Terrariums are THE hot trend in the interiors community these days. As the rejuvenating spirits of Spring near, now is the perfect time to delve into this rediscovered phenomenon. The clamor for these creations is in part due to their broad appeal — a hybrid of fine art, biology, design and horticulture. This crossover essence is why — as you may very well guess — HighStreet people do dig them. These labyrinthine concoctions satisfy prevailing trends of locavore, Victoriana, and found-object. “In a laboratory of living design, we conjure art and science to create unusual living objects of wilderness — inspired by far-away landscapes both discovered and imagined.”
HighStreet currently carries a collection of fabulous terrariums by local artist Amy Bogard. We would be remiss; however, to not mention that these wee little worlds represent a realistically attainable DIY project. Do not be intimidated, after all these objects are simply re-purposed old apothecary jars, dusty light bulbs, moss, twigs and figurines, right? Best of all is the fact that even the most concrete-encased urbanite can collect the majority of required materials during a quick stroll around the block — no consumerism needed. From the humblest of beginnings, whether refined or whimsical, most anyone can create a visually stunning, independent and self-sufficient microclimate.
As previously mentioned, terrariums are not a newfangled craze. The prosperity of Victorian era Britain resulted in many women and men with much spare time on their hands. One of the egalitarian hobbies of the time was collecting plants — particularly ferns. Like many greenery-obsessed Victorians, Nathaniel Ward was a London doctor by profession who had an intense enthusiasm for botany.
Dr. Ward’s plants, particularly his ferns, were having difficulty surviving the polluted air of 1820s London. It was intensely frustrating for a passionate collector to not be able to keep the plant of the moment alive. While puzzling over the problem with his ferns, Dr. Ward noticed that the plants placed in his covered insect jars (for studying moths and caterpillars) were actually taking root in the soil. It was a moment of clarity — Dr. Ward realized that his miniature greenhouse could actually protect the plants enough so that they would thrive. Soon after his display at the Great Exhibition in 1851 London, where he flaunted a vibrant fern that had not been watered in 18 years, a Wardian Case (the precursor to the modern terrarium) was promptly nestled in every decorous home.
Terrariums enjoyed a revival in the 1970s in America — picture kitschy and kooky giant brandy snifters dangling in macrame hangers. The creations of today, in contrast, possess a cool and sleek sophistication. Nathaniel Ward could not have dreamed of the fantasy worlds birthed by Paula Hayes, the “high priestess” of terrariums. Having elevated them to objects of art with her ethereal creations, she is generating some serious buzz in today’s design industry. Hayes, originally from Concord, MA, is an artist who has showcased her works in numerous solo and group exhibitions worldwide. Her pieces have been seen in The New York Times, Artnet, Elle Decor, Interior Design, Garden Design, Vogue Living Australia, and more. What we love about her work is the modern approach of blurring the boundaries between indoors and outdoors while creating magical atmospheres. She refers to her primordial little worlds as verbs rather than nouns.
Although most famous for her exquisite, high-end art terrariums of organically shaped, handblown glass — her affinity for all things green extends to full gardens as well. She has created over twenty full gardens for private clients around the country. Hayes’s popularity among art collectors and the public has swelled dramatically over the past few years. Her installation in the lobby of MoMA, Nocturne of the Limax Maximus, garnered much critical acclaim and landed her a feature on CBS Sunday Morning.
What really sets the modern terrarium apart from its’ predecessor is the functionality that artists are bringing to the work. A prime example of this concept can be seen in the Furnibloom line, clear plexiglass furniture, designed by landscape architect Dagný Bjarnadóttir, that cleverly houses plants of all sorts.
Terrariums make wonderfully thoughtful gifts and are smart weddig centerpieces.
These terrariums are surfing the wave of interest in handmade crafts and do-it-yourself fever. Workshops are popping up in cities across the globe. Some of the better resources available online that provide instructions and inspiration are The Slug and The Squirrel, Twig, and Botany Factory. We at HighStreet believe that these multifarious little art objects are stunningly seductive. It also seems that the creative process wondrously soothes our need to nurture while offering fantasy and escape.
That is no small feat.