• December 25, 2014

Out of the (glass) box: Designer gets creative with terrariums

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Posted: Saturday, April 5, 2014 4:30 am

TACOMA, Wash. — In a small store window on South Ninth Street in downtown Tacoma, Wash., there’s an unusual landscape.

Strewn across hot white sand like abandoned objects on a “Star Wars” planet sit a Bulbosa airplant, lime-green moss and a large quartz crystal.

Nearby is a tiny forest, with lush ferns, lichen, lemon-y Scotch moss and, arching over everything, a curly ram’s horn. As in, from a sheep.

It’s the window of Moss + Mineral, a design store/art gallery where Tacoma artist Lisa Kinoshita has lately discovered the old-fashioned art of making terrariums — tiny gardens inside glass containers. Only she’s giving them a spin that 19th-century indoor gardeners would never have thought of.

“Terrariums are becoming trendy,” Kinoshita said, “but today’s terrariums are more personal and even contemplative, encapsulating not only plants but moments in time, like mementos.”

For Kinoshita, though — a mixed media and jewelry artist who creates exquisite necklaces out of scarab beetle shells or philosophical installations from taxidermy — those mementos take her terrariums to unusual places. Amid tiny spring flowers and ivy she might place a porcelain Chinese baby doll, looking like a bizarre giant amid the plants.

An airplant might be tucked inside a shell, creating an alien octopus sprawled on aqua glass rocks.

Fuzzy cacti might share space with a deer jawbone, emerging from the soil like the myth about dragon’s teeth.

A martini glass might sport a nubby succulent lounging under a paper cocktail umbrella.

Plants live with enormous pink barnacles, driftwood, mirror shards.

And then there are the containers Kinoshita uses.

Moss + Mineral focuses on mid-century design like teal ’70s chairs and ’50s footstools, so most of the terrariums live in vintage glass vessels: golden-brown rectangles, huge goblets, discs like the Space Needle.

It’s gardening done by an artist.

“I take a different approach than a gardener would,” Kinoshita said. “I look at plants as raw material, rather than a garden.

“Terrariums are art and landscape, a diorama. You’re creating a microcosm — it has a really evocative quality.”

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