Yet another photography-inspired workshop to strengthen VIVITA’s presence in Telliskivi Creative City

Our collaboration with Fotografiska Tallinn, a photographic art centre has been running now for almost two years. On the first Saturday of this February, we held another workshop with them. As one of their lovely exhibitions — “Places Beyond” — by the Swedish photographer Erik Johansson’s was coming to an end, we decided to offer the children a double treat toof a guided tour at the exhibition followed by a crafting workshop in the VIVISTOP Telliskivi studio. Within the workshop, we set out to create a whimsical world inspired by Erik Johansson’s photography in form of a terrarium — a tiny ecosystem in a jar where wild things grow. The plant growing knowhow was provided to us by a local flower shop Jungle Garden.


A terrarium is just like an aquarium, but instead of water and fish, you have soil and plants. What better way is there to bring the green outdoors into our homes in the darkest days of winter? The best part about it is that it is almost self-sustainable and need little to no care, once it is ready and has found its perfect spot in indirect sunlight.

Depending on the plants you choose, your container can be open or closed, but it is important that it is made of glass. Ours was sealed closed so that it could trap air and moisture inside. This means that it can go for days, months, and hopefully even years without watering. Children could take home something that will remind them of Erik Johansson’s surreal two-dimensional worlds and keep them intrigued way into the future!

For a successful terrarium, the plants you opt for should all thrive in the same environment: succulents and cacti would require very little water while ferns and moss or tropical plants would like it humid. Beware that the plants you mix together enjoy each other’s company. Otherwise the terrarium will not survive. Scroll further down to see the list of ingredients we used.

After the exhibition visit, with loads of magical inspiration in their hearts and minds and something yummy in their tummy from the Fotografiska cafe, the children came over to our studio ready to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. In a calm and concentrated manner, they carefully took in the instructions, found their way through the materials, and got to work.

Under the watchful eye of Marianne Reimal from Jungle Garden flower shop, the children prepared the soil mixture and placed the plants, then decorated the terrariums with stones and moss to their own taste. Although everyone was supplied with exactly the same set of materials, oh wow, did all the terrariums look different! From inaccessible high mountain tops to carefully landscaped peaceful gardens, anything was made possible.

Having tried out their green thumb, it was then time to put their imagination to work. What kind of world unfolds behind the glass, underneath the shades cast by the green leaves? Who could be living there undisturbed by the outside world? To infuse a sense of the surreal by disorienting our perception of scale and proportion, using our laser cutter we prepared the parts for a tiny house that the children assembled. It looked as if it was hanging in the air, connected to the earth only by a ladder. Of course, they were just as inventive with painting the house as they were with their landscaping. Is brown colour not available? Oh, but that’s so easy to achieve it by mixing all the other colors you have.

Not only did we built a self-sustaining ecosystem, but we could also give each other a high-fives for achieving another mission we share with Fotografiska Tallinn: minimising waste.
In this workshop, we were able to recycle a variety of materials: paint and cardboard leftovers from Fotografiska’s earlier exhibitions went into making the tiny houses and the jars for the ecosystem came as recyclable glass leftovers from the kitchen of the Fotografiska Restaurant.

Do this at home

For the terrarium you see in the photos above, you will need:

Glass container with a lid (minimum 3 litres, but can be larger)
Potting soil for green plants (1 litre)
Activated charcoal (50g)
Gravel (0.4L)
Moss (50 g)
Stones (3 to 4)
Plants (1 or 2)*

*The plants we chose were coffea arabica, fittonia (or nerve plant), and alocasia polly.

The gravel goes first to the bottom of the container for drainage. Then add the charcoal into a pile in the middle of it. Thereafter add most of the soil and save a bit for later. Press the soil using your fist or a suitable tool in case the opening of your container is too small to reach in. Make small holes to accommodate the roots of the plants and cover them with the remaining soil. Decorate your terrarium with moss, rocks, pebbles, shells, pine cones, or anything else that would add to creating your imaginary world. Lastly, water the plants, clean the glass walls and… Oh, and before you close the lid, don’t forget to breathe in some magic: a lighthouse, a boat, tiny humans or animals, or just about anything your craftsy hands are itching to make!

Do not leave the terrarium in direct sunlight as it may overheat. If there’s too much condensation on the inside, open the lid and ventilate it for a couple of hours. The plants will need pruning and cutting if they grow too tall: make sure they always have enough room to keep growing.

The eyes can’t hide the smiles. Photo: VIVITA Estonia

If you haven’t done so already, there’s still a chance to enjoy Erik Johansson’s exhibition “Places Beyond” in Fotografiska Tallinn until 14 February 2021.

Read about our earlier collaboration workshop inspired by Erik Johansson’s exhibition that took place last November.

Workshop creators Vera Naydenova and Kertu Ilves.
Expert help Marianne Reimal.
Text Vera Naydenova, Photos Sigrid Kägi/VIVITA Estonia.

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