We caught up with London's terrarium workshops duo, Jar and Fern, to ask them why terrariums, what's next for the duo and find out the secrets to their success.
There are new schools popping up as the demand increases for this latest past-time. However as newbies make their mark, the schools that have been around for years are really starting to blow up. We spoke to our resident terrarium workshops giants, Jar & Fern. It’s hard to live in London and not have come across them somewhere, as they are everywhere.
This green-fingered duo started with humble beginnings and are now playing ball to become the biggest terrarium workshops school in London. We talk to Madeleine, the jar to the fern, about how teaching workshops through Obby have helped them progress to the next step of their careers and how they’ve ended up with this wonderful, and very unusual business supporting them, at such a young age. If terrarium is a word that boggles your mind, have a read of our terrarium guide first to get to grips with these fascinating arrangments.
How did Jar and Fern come about?
We started Jar and Fern in December 2015. Will wanted to get me a terrarium for Christmas but he couldn’t find one to buy they were expensive so he thoughts he’d buy the equipment and he’d make it. It ended up being me who made it, which I ended up really enjoying. We had so much stuff left over, we made them for family and friends that Christmas and they went down a treat.
It was March the following year that we started selling our Terrariums to the public. At Brixton market, we would stand there all day, in the freezing cold. You know the type of cold you can't seem to warm up from? It was tough, but it was so nice seeing how much people loved our terrariums, we sold out every week.
It was while we were shivering one day, in the London weather at the market, that we came up with the idea to teach terrarium workshops. It was sort of a natural step. People were curious and signed up for our mailing list. That's where we sold our first workshop, through our market mailing list.
So, you've got the terrarium workshop idea, and the interest but how did you choose a venue?
We chose Brockwell Park as our first venue because well, its a giant greenhouse. It fits with the theme and it just sort of made sense. We still run them there to this day! Then, as we got more popular we expanded around the city. We chose places we loved, like the Tiger in Camberwell, near our flat. We just approached places we liked and asked if they would be interested in having us. Generally, they were excited. There are so many places in London it's just a case of finding a place you match with. We're starting one with The Jar Kitchen in Covent Garden, for obvious reasons and going back to our roots by teaching workshops at London Fields markets.
How did the first terrarium workshop you ever taught go?
We had our first terrarium workshop in August 2015 but we were so small then. It was great though, the best bit about moving from a stall to teaching, is that people were invested. Explaining about terrariums on the stall was lovely but we'd never see them again, teaching people as they make was much more satisfying. They send photos of their terrariums, they keep us updated.
Was teaching people always something you wanted to do?
I actually did a training course at school, but to be a sexual health worker, so this is different. I was always into floristry though, I worked in a florist at 16 and I work with Earth Champions Foundation a few days a week. Teaching our first terrarium workshop was terrifying, we were driving there questioning whether or not we should do it. It's fine though, everyone is just there to learn and share your passion, it was a breeze.
Any tips for someone looking to go into teaching?
I would say it’s fine to be a little nervous. But remember that these people are just like you, what’s the worst that could happen.
So, why terrariums?
I love them, my favourite thing is watching them grow and thrive in a jar. I'm not great with houseplants, they require a lot of maintenance. My terrariums though, they just do their own thing. Self-watering, beautiful, what is there not to love? We have about 20 now, they fill all our windowsills. We even still have the first one we ever made, for Christmas, it's nearly 2 years old now.
What are the next steps for Jar and Fern?
We're growing so much its crazy. It could be sustainable as a business now, only a few years in. We could live off it, but we don’t want to. We love our other jobs and at the moment it's important to pour the money back into the business. In terms of growth, we're looking at a studio space in Burgess Park in London, which will act as a permanent place for our terrarium workshops and a place for people to come to buy commissioned terrariums. We're actually currently doing our first wedding, which is so exciting! The bride has some brilliant ideas. We're designing a cooper arch with plants hanging off it. We actually already do a lot of terrarium commissions for wedding centrepieces but this is the first entire wedding we've done. It would be nice to do more.
To book Jar & Fern's terrarium workshops, head over to their page on Obby to see what they are offering and if there's a a class at your local. Take it from Beth, who has been to their workshops, and made a wonderful terrarium for our office, their workshops are brilliant. She couldn't stop talking about terrariums for weeks. 🌱