botanical inspirationThe Art of Collecting

The Art of Collecting: Ann Wood of Woodlucker

by Erin Austen Abbott

Collecting with Ann Wood of Woolucker for Design*Sponge

Ann Wood has spent most of her life arranging and curating her many collections. When she was only 12 years old, her mom painted her bedroom floor to ceiling with a bright white paint, handed Ann her own set of paints and told her to create what she wanted to see on the walls. Each weekend, Ann would spend hours lining her shelving unit with painted flowers, and she would paint birds on the ceiling and animals and figures all over the walls of the room. “That really gave me permission to think big,” Ann says. “For your mom to let you paint on the walls was the ultimate freedom, and the ultimate confidence that you would do something marvelous.”

Ann has not stopped collecting, curating, or arranging since then. Quite the opposite, as she’s made the art of collecting her life’s work. Ann grew up on a farm in Iowa, surrounded by nature, plants and gardens. She now sees her Minnesota backyard garden as an extension of her grouped collections, for which she has many. She collects everything from Italian glass ornaments to vintage coats to miniature ceramics. Each spring her garden space takes on a new form of collecting and arranging, where she spends time reconfiguring this living collection. Much like what she does in her own art work, she studies one plant at a time, understanding its properties fully and then moving onto a new specimen. It’s this dissection that Ann uses to recreate her work in paper, to make it the most accurate collection possible. “I’m an intense observer of forms,” Ann adds.

From her Minneapolis studio, she’s built a stunning display of work that she hopes to see hang in a museum one day. It’s not a collection that she wants to sit in a private home, but rather be shared with lots of people and is currently searching for it to land in the right public place. “I wanted something more connective, to connect outward to a wide range of people,” Ann shares. “Seeing my dad’s response to plants showed me that there is a vehicle that I can really get on and feel that connection to people that might not normally connect to art. But gardening — people love gardening. So that’s where I really started with the whole idea. I thought, I’m going to try making plants and I’m going to share them on Instagram and see what happens. With the daily build-up of sharing pictures of my work, it’s spurred me on to keep exploring and refining this desire.”

Looking at collecting as a form of curation, Ann displays her work loosely on the wall or in a bowl, or even in scientific specimen boxes, each piece very delicate and meticulously worked on for days or weeks, to ensure it’s replicated exactly and correctly. All lined up together on one wall, you get intricate details, paper fiber bits, and hand painted lines, giving you a different perspective whether you are close up or standing back away from her work — almost like a three-dimensional wallpaper. “To me, I like collections to have a purpose and be useful,” Ann says. “And make me feel good about the space that I live in.”

I think Ann has such a beautiful aesthetic balance of collecting and arranging — and we are thrilled to kick off our new series, The Art of Collecting, with her immensely breathtaking collection. —Erin 

Photography by Ann Wood of Woodlucker

The Art of Collecting with Ann Wood for Design*Sponge
A closer look at the giant wall collection, made by Ann Wood.
The Art of Collecting with Ann Wood for Design*Sponge
From plants to vegetables, fruit, and insects, this faux living wall made from paper is stunning.
The Art of Collecting with Ann Wood for Design*Sponge
Ann hand paints all the paper creations in her collection.
The Art of Collecting with Ann Wood for Design*Sponge
Studying the properties of all living plants has been the hands-on guide that Ann needed to move forward with her work.
The Art of Collecting with Ann Wood for Design*Sponge
A corner of her studio, complete with specimen boxes of her work, all made from paper and hand painted.
The Art of Collecting with Ann Wood for Design*Sponge
Ann's goal is to share this collection with a museum, giving viewers the chance to see her collection as a whole.
The Art of Collecting with Ann Wood for Design*Sponge
Redefining the idea of life imitating art, Ann switches those concepts around.
The Art of Collecting with Ann Wood for Design*Sponge
Her work is charming and so lifelike.
The Art of Collecting with Ann Wood for Design*Sponge
Different feathers grace her collections, all handmade by Ann.
The Art of Collecting with Ann Wood for Design*Sponge
Many of her pieces are displayed as loose petals in a bowl.
The Art of Collecting with Ann Wood for Design*Sponge
Much like the round garden in her backyard, Ann likes to display in circles, as an ode to the circle of life and the full circle her work has come, from her life on a farm as a child.
The Art of Collecting with Ann Wood for Design*Sponge
What is real and what's handmade is hard to distinguish in Ann's work.
The Art of Collecting with Ann Wood for Design*Sponge
Much of what Ann likes to grow in her garden is replicated in her work.

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  • Ann, your world is intensely moving and very very beautiful. I follow along on Instagram but to see these wonderful images, one more beautiful than the next fill up my entire computer screen, it is humbling and I feel an immense privilege to be able to see your work so up close and personal.
    Thank you so much for sharing!

    Ruth x

    • Thanks Ruth for your kind comment. I do enjoy creating this work and sharing it on IG. I create from a place in my heart that on most days taps into my joy. It’s my goal to move beyond doubt, reaching outward without fear to touch a creative spirit that is free.

  • What a perfect way to kick off this new series! Ann is obviously an unbelievable talent and inspiration for many, but she’s also kind and supportive of other artists in the flourishing paper art/florist community. Thank you for featuring her, Erin (and Grace!), and thanks for sharing more about your vision and background with the world, Ann. I can’t wait to see your work in person someday.

  • What a gorgeous and incredible collection. Seeing these beautiful objects lifted my spirits this morning. Ann, thank you for sharing your art with the world. Erin and Grace, I am looking forward to this new series.

  • So beautiful. Her IG account continues with more delicate artistry! Love that Design Sponge continues to introduce us to amazing artists.


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