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3-D wooden maps combine St. Pete man’s passion for nature and animation

Dean Forss made his first map in 2015. One of his largest is on display in the new St. Pete Pier.

TIERRA VERDE, Fla. — Dean Forss has always had a love for geography. He laments the fact it’s not taught thoroughly in schools anymore. The passion he has for the landscape is apparent in his work.

“My personality is one of those things where you grab it and you go. There’s no second place,” said Forss, who lives in Tierra Verde. “It’s like, if I’m going to do it I want to do it really, really well.”

Forss has been making wooden, multi-layer maps since 2015. He uses a laser and knowledge gleaned from years of work as a cartographer.

“First question (I get), ‘So, where did you get the map?’ And then I have to come back and say, ‘Well, I made it,’” he said.

Depending on availability, Forss makes the water layers from thin, Colorado aspen, poplar, or African mahogany. The top layers are made of quarter-inch birch. It’s all glued together and framed. The wood is cut on a Co2 laser, which Forss called a “huge learning curve.” Samples of the work can be seen on the Boss Laser website.

Forss first introduced the public to his work at the Saturday morning market in downtown St. Pete. It gained immediate attention.

“COVID killed us,” Forss said. “We’re not at the market anymore.”

He has maps completed for 28 different areas of Florida with others in the works. All can be meticulously scoured over on his Island Laser Design website

Each map comes in a variety of sizes from a desktop 9x11-inch version selling for $89 to an enormous 36x43-inch map which runs customers nearly $1,600.

His first was made in 2015. One of his largest featuring seven layers of wood is on display at the new St. Pete Pier.

“It’s the most detailed map I have done to date,” he said. “It’s seven feet tall by six feet wide. There’s a lot to this.”

He’s also created maps for locations in Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, South Carolina and one showing the lower 48 states of the USA.

"There’s a lot of vector graphic artwork that you have to be an expert in to get to this point,” he said.

It’s a passion that has turned into a business. He’s sold over 2,000 maps in six years at the St. Pete market and on his website.

In 2008 he was commissioned to build a Korean War memorial in Hawaii at Hangar 79.

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