Creating gardens in glass

Features - Marketing

Pairing a love of art and gardening helps one arts studio attract students to its terrarium classes.

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October 19, 2015
Conner Howard

While the concept of palm-sized glass gardens catches on, one enterprising art studio is taking the terrarium trend on the road with traveling crafting classes that emphasize sustainability as well as creativity.

Artsy Academy was launched in spring 2015 as an effort to educate adults in the creative arts while producing as little waste as possible and promoting environmental charities. The group added a terrarium-building course this past summer, which allows students to use hand-blown glass containers to create their own miniature gardens.

Artsy Academy Co-founder Alison Meaney says the class is intended to introduce class participants to gardening basics in a fun, creative atmosphere. Public workshops take place in local restaurants or bars, and students are encouraged to order food and drinks while they work. People can also request private events at their homes, art galleries or other venues. Average class sizes are between 10 and 15 attendees.

“Our class is a make-and-take class that is specific to people who want to learn a little bit more about gardening and want to develop their green thumb, people who are interested in artwork and maybe want to have a living work of art,” Meaney says. “It also serves to purify the air and relieve stress. We’re really proud of it.”

Students of the Artsy Academy terrarium class have access to moss, hemp, quartz crystal and other natural materials to build their micro-gardens inside glass containers hand-blown by Artsy Academy Co-founder Tracie Sell. In addition to crafting the glass terrarium containers, Sell also creates glow-in-the-dark mushroom figurines for the class.

The classes are promoted through a combination of social media, fliers in popular venues, online coupon sites and more. Sell says the idea behind the class was to spread the word about terrariums, which can help purify the air indoors on top of being fun to make.

“I just thought it would be cool to give people the opportunity to put them together themselves and experience and grow and learn and be much more conscious of the Earth, nature and plants,” Sell says. “It’s amazing how many people don’t even know how to say the word ‘terrarium.’ It’s just an awareness thing, getting people to realize what the big picture is.”

While adult art classes are becoming increasingly common and are often paired with wine-tasting, Artsy Academy sets itself apart by donating a portion of proceeds to Trees, Water & People, a non-profit dedicated to sustainable natural resource programs throughout the world. Artsy Academy also organizes zero-waste events using completely recyclable materials.

“Our artists take the time to hand-wash all of the pallets afterwards, and we also use paint rags so there are no paper towels used,” Sell says. “We’re creating virtually zero waste at our events, which is huge, especially since everybody’s all into the art now. We’re just really trying to push it out there, and put ourselves out there and have people realize that if they’re going to do it, they might as well donate to a good cause as well as being eco-friendly.”

Although Sell often works with succulents and other plants in her art, the terrarium classes tend to focus mainly on sustainably-harvested moss as a plant base. Sell says succulents can be difficult to fit into the small openings of the glass containers she uses for the terrarium classes. While succulents are popular for open-container planters, moss is better suited to closed-container terrariums, she adds.

Artsy Academy and its terrarium class now has a presence in five U.S. cities: Asheville, N.C.; Chicago, Ill.; Pittsburgh, Penn.; Orlando, Fla. and Cleveland, Ohio. Private events can also be booked almost anywhere in the country. Since the terrarium class began, Meaney says reactions from customers have been enthusiastic, as participants enjoy the relaxing atmosphere of the classes.

“The feedback has been really positive. People have been really receptive to the hand-blown containers and learning a little bit more about putting them together,” Meaney says. “The gardening aspect really is coupled with the art dimension. We really like the fact that the whole project is really elegant, the way that it couples creating a living work of art with purifying our air and the meditative aspect of sitting, focusing and putting the project together. It’s a learning experience, it calms people down.”

Sell says one key to running a successful terrarium workshop is to educate clients and provide crafting and gardening knowledge in a way that is engaging and stress-free.

“We give (customers) descriptions, tips and pointers and what kind of stress signs to look for in the moss, how to remedy them, how to water them and what kind of light they like,” Sell says. “I think people leave feeling like they’ve really learned something and they’re leaving with a new attachment to having plants in the home. That’s our goal.”

For more information on Artsy Academy, visit its website