Step into Robert E. Peterson’s home in Perry, and you’ll quickly realize his passion for woodworking and wood carving.
His eclectic collection of handmade creations feature pieces all made with care and painstaking detail—from a small, painted tiger, complete with tiny whiskers, to a gun rack, picture frames, display cases and more.
Some projects sit unfinished, including a menagerie of creatures waiting for Peterson’s skilled hands to bring them fully to life. They include figurines of a mountain lion, ibex and hippopotamus, as well as larger pieces, such as an eagle’s head. When completed, he plans to present it to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Des Moines, as a “thank you” for all they do for veterans (Peterson, a veteran himself, was wounded in the Korean War).
He likes to carve animals, in particular.
“I’m just interested in animals. They fascinate me,” Peterson says.
Working with wood was something he picked up while in grade school, says Peterson, who along with his two brothers taught themselves wood carving through a lot of trial and error.
“During the Depression, we didn’t have TV. We made our own toys,” he says. “The first carving I remember doing, I decided to make a puppet. I was probably 11 or 12. The head was kind of square, but all of the joints worked.”
The joy he found working with wood as a child continues today.
“To me, it’s relaxing,” Peterson says of his craft. “It’s creative.”
On his work table in his basement sits a rocking horse he’s making for his daughter. The horse, about 30 inches long and 26 inches high, is about halfway done. To complete the project, Peterson will order a leather saddle, reins, bridle and tail and mane, both made of real horsehair.
Many of the things he makes he gives to family and friends, and he has sold some things (“Not intentionally,” he says). He has donated some of the money he’s made, including contributing to Minburn United Methodist Church. He’s also made a cross and other items for the church, Peterson says.
His artistry can also been seen at locations including St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, Dallas County Hospital (he made a garden bench in memory of his late wife, Elizabeth, who worked at the hospital) and Perry Bridal Boutique in Perry.