Born in South Africa in 1980, Leoni Needham grew up in Mpumalanga. From the very beginning her environment was creative as her mother was a potter. At the tender age of six she had to submit an artistic entry piece for Junior School and she chose the medium of sculpture, so the seed was sown. Leoni qualified with a degree in Conservation Studies, and began an apprenticeship at a small foundry run by a local artist.
A year later she opened her own, and by 2013 it had become one of the largest in South Africa, casting the 7 metre tall bronze sculpture of Nelson Mandela which now stands on Navel Hill in Bloemfontein. In 2008, Leoni moved to Johannesburg and in 2013 began casting her own work; she now considers herself first and foremost a sculptor.
So what inspires her? “Simplicity to create as much with as little as possible.” She works in oil-based clay or directly in wax; both of which are not permanent mediums, so a mould is made and then cast in bronze. Leoni exhibits in galleries across South Africa and has work in collections internationally.