As part of our new ‘YMC People’ series, we’re taking a more in-depth look at the YMC wearer – the makers, creators and personalities that echo our ethos and spirit. Our friends at London Terrariums have provided our in-store displays for several seasons now, so we visited their founder and owner, Emma Sibley, at her studio to chat about the evolution and beginnings of her business.
How did London Terrariums start?
London Terrariums grew out of a fun Saturday afternoon making miniature bottle gardens using pickle jars. After making one of these terrariums we found it to be very addictive, and soon terrariums were all over the house! Then our friend Lerryn opened a café on Rye Lane in Peckham and asked us to build some terrariums to put on display. Soon people were asking to buy them and then YCN got in touch and that was where we held our first workshop about 2 years ago. It was at this point where we knew we had to start learning about where these bottle gardens had originated from and became increasingly fascinated with the science of these self sustaining worlds.
What attracted you to the idea of terrariums in particular and how did you learn about them?
Learning just came from books found in charity stores. I studied Surface Design at University so there was no horticultural background, but the more i looked into how these ecosystems worked the more I wanted to experiment with different plants and environments.
Living in London access to green space is usually quite sparse so one of the great things about terrariums is being able to watch the development of the plants inside your vessel. For me the terrarium that has been just made is not the finished product – the most exciting part is the change over the next months and years.
What are your earliest memories of having an interest in plants?
I have memories of spending summers at my grandparents’, spending hours making miniature gardens out of seed trays and making little rock pools and pebble pathways, I guess this would be the earliest interest I can remember! Other than that I think plants have always been a feature in my life, especially renting in London, sometimes all you have were your houseplants to brighten up a grubby student bedroom!
What is your long-term vision for London Terrariums? Are there other aspects you would like to introduce?
Long term the plan is to have a larger space. At the moment I work from a studio in Bermondsey which is amazing and I love the space, but it isn’t large enough to hold private workshops or events in. I can see the development of a creative working space in the pipeline, somewhere where people can come to learn, buy and listen to other influential people in the world of horticulture and garden design. What really works well and sets London Terrariums aside from others is the interest in the science and the creative element of building terrariums, one week we could have a lecture from a botanist and the next we could have a workshop of botanical drawing. I am excited about the scope that can be brought to the table.
Do you have any aspirations to collaborate with other brands or creators from different fields?
I am in the process of discussing a few collaborations with a few big brands, however these have got to stay quite under wraps; but all is very exciting! We are planning a Terrarium dining experience for the summer in collaboration with our friends SPREAD, they run monthly dinners which centre around a theme and I am very excited about the possibility of combining a terrarium workshop with a menu that has been curated around the theme of botanicals and terrariums!
What does your typical day involve with London Terrariums?
A typical day quite often starts ridiculously early with a trip to New Covent Garden Flower Market to gather plants for the upcoming workshops. If you haven’t been here before I would definitely recommend it. I’ve never seen such an amazing collection of flowers and plants, it’s impossible to leave empty handed. Then it’s back to the studio to make orders for clients. At the moment I’m working on a 40 terrarium order for April and sourcing the vessels for these has become a full time job in itself! The evenings are spent replying to emails or hosting workshops, at the moment we have about 1 or 2 workshops a week and this is great as it allows me to show others how fun and accessible terrariums can be.
What’s been the most fulfilling aspect of London Terrariums for you?
For me it is 100% the workshops that are the most fulfilling aspect. We have held them for groups of 5 people up to 30. The smaller ones are my favourite because it’s an opportunity to really get to know the people that have chosen to come and learn about these ecosystems. Explaining our fun hand made tools is great, because there is nothing tech about it, we use a cotton reel and cork stuck to the end of a stick and also a corn-on-the-cob skewer as well, for me a workshop is the opportunity to show how accessible making terrariums is. Following on from this I have a few workshops coming up in schools which i am really excited about- a child can make a terrarium out of an old jam jar and some moss, but the satisfaction of watching this grow and morph into a little ecosystem is amazing!
What are some of the challenges of it?
The challenge is that you are dealing with living things. We have trialled many different plants and compost mixtures in order to get the ones that work best, however you still get the occasional terrarium that won’t survive due to lack of light or warmth. Even though they are known as self-sustaining, the plants inside still need to be able to photosynthesis in order to live.
Also the weight of some of these guys is immense, carrying them around is a daily workout!
Emma is wearing pieces from our SS16 womenswear collection.