I’m a sucker for the layered worlds of dioramas and Joseph Cornell boxes. So when I happened upon the mini ecosystems with figurines held captive in glass created by Twig TerrariumsI couldn’t resist. The titles alone, like “Grazed and Confused” with its sheep wandering the fields of an apothecary jar and “Namaste” featuring a super yogi in a headstand while reading, made it hard to choose just one.
I went with a squat box with a lone prisoner sitting in the spongy greenery next to a ladder leading to the container’s opening. A twisted yet hopeful tableau called “When One Door Closes”.
With an array of scenes––from the idyllic to the flat-out bizarre––you’ll find the right sentiment for every occasion. The low maintenance landscapes of succulents and mosses have more staying power than fresh flowers and are harder to kill than your average plant. Plus, they offer DIY kits so you can build your own green scene.
Michelle Inciarrano and Katy Maslow are the masterminds behind these brilliant worlds in miniature. I stopped by their Brooklyn studio (where you can take a terrarium making workshop) and chatted with Michelle about her love of growing things and fondness for vagrants.
When did Twig begin? We started making the terrariums in our apartments in April of 2009. They caught on and we now have a dedicated store and studio space and four contracted employees. It’s very much like a dream.
Do you have a green thumb? I’ve been growing plants since I was a child. My first plant was a potato. I kept replanting it and it grew so tall that it scared me. I had to have my parents take it away. That’s really how it started for me. Katy has a black thumb. But when we started with the terrariums it was a gateway into the botanical for her. Now she’s really amazing!
Were the figures always a part of it? Yes! As soon as we started making terrariums we knew they needed little people to complete the scene. Then people started requesting to see friends or themselves in the terrariums. Like the woman who had us depict her 8-year-old granddaughter hula-hooping while playing the violin.
What’s the oddest request? You would not be able to print it. But we made it.
The figures and scenes are out there. How do you come up with them? A lot of it is just us being quirky––like depicting murder investigations or CSI scenes…we love making zombie scenes, cemeteries…we like to have vagrants, bums and punk rockers hanging around. Also, great pastoral scenes with hikers or someone looking introspective on the beach.
Aside from tons of imagination, what basic elements are a part of each mini-world? The only common factor in all of our terrariums is rocks and plants. We use shade loving plants and sun-loving succulents. Everything else varies.
What about general care tips? Always keep out of direct sunlight. Follow the watering directions that come with your terrarium which vary based on the the type of mosses and containers used for each.