It started with a raccoon.
A few years ago, Jim Sorensen of Omaha was visiting a craft show with his daughter when he came across a vendor selling handmade woodwork.
“I thought I could probably do that,” he said.
He researched woodwork on the Internet and found a pattern of a raccoon peering through a tree branch. The little wooden creature can now be found in the entryway at The Arboretum, a senior living community in Omaha. Sorenson, 66, works there as a painter.
Over the years, he has created several more wood pieces and paintings, including two wildlife collages, a 4-foot crucifix, numerous smaller wall pieces depicting animals and a large Native American tribute he calls the “Thunderbird.”
Arboretum residents and staff celebrated his creations about two weeks ago with a surprise art show featuring more than 10 pieces of his work, including the raccoon.
“The artwork he does is just wonderful,” said Sheryl Fisher-Stowe, Arboretum executive director. “He has such a great talent, and our residents have really enjoyed seeing his pieces. We felt this was a good way to show it off and say thank you for all the hard work he does.”
Sorensen cuts each piece of wood by hand. He does not paint the pieces with stains, but rather uses the natural colors of different woods to bring contrast to his work.
The two wildlife collages, which are 20 inches by 30 inches, took him between six to seven months each to complete. The smaller projects can take from a few hours on a weekend to an entire week to finish.
He used patterns he found online for his creations, except for the “Thunderbird,” which he said he designed himself based on a picture he saw in a book.
“That’s probably my favorite, because I did it from scratch,” he said.
When he’s not working on a wood project, Sorensen does cross-stitch. Two of his cross-stitch pieces — a wolf and a tiger — were also on display at the art show.
His focus, however, remains on the hobby that began with a raccoon.
“It’s fun, and it keeps me busy,” he said. “I think it’s important to keep your mind sharp, and this keeps me out of trouble.”