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A way with wood
Contractor builds homes by day, art at night
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Photo by TOM MICHALSKI
Kelly Pedrick Thomsen works in his studio on one of his live oak creations.
PINELLAS PARK – Kelly Pedrick Thomsen is a soft spoken, modest contractor who discovered a new niche in life as a wood artist.

“It’s something I really enjoy, that I’m very passionate about,” Thomsen said. “It’s all about self-gratification.”

Born in St. Petersburg, he has lived here since age 2. At 43 he boasts a rewarding career building new homes and refurbishing older ones. Virtually all his business comes from references and he never advertises.

With roots here and in the Sarasota area, Thomsen designed and built his spacious home on 76th Street. It’s filled with his live oak wood art.

An avid outdoorsman and camper, his work has already been presented at three local shows.

“The wood is dug from the sand at Horse Creek near Arcadia,” Thomsen said. “It’s nature, not I, that creates the unusual shapes.”

A cousin, Scott Proffit, who is a trained marine biologist turned Sarasota bookshop owner, believes the wood dates back a century or more. It’s dried for about three months. A sideyard is filled with tangled limbs in various stages of preservation.

“The dark color comes naturally from the tannic acid of the river water and sand,” Thomsen said. “The acid is created by decaying leaves and other foliage.”

Thomsen gathers his booty by walking in the water and dragging a rowboat. He often finds the fossilized remains of mastodons, mammoths and other creatures that once roamed the earth.

He uses small tools, chainsaws, electric sanders and tedious hand-sanding to mold the wood into dolphins, sharks and other shapes. His first project, a bird, is about a foot high and decorates a table next to a much larger sculpture. He finishes each piece with oil and uses WD40 to keep it glistening.

“One’s imagination describes what a particular piece might be,” he said.

One resembles a shark from one angle, a dolphin from another and another kind of fish from a third angle.

“It takes one to three days to complete a project,” Thomsen said. “I did a sting ray project that took 10 days.”

Thomsen’s work was recently showcased at a St. Petersburg art show. His goal is to retire as a wood artist, though he still wants to keep a hand in home building.

“I don’t do it for the money,” Thomsen said. “I do it because it’s rewarding and it allows me to be creative.”
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