Alpenglow Article

An Eye For Aspen Art - By: Chris Tracy

Crunching through the golden autumn woods, Rob Peeters spies a perfect specimen. There. On the ground. Winding under a bush and across the path. Knotty. Twisted. Aged to perfection. He can see the possibilities. With bark off and care-fully sanded and finished to a natural patina, this piece will be perfect for his next coffee table.

A former ski bum, Sharpshooter photographer, raft guide and seasonal carpenter, Peeters has found his niche. With a photographer's eye for design and light, a carpenter's finesse with tools, and a mountain lover's appreciation for nature, Peeters has evolved into an artist-a creator of the finest rustic art using only quality materials from the earth: trees and stone.

Peeters' custom furniture is made of aspen from groves in Grand County, Colorado's Fraser Valley. A step beyond most aspen furniture, Peeters' pieces are set apart by creative uses of hand-picked granite table top slabs, steel and brass accents, and etched glass doors with interior lighting.

A native of Chicago, Peeters came to Colorado in 1991. "I came for the out-of-college ski bum experience, " he reflects. His first aspen wood project-a desk-evolved from another job. "I was working for a guy on property above Grand Elk near Granby, " he explains.

"We cut a road through an aspen grove. I took some of the green logs and made some log frame furniture." Now he uses standing dead aspen and trees from the forest floor for the richer color and grain that give his furniture a sense of depth and elegance. Warm browns and rusts wind through the light wood in creamy swirls-the gifts of rotting bark, bugs and sunshine on aged wood.

Peeters has sold his work at dozens of art shows around Colorado and the Southwest. Encouraged by the response to his designs and craftsmanship, Peeters opened Naked Aspen Designs in Fraser, where his coffee tables, dressers, dining room sets and hand-chiseled, granite-topped bars are on display. Smaller gift items include towel racks, toilet paper holders, picture frames and shelves.

"Custom work is my specialty," Peeters notes, and adds he also offers gift certificates and will ship almost anywhere, even personally delivering to the Midwest. Colorado artists that Peeters meets at art shows also sell their work in his shop, including stained glass and geode art hangings, aspen vases, framed photos, oil lamps, clocks, wine and magazine racks, and lamps.

Shop hours are Fridays through Sundays or by appointment. Most days, Peeters is working close by in his workshop-sanding, creating and finishing more works of art. Just call the number on the show room door and he'll meet you.

"Snow days are iffy," notes Peeters, who, like many in this ski town, considers eight inches of snow reason to celebrate on the slopes at Mary Jane.

Interior designers and new homeowners will appreciate Peeters' willingness to work with custom ideas and special projects. He can modify any of his designs to incorporate any style or wood, and adds wormy maple, alder and walnut to some of his projects.

Why the Naked Aspen Designs name? "I wanted something people will remember," Peeters says, pointing to a heavy dresser. "I sand down to the bare colors."

Peeters turns on the light inside the etched glass door of the bar he presently uses as a counter. Admiring how the light reacts with the colored wine bottles, he rubs a hand over the smooth aspen door frame and over the marble top. "A fine piece of recycled earth," he thinks out loud.

This article first appeared in Alpenglow Magazine. Copyright Curry Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.