Ann Wood's Paper Flowers, Fruit, and Insects Are a Sight to Behold

sculptural paper fruit still life
Photo: Ngoc Minh Ngo

Working with little more than paper, paint, wire, and wood, a Minneapolis artist is creating a dreamscape where flowers never wither, butterflies stop long enough for a good look, and fruit is fresh forever. Peek into her studio, and fall under her spell.

01 of 07
sculptural paper fruit still life
Ngoc Minh Ngo

Everyone knows what a peach looks like. It's round, fuzzy, and the color of a Santa Fe sunset. Cut the fruit open, and it's yellow, with a craggy brown pit inside. But if you're Ann Wood, the Minneapolis-based artist who creates paper sculptures of fruit and flowers so lifelike they could fool a hive of bees, these details are merely a starting point. Take her peach, which she depicts split open in half, still attached to its branch. She has replicated the subtle mottling of creamy yellow, orange, and pink skin, as well as the dark-auburn nodes on the stems. Inside, she's painted the ruby-red halo surrounding the pit. She's even conjured a small bruise on the flesh, to echo the spot in the real example she used as a model. "I'm not interested in an idealized fruit or flower," says the artist, whose Instagram account, @woodlucker, has 120,000 awestruck followers. "This is a very specific peach."

Pictured here: A buffet of lifelike fruits proves irresistible to fantastical butterflies. Before she started rendering botanicals about four years ago, Wood had a decades-long career in making folk-art-inspired mechanical sculptures. It was the death of her parents that prompted her new path. "When my father, who was a farmer, was in the last ages of illness, sometimes we would sit outside together and look at plants," she recalls. "I remember him pointing out some sumac and saying that it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. That really resonated with me."

02 of 07

Full of Life

portrait of ann wood in her studio
Ngoc Minh Ngo

Wood began experimenting with her own techniques for making paper flora, using acrylic paints and methods she developed from her practice as a mixed-media sculptor and painter. "I don't use crepe paper," she says. She prefers stock that ranges in thickness, from tissue-weight to heavy, and employs many different materials, from wood forms to wire. For a bleeding-heart plant, she found that a bit of fiber-fill stuffing inside the blooms achieved the perfect amount of plumpness. A group of blackberries, so real they look like they'll stain your fingers, is made from tiny beads. At first Wood used botanical illustrations as references, but now she works with live specimens, often dissecting them to better understand their construction. And she grows many of her floral muses in her own garden.

03 of 07

In Full Bloom

sculptural paper begonias propped up in an open botanical book
Ngoc Minh Ngo

"I'm most interested in common garden flowers, because they're relatable," says Wood, who is drawn to begonias, geraniums, and marigolds. "I like making things my parents would have enjoyed."

04 of 07

Flights of Fancy

an open botanical book with sculptural paper insects
Ngoc Minh Ngo

Wood's repertoire also includes bees, beetles, flies, ladybugs, and wasps. "They're larger than life-size and not intended to be realistic," says the artist, who carves their bodies, at more than double the size of real insects, out of wood. "To me, they're the jewelry of the garden."

05 of 07

Her Fair Lady

sculptural paper hibiscus
Ngoc Minh Ngo

This hibiscus is one of Wood's most complicated creations, thanks to its stamen, which includes dozens of minuscule filaments and anthers made out of fine wire. "I trashed two versions before I got it right," says the artist, whose tool kit includes utility knives, tweezers, fine-nose pliers, and Fiskars micro-tip scissors. "It's similar to jewelry-making."

06 of 07

Ripe for the Picking

sculptural paper peaches
Ngoc Minh Ngo

For this pair of peaches, Wood carved the fruit out of wood and painted spidery white veins on the paper leaves with a fine-point brush.

07 of 07

Wonders In Progress

collage of sculptural paper flowers and fruit
Ngoc Minh Ngo

Each new marvel Wood finishes is a step toward her ultimate goal: a wall installation of five hundred or so pieces, conceived as a meditation on nature, time, and fertility. This magnum opus, she hopes, will eventually be exhibited to the public. (And before you ask—alas, no, she doesn't sell individual works.) "I'm interested in the evanescence of life," she says of her astonishing attention to detail. "It's almost a way of stopping time."

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