How Can I Bring Nature Indoors (for Brown Thumbs)?

Caroline Wolfe Papocchia - In the dead of winter, there's one thing we all crave: a simple touch of nature. Against a white backdrop, the smallest sprig of leafy green can immeasurably lift the spirits and transport us to a different place and time. It’s no wonder, then, that the practices of crafting terrariums are alive and well in their modern renaissance – and with environmentally-friendly updates as well.

First created (accidentally) by Nathaniel Ward in the mid-1800s, terrariums became incredibly popular in the Victorian era as an opportunity for folly, experimentation, craft, and art. Ward’s original terrariums were closed ecological systems, enlivened with constant cycles of evaporation and watering. The delicate balance of the closed system was suited to the delicate design of Wardian terrarium cases, which look like glass-enclosed birdhouses.

Terrariums fell out of fashion for many years but have made a serious comeback with a modern twist. Wardian cases are still available, but the hallmarks of contemporary terrarium making are two-fold, and relate entirely to the vessel. Firstly, the vessel’s form is often softer, more liquid, and more organic than those boxes of yore.

But secondly, and perhaps more valuably, the vessels used for modern terrariums are often “found” or recycled objects. (And as in the photo below, they can showcase found objects versus plant material.)

Twig Terrariums, founded by a pair of very smiley ladies in Brooklyn, is an enormously popular terrarium company that sells both finished terrariums and DIY kits. Twig’s pieces are unique in that they utilize the classic combination of moss, rocks, and soil, but the artists also add tiny figurines to create a vignette within the glass.

As they say, many of their creations are in “antique, vintage…[or] any odd glass objects we find on our travels. “

Co-owner Katy Maslow was handcrafting terrariums at a recent holiday market into everything from old stopper bottles to de-filamented light bulbs.

The popularity of terrariums has also spawned a DIY approach, and homemade terrariums also carry the environmentally-friendly mantle of reuse – specifically, made in jam and other lidded jars.

This article has been reprinted with the permission of the Sheffield SchoolNew York, NY. Sheffield began as an Interior Design school in 1985, and then expanded its course offerings to train people in other design-related fields, including Feng ShuiWedding and Event Planningand Jewelry DesignWith thousands of active students and more than 50,000 graduates, Sheffield has trained more design professionals than any school in the world.