Have you heard of Nature in a Bottle?
Jaslyn Goh, a financial planner and Vito, an Environmental Science undergrad in NUS are the duo behind Mini-Nature, the producer of some 1000 customised terrariums that have found their way into offices and homes across Singapore. The two nature lovers, who find inspiration in outdoor spaces such as Hort Park, aspire to bring a bit of the garden city into your personal environment, spreading the message of happiness, relaxation and appreciation for the greenery around us.
Shiok! caught up with the two budding entrepreneurs who have made a business of their passions since picking up the craft some two and a half years ago.
Hi guys! Great to finally meet you. So let’s start off with the art of terrarium-making.
How did you guys pick up this craft?
Jaslyn (J): We attended workshops, and from there we learned the basics. We then took it one step further, experimenting and making them for fun, giving them to friends and family for their birthdays and special occasions.
Vito (V): They encouraged us, saying that it’s something they liked. With that, we set up an online platform to sell our pieces.
J: We decided to continue because we wanted to let more people own a piece of nature in their personal space and it ends up being a meaningful gift for everyone.
Is terrarium-making a difficult skill to pick up?
J: The most difficult part is being truly patient, sitting down and completing the whole process. Putting everything together is not difficult, but few people have the patience to make it from start to finish. A typical terrarium takes about half an hour to make, but when I was making my first one, I took an hour and I still could not get the plant to stand upright! It tested my patience and I really wanted to give up.
That does seem challenging. However, there are also other companies that make terrariums. What’s the most unique thing about yours?
J: Our terrariums have a central feature, which is a hand-made polymer clay figurine.
V: Usually we work around the figurine and picture its habitat so we create a piece that has a very strong theme.
J: For example, a customer might request for a fox figurine. We will then conceptualise a forest-themed terrarium which could include plants being placed near to each other to create the feeling of density, as well as pebbles and green and brown sand that would make it look like a forest.
What got you started on making these figurines?
V: We wanted to add a personal touch to our terrariums, something to make them different. Through brainstorming, we felt it was worth making a figurine that is unique and hand-crafted, something that you cannot find elsewhere.
Did you already have a background in art that helped you do this?
V: I wouldn’t say that I have a background in art. It’s just that I pick up such things faster. I picked it up myself with the help of youtube videos and forums. The first few figures were a bit deformed (laughs), but after getting the hang of it, I’ve managed to make the figurines as I imagined them.
What’s the most memorable terrarium you’ve made?
V: We actually guided this customer during our workshop to create a very special terrarium as a surprise for his girlfriend.
J: We sat him down and asked, “How do you want it to look like?” We provided some ideas and created the end product with him. The finishing touch was a small glass bottle with a photo of him and his girlfriend in the terrarium. That was memorable as there was such great sentimental value!
Is it difficult to look after a terrarium?
J: (laughs) No!
V: Terrariums actually thrive well on neglect! They are low maintenance. The bottles don’t even have to be air-tight. You will need to water them when you are building your terrarium but after that you can leave them to thrive on its own. It’s preferable to keep them away from direct sunlight because if it gets heated up, the heat is trapped and this will affect the plant adversely. Terrarium plants do well in fluorescent lighting so indoor lighting is sufficient.
What feeling do you want people to get when they receive a terrarium from you?
J: Happy. People usually leave them in their offices, or work desks. I hope it’s a mood changer, making them relaxed, and keeping them going even when they are stressed or tired.
V: Unique. Every terrarium is one-of-a-kind. Even if you have the same design, there will be something that’s different – the plants or pebble arrangement might be slightly different.
And the one message that you’d like to share with your passion for terrariums and nature?
V: Life is not about chasing material goals.
J: Nature is all around us. When you’re busy, it’s something you can depend on to find a bit of relief, a moment to relax.
V: Sometimes, all we need to do is slow down and realise how beautiful the environment around you is.
Wise words indeed. Hopefully our readers will learn to enjoy and appreciate our surrounding nature more! Thank you!