SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — Ted Fehn could be called an artistic pioneer, popularizing a new home décor called "rustic chic."
But instead of major alterations of the wood, Fehn lets the rugged uniqueness tell its own story.
"If I have a rough piece of wood, I like to retain its original charm," he said. "Something can be both creative and have character. I'm trying to bring nature and the outside inside."
Fehn, 47, is a Santa Cruz, Calif., native and has been a general contractor since the age of 22. He said he got the idea several years ago to make decorative home pieces from simple discards at project sites.
"Seeing the stuff wasted bothered me," he said.
A graduate of Harbor High School in Santa Cruz, he followed family members into the construction business, but said he also inherited an artistic bent from his parents.
"My grandfather was in construction," Fehn said. "I come from bakers, cooks, chefs and musicians on my father's side, artists on my mother's side."
An enthusiastic outdoorsman, surfer, cyclist, as well as a musician who plays guitar and an upright base with a local band, Fehn said that during housing remodels, he would often find materials headed for the dump.
He said he felt this wood could be salvaged and milled into items such as custom-made wine cabinets, spice racks, picture frames, birdhouses, jewelry boxes, furniture and entertainment centers.
"I started doing furniture pieces for a few friends," he said. "One piece was made from wood that came from an old beetle-killed tree. Another project was made from wood that came from a disintegrating water tower."
Fehn has a small woodworking shop in the back of his home, which is decorated with his work. He said eyeing the shape and texture of a piece of wood often gives him an idea for what it might become.
"It's almost like the wood is talking to you, pulling you in a direction," he said.
One piece, a depiction of a tree carved in cameo relief, is titled "Solitude."
"The wood for this came from a lemon tree on my aunt's property in Soquel," Fehn said.
Another is a faucet dripping water as a decorative fountain with a rough board background and a shelf in front for storing household items. Titled "Circulate," a similar version was made for the Linda's Seabreeze Café in Santa Cruz.
"People love the sound of flowing water," Fehn said. "I like to keep a project as natural as I can so it retains its original charm."
He explained that he likes to keep to a minimum any major changes to the wood.
But accidents do happen. When a project breaks during creation, Fehn said he tries to use the mishap to his advantage.
"On one carving, also a picture of a tree, the top border broke," he said. "So I smoothed it off and now have the tree growing out of the top of the picture. I titled it, 'Out of the Box.' Sometimes when a project goes wrong, I can get an entirely new idea for what it should become."
At a private showing last month, 60 people came to Fehn's house to view his works and he sold four pieces. A future showing will be held in February.
He said he hopes to grow the rustic chic look.
"Working and creating with wood is my passion," Fehn said. "We'll see where it takes me."
For information on wood creations by Ted Fehn, rustic art décor pieces and furniture for the home made from salvaged wood, call 831-459-6902.