Ted & Becky Johnson behind the counter at their gallery in Pepin, Wisconsin, BNOX Gold & Iron.
A visit to Pepin, Wisconsin will find you on the edge of a gorgeous, bluff-lined river; a vintage village where a husband and wife team have made their metal smithing dreams come true. Rebecca Paquette Johnson and Ted Johnson met in high school where they often shared an Art class. After high school, Rebecca attended the University of Wisconsin-Stout for a Fine Arts degree, while d pursued an Art Education degree at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Both were increasingly interested in Art metals and each other. Both graduated in 1992 and married that same year. The gallery, BNOX GOLD & IRON, was born in 1993. Now Rebecca and Ted continue to share their adoration for art and their love for each other, as they run their gallery in Pepin.
The name BNOX can be credited to Ted's grandparents (Burt and Erma), who also spent a considerable amount of time in Pepin. From the time they were courting, they closed their love letters with BNOX. They had always promised their friends and relatives they would announce the meaning on their fiftieth wedding anniversary. The anniversary came and went, and mysteriously they took the secret with them. A picture of the two of them doing what they loved prominently graces a gallery wall The old sepia toned portrait depicts the stylish couple proudly sitting in a beautiful old wooden canoe. One can tell by their dress, this is not your usual boating photograph. It was indeed their wedding picture - they had eloped. The canoe reads in bold, hand-painted letters, BNOX! Many believe the acronym had a romantic meaning, perhaps having to do with hugs and kisses.
Rebecca and Ted spent their courtship canoeing the Wisconsin waters and, like Ted’s grandparents, have a deep love and respect for the Mississippi River and the history - rich village where the Gallery resides. Ted’s lineage goes back to the 1850’s when his great, great, grand father deeded the land now called Pepin, claiming a number of acres for himself, his family and future generations. The land remains intact and shared by relatives. It is a common denominator that brings the family back together, season after season, year after year. Thus, the Mississippi waters, family history, and homesteaded property, beckoned yet another generation back: Ted accompanied by Rebecca.
Ted’s versatile approach is reflected in his iron; where minimal, modern tables are his niche. He also finds organic, more traditional forms a frequent part of his design palette. His minimal tables often have a massive look in both the ironwork and choice of tabletop material. Rich looking Winona stone is Ted’s tabletop preference. It is often light in color and always naturally textured. It presents a wonderful contrast to the iron. Burgeoning ends form pleasing shapes while decorative, yet traditional, steel collars hold joints solidly. Ted’s more classic side chooses to create leafy, winning organic forms such as ivy and gingko leaves. Asymmetric vines grasp and wind their way toward the top of a table, just as a natural vine would grow. It is amazing to see Ted work a rigid, cold material such as steel like clay and in the end form a graceful leaf. You’ll find his designs are aesthetically pleasing, yet very functional.
Because of the success of the gallery, Rebecca’s metalwork has evolved into the art of collaboration. Managing the gallery leaves little time to pure metal smithing; but, as a result, she has found a way to stay attached to it by designing one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry which are then executed by one of the 70 artists represented in the gallery. Knowledge of stone setting, stone characteristics, metals qualities and design make it possible for Rebecca to maintain an attachment to her first love, metal smithing by designing, while focusing on the growth of the business. There is nothing more satisfying and exciting to Rebecca than being an integral part of a custom piece of jewelry, working one on one with clients, and being challenged to create an original one of a kind design. It is a proud moment to be able to bask in the happiness of a client who, for the first time, is holding a custom piece of jewelry you were involved in creating.
In addition to the fine hand-crafted jewelry and ornamental ironwork, you will also find this eclectic gallery beautifully decorated with a broad and colorful brush. The variety of artistic mediums are diverse, from vividly painted scarves to wildly carved surreal masks. The seemingly sun-beckoning glass will surely catch your eye, if the playful anodized aluminum mobiles dancing on the ceiling don’t!.
The picture at left was taken during Pepin's Grand Excursion Celebration, July 1, 2004. Miss Becky Paquette and Miss Mindi Rundquist had a ball playing dress up!