Twig Terrariums in Brooklyn, NY, houses jars, beakers, orbs and vases plush with vibrant green mosses, succulents and plants. Take a closer look, and you’ll find that these living environments are home to tiny hand-painted figurines that bring each landscape to life.
Lifelong friends Maslow and Inciarrano never imagined a passion for crafting would turn into an entrepreneurial venture.
“We used to have a little craft night, and one of the many things we wanted to make was a terrarium,” says Maslow, who credits Inciarrano with the initial idea.
A science student at the time, Inciarrano consulted her chemistry professor, who helped the pair engineer a successful ecosystem within a cruet jar pulled from her kitchen cabinet.
“Katy looked at it and said, ‘You know, it looks like a little garden. It needs people in it,’” Inciarrano says. And, with that, Twig Terrariums was born.
“If you’ve never made one, they are quite addictive,” says Maslow. “Very quickly we each had 50 plus in our apartments.” Finding themselves surrounded by terrariums, the pair decided to take a chance on a booth at the Brooklyn Flea. Their first appearance garnered attention from the New York Times, and the business took off from there.
For the Twig duo, terrariums provide an escape from the hustle and bustle of urban life. “There is something about nurturing nature that is very therapeutic,” Maslow says.
But their terrariums aren’t purely bucolic. “Our first terrariums were homes to hobos roasting weinies over a campfire,” Inciarrano says. Today, the pair continues to think outside the box. For instance, their “Zombie-arium” houses a miniature blood-soaked member of the undead in a 2,000 mL laboratory flask, “ensuring your house stays uninfected,” while their “Boobies!” terrarium is home to a feisty female flasher.
The first terrarium was accidentally created by English doctor Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward in the early 1800s. Ward noticed that seedlings contained within glass flourished, as the moisture within evaporated and condensed creating a constant state of humidity. This inspired the creation of “Wardian cases,” glass boxes that made it possible to transport foreign plants, such as tea and rubber, overseas.
“If you’re trying to transport a plant from India or China, you have to have it inside a boat for months on end, and you don’t know what the lighting conditions are going to be on the boat,” Inciarrano says. “So there are all sorts of reasons why plants didn’t survive that journey. But, once they created terrariums, they were able to survive, and it changed everything.”
Gaze inside Twig’s unique creations and a variety of worlds unfold before you — an elderly couple sitting side by side on a park bench, or a hiker traversing the tiny landscape with his canine companion.
Other terrarium narratives are less serene. From figurines flipping the bird to CSI-style crime scenes, the Twig creators aren’t afraid to explore a weirder side of humanity. Their creations are both playful and contemplative, urging you to let your imagination run wild.
Twig prides itself on the ability to create custom pieces for patrons with specific requests. “A lot of what we do with plants is create a very personal space that you can bring into your home or your office and give you a mini vacation, or can also help commemorate something,” Maslow says.
Successful terrariums can’t be constructed haphazardly, according to Maslow and Inciarrano. Before you run outside and gather up flora for a DIY terrarium of your own, there are several things to consider.
The type of terrarium you choose to create should depend on how much light it will receive in your home. Moss, for instance, does well in the shade, Inciarrano says, whereas succulents can handle significantly more sunlight.
“Sometimes people are making these terrariums and don’t realize that the plants they choose have to have the same likeness,” she says. “They have to have the same soil requirements and the same moisture requirements.” She also recommends using an organic pesticide to ensure that the plants you bring in aren’t harboring unhatched insects.
Twig also offers in-store workshops where patrons can try their hand at “mini-scaping.” And, Maslow and Inciarrano travel the country teaching the art of terrariums at corporate workshops and non-profit organizations.
“Some people like to say they’re just jars of dirt,” Maslow says. “But, really, people find a lot of value in gazing into these little terrariums that encourage you to take a closer look and take a deep breath and relax. There is a big side of us that loves the notion of how much quietude we might bring into someone’s home just by making a terrarium for them.”
If you won’t find yourself in New York anytime soon, Twig will happily ship you a terrarium, or a DIY kit for a no-fail first foray into terrarium making. The store currently ships within the U.S. and Canada, and is hoping to offer international shipping soon.
Twig’s terrariums cost anywhere from $55 to $350, and you can snag a DIY kit for as little as $25. If you’re in the New York area, you can take an hour-long class for $45, and craft your very own terrarium to take home. Brides-to-be in search of alternative centerpieces might find that Twig’s custom terrariums are just what they’re looking for.
Maslow and Inciarrano have already published one book, called Tiny World Terrariums, and are in the process of completing a second, which delves even deeper into the artform.
Both women are eager to see what the future holds for Twig, and continue to be inspired by their craft, customers and each other.
“We work together to challenge each other on a myriad of new projects,” Maslow says. “We’re always working on new things. It’s very important to us that we are constantly evolving in a sense. We’re always trying to do new things with old ideas.”