MONTEVIDEO, Minn. (WCCO) — When you think of art, you might think of paintings or sculptures, but a western Minnesota father-son team is channeling other forms of creativity.
Doug and Brook Pederson run a tree-trimming service in Montevideo. Much of the scraps from their business becomes the canvas for their artwork. Behind the wood carvings is something both ancient and unique, as they work to keep a rare form of art alive.
“It’s kind of one of those perfect mediums,” Brook said.
Brook Pederson will go to great lengths, or heights, to get his hands on a potential piece of art. While he and his dad Doug are tree-trimming specialists by day, scaling some of Chippewa County’s tallest trees.
“The actual tree-trimming and tree removal side is a rush,” Brook said.
But when the job is done, quite often the leftovers end up in their studio.
“We have found gold out there,” Brook said. “There definitely are a lot of woods that are sought after — walnut, cedar.”
He says he likes the loud, power tool sounds that come with his art. But if Brook is the heavy metal artist, Doug is more of the rock-n-roller.
“You have to like to work small,” Doug said.
He’s one of a handful of “scrimshaw” artists remaining that does all of his work by hand. Sitting on an old barber chair and working on stacks of styrofoam glued together, Doug patiently but persistently carves out wildlife scenes, sitting for hours and sometimes working on a space no bigger than a fist.
“I’d like to know how many of these pinpricks I’ve made over the last 40 years,” he said. “I sometimes find myself guilty of not knowing how to stop.”
“He’s got the patience of Job,” Brook said. “That’s the only way I can say it.”
It’s not just old school art, it’s ancient. On this day, Doug’s canvas is a mastodon tusk that’s thousands of years old.
“You’re working on something that walked around a long time ago,” he said. “It just adds another special feeling to it.”
He’s also worked on ostrich eggs and hundreds of deer antlers. Unlike a painter, Doug can barely see what he’s doing. He has wildlife pictures that’s he’s taken over the years for inspiration, but most of what he scratches out comes from memory.
“This can get a little tedious,” he said.
He also loves the unknown that comes with scrimshaw.
“The best part is, you see nothing until you apply the ink,” he said. “And all of the sudden it’s there.”
The unknown has worked out more often than not over the years, and with plenty of inspiration just outside his front door, Doug’s still scratching the surface of what he can do.
“My scrimshaw, I feel very comfortable with,” he said. “It’s something I’ve done for a long time.”
The Pederson’s art can be found at their workshop in Montevideo. Their studio is open to the public every year, during the first weekend of October as part of “meander,” also known as the upper Minnesota River Art Crawl.