decades-old pastime. Attending Wooden Boat School in Brooklin, Maine, in 1982, stoked his passion.

“That's where this all started,” he explains. “Once you start boat-building, the woodworking world really opens up because you're always working with curves; you're always bending wood to do something.”

In addition to furniture, Pedersen enjoys making wooden canoes and kayaks. He is also an award-winning carver of decorative bird and duck decoys. “Once you have a full understanding of the anatomy of wood ... new doors start opening."

For Pedersen, woodworking is a key source of happiness. “If you're not happy with what you're doing, don't do it,” he advises. “If you're not happy, you won't be inspired.”

WHERE TO BUY

Johan Pedersen's accent tables can be found at Lewis Art Gallery in Omaha.

Tables range in price from $995 to $1,195.

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