Glen Bauer sees things in things.
Every week now for 25 years, the 76-year-old Alta resident has stepped into his "creation station" on the north side of Alta and has been able to churn out wonderful wooden creations flowing from his expansive and innovative imagination.
An ordinary log becomes a birdhouse carved into the shape of a farmer with a corncob hanging out of his mouth.
A burnt honeysuckle root turns into a hand-crafted sculpture worthy of residing on a living room's end table.
A collection of layered paint drippings becomes a colorful butterfly appearing ready to take flight into the sky.
Bauer has owned and operated Bauer's Wood Shed for a quarter-century, and his skills have allowed him to help his customers in a variety of ways, from refinishing old antique rocking chairs to creating an exquisite cabinet chiseled out of pieces of fine oak.
He said he has been fortunate to possess the creative gifts he has been blessed with, and said he has been able to make numerous treasures out of items many people may consider trash.
"I guess the best explanation is that I see things in things," Bauer said. "It just kind of pops up. You look at something and think that it looks like so and so, and then you go ahead and try to make that. I might see something in the newspaper and think, ooh, that sounds unusual. Then I go out and try to make it.
"There's a lot of imagination and creativity involved with this, because there are so many ordinary things that can be made into a good piece of work. I just try to find anything that sounds unique and then work with that idea the best I can."
Bauer, who grew up on a farm in Holstein, has lived in Alta with his wife, Jeanna, for 45 years, but his love affair with wood has lasted his entire life.
An artistic youth who also loved to paint, Bauer spent time working in a lumberyard for several years after school, and then joined Becker Manufacturing, where he helped construct hand-crafted furniture such as beds, dressers and cabinets.
He then decided to leave Becker Manufacturing to open up his own shop in 1976, and he has been able to offer his services to customers eager to acquire new furniture or have an old family heirloom restored over the past two decades.
Customers of Bauer's business do not just hail from Alta. He has had visitors from Orange City, LeMars, Sioux Rapids, Storm Lake, Schaller, Spencer and Aurelia, and has also seen his products wind up in homes nationwide.
He has completed numerous orders from people living on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, and has also crafted items for residents living in states surrounding Iowa as well.
The craftman said he has been able to fill a niche for people who would like to have furniture they know is carefully made by hand or want an unusual item that cannot be purchased at a major furniture retailer.
"I've been able to help a lot of people who need something that they can't just buy in stores," Bauer said. "I've sent some items to people in New York City and my relatives in San Francisco, and other people have seen it and then called and asked if I could make something like that item for them. I'm always happy to help them out, because it means they must have like what they saw, and that's a very rewarding feeling."
Long boards of wood are scattered throughout the store, but Bauer keeps a large number of pieces of cherry, mahogany, oak, cedar, and pine stacked up in neatly organized rows on one of the walls of Bauer's Wood Shed, allowing him to easily pick the proper type of lumber for each project.
Much of his wood comes from the Paxton and Dunlap companies, but other times he picks up lumber buried in wooded areas or on nature trails.
He said some of his best finished products started out as old tree bunions or rotted pieces of old trees, items just waiting to be transformed from scrap
"I love beng able to take something that people wouldn't think of as an item that could be used and make it into something great to look at," Bauer said. "In a lot of things, like tree bunions or burnt roots, it's just a matter of cutting it and trying to make something exotic out of it. It's fun trying to look for those pieces that are creative and different."
Many of his creations have found their way into Bauer's home in Alta, as examples of his carvings and artwork permeate the residence.
Guests enter through a Bauer-made wooden front door which displays a carving of three birds perched on a branch, and immediately enter a living room which is covered with numerous pieces of art.
A large ceramic bowl and wooden figurine in the shape of a treble clef sign lie on top of the end table, while paintings of scenes in nature sparkle off the white walls.
The cabinets in all of the rooms in the home were made by Bauer, and tables, chairs and clocks are also the end results of Bauer's many hours of work.
However, Bauer's time at his store does not consist solely of creation, but of restoration as well.
An old white rocking horse is one of Bauer's main rehabilitation projects now, as he has been brushing up and fixing the old antique children's toy for several weeks, hoping to recapture the newness of the item as much as possible.
Many people bring in old antiques such as the rocking horse for Bauer to dismantle and put back together again, and he said he must do a lot of research to be able to make the objects look like they were just built yesterday.
He said he receives a lot of assistance from many customers, who are able to provide information about the products that Bauer may not have been aware of before beginning the project.
"Many times people learn that I'm looking for information on a certain item, and they then get me the information I need to fix up the antique," Bauer said. "I've received a lot of help from other people when I do old items. It's really beneficial for me, and it also helps make the finished product a lot better too."
"It's been my whole life," Bauer said, "but it's something I really love to do."
"I hope to stay with it for a while because I really like it," Bauer said. "It gives me something to get up for every day. I really love my job."