Name: Thyrza Segal from Plantscapes
Website links: Plantscapes, Thyrza.ca
What do you make?
I make pop art terrariums, succulent planters and tillandsia sculptures from thrift store glassware and ceramics. The planters include hand made sculptures to make the terrariums into miniature alien pastoral scenes. I call them "organic dioramas".
What or who inspires you?
I was originally inspired by the sophisticated work of agricultural artist Paula Hayes, but have not been able to refrain from adding a big dollop of kitsch to my work.
Local artist Rebecca Chaperon's show " Catholic School Girls Rule " so charmed me that I have been making little tentacled alien girls ever since I saw it.
How did you get started?
The majority of my career has been spent as a costume builder and designer for theatre and tv. I decided at one point though that I needed to explore building my own creations and those creations did not necessarily include sewing. I had been constructing lamps and chandeliers using recovered lamp parts found at junk stores when I got distracted with making terrariums.... I kept seeing these great vintage coffee decanters on my frequent thrift store outings. I picked one up just because it was cool and then later decided to try making a terrarium inside of it.
I am not a horticulturalist so it took some experimenting and a lot of research to get healthy results. I have gotten to a comfortable place with my plant skills but I also assure customers that if a plant does not survive it's new environment that I am happy to replant for them. When I finished my first batch of terrariums I was searching dollar stores and hobby shops to find the perfect figurines to populate the terrariums but everything seemed to be in the wrong scale in relation to the plants. I had some polymer clay kicking around and decided to make my own alien themed flora and fauna to create miniature scenes. This turned out to be the most fun part for me- it is like I am illustrating a scene from a play I have written in my head
What are your favourite materials to work with?
Polymer clay is great because I don't have to paint it, it doesn't dry up when I leave it out and it's easy to transport and work with on the road. I also dearly love the industrial grade glow in the dark powder I ordered on the internet. I mix it with clear acrylic medium and paint tiny rocks with it to make cool alien ground cover gravel. I use so many different things that sometimes I believe the most time consuming thing about making terrariums is the scavenger hunt you have to go through to amass all your materials.
What is the hardest and most favourite part of crafting?
I hate doing the product photography- especially when it comes to the terrariums. The reflections in the glass are a nightmare to eliminate. Each container is different so almost every terrarium requires a different lighting setup. blech.
The best part is making the little creatures and flowers that I put in the planters. I do that in front of the TV and it is very therapeutic. It is like doodling in 3D. I have been doing it obsessively now for over a year and have not gotten tired of it.
List 5 of your favourite links and why you like them
Lately I got tired of the sites I was going to and decided to use my Google Reader instead of going to the same old places.. As a result I have found a ton of great sites that I was previously unaware of. The following list is just today's top 5 but tomorrow may be a different story.
Trend Hunter: seems to have a lot of interesting posts for the curious and design oriented mind.
Russell Brown: I have been poring over this website in order to learn about my new Photoshop CS4.
Boing Boing.net: is a long standing fave and just keeps getting better. It is a blog run by a number of people with interests in different areas so there is always something for the nerds and the artists and the nerdartists (like me).
Crib Candy: great for inspiration.
Instructables: brilliant for obvious reasons.
Do you have any advice for those in the biz?
Making terrariums is so much fun that I can't stop doing it but the problem is that my market is too small because my product is unshippable- the guys on Dragon's Den would eat me alive! It is a popular item at local craft sales though and I sure would welcome other terrarium makers. It is so much fun that I think everyone should try doing it.That being said, I am pretty sure it is not really a viable career choice- I don't have a huge profit margin. I do mostly make back the money I spend on materials and enough to allow me to feel free to experiment with different materials though so I am ok with that. People do tell me that I should charge more but I am not sure the market would support it- customers balk at spending big dollars on things they see as perishable.
Do you consider yourself an artist or a crafter?
I remember some art student saying once that they define art as something which provokes strong emotion in people. My favourite thing in the whole world is when I am at a craft sale and I see people smile or laugh at the little scenes in the bottles. Does that make it art? I prefer to think of myself as an artist but a lot of crafters are artists . I don't think of myself as a "serious"artist but I do put a lot of thought into making unique pieces that are aesthetically appealing from a design point of view and that also spark imagination. I try to hold back from naming pieces or creatures so that the viewer can more freely project their own story into the pieces.
(photo images courtesy of Thyrza Segal)
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