Celebrities and wildlife fanatics worldwide own Anne Andersson’s shockingly realistic animal statues – but she spends her days painstakingly dying fur and carving paws in St. Petersburg.
“I’m known for my lions; people love them,” Andersson said. “The king of the jungle. I think I’m one of the only people who do this.”
The bases are carved from wood, and the muscle fibers, skin and facial features are all constructed from natural materials. The fur? Sisal fiber from agave plant – commonly used in tequila.
“I have no clue how I learned this really; I guess by studying photos of animals,” Andersson said. “I get this picture in my mind and I just create.”
With few frighteningly realistic lion artists around the world, Andersson is completely self taught, but she picked up a few tricks while working on a Fort Lauderdale design team in the ‘90s.
“We would make macrame animals for the parade floats,” Andersson said. “They weren’t very realistic then … I knew I wanted to do more.”
At age 25, Andersson moved from her home country of Sweden to the lawless art swamp of Florida.
“Very few people encourage you to become or try to become a full-time artist in Sweden,” she said. “I met an American man, got married in Sweden and settled in Florida. The American land of opportunity, you know.”
Her first creation, a leopard, wasn’t quite as detailed as the multidimensional animals she creates now, but even at her raw beginnings in the mid ‘90s, Andersson knew she’d fallen into her passion.
“I have celebrity clients; Micheal Strayhand, Leon Russell bought a tiger … Tippi Hedren from ‘The Birds,’” Andersson said. “I’m a bit of a recluse, but the celebrities are exciting still.”
Perhaps her most exciting sale, Andersson sculpted a pride of white tigers for Las Vegas magicians, Siegfried & Roy.
Another common clientele? Andersson sells a number of glassy-eyed creatures to safari lovers who want to bring home a piece of Africa, sans trophy hunting.
“I would love to get orders for surreal animals, a new species, maybe,” Andersson said. “People really just want what they can see I’ve already done.”
“A lion with antlers.”
Andersson’s creations have been in the Salvador Dalí Museum, Busch Gardens Tampa, Florida CraftArt and other local and not-so-local places.
Her pieces take months to complete and go for thousands of dollars. The artist sells from St. Petersburg, but shows from a studio in Miami.
See more of Andersson’s work anneandersson.com.