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  • Ingrid Stobbe

THE ENGAGING AIR PLANT


I recently walked into one of my favorite stores- Michaels Crafts- and saw they were having a sale on their garden section. Needless to say, I basically went nuts. I had gotten some Air Plants at a beautiful store in my hometown and also had a surplus of corks. The trio of happenings coincided at just the right time. And I imagined this board in my head that was alive... I've done a number of pieces with corks prior, usually involving plexiglass and house installations. They look gorgeous coming off of the walls, almost seeming to grow right out of the home with decorative accents like flowers and carefully chosen red and golden corks.

​But I wanted to try something new, and had a number of corks to play with. I love green spaces, and even though I live in the city I welcomely invite as much calm into my life as I can. Especially in the home. I think it's important to have a way to relax, and providing green- even in subtle ways- is a really helpful way to do that. I also happen to like wine, and fortunately have friends that also do. I love the appearance of corks and think they can create the neatest structures. They have a texture that you don't think about initially as artistic, necessarily, but in bulk they become something greater than the sum of their parts.

On a recent trip home to visit family I went into one of my favorite stores, Mt. Lebanon Floral. They have really great selection of not only decor but also plants. It's an Ingrid's dream come true! I found some pretty gorgeous and funky specimens while I was there that I just had to bring back. Air plants have special needs as they are tropical. A lot of people are fans of the way they look with succulents, but be advised- these two varieties have very different care. Why am I saying this? Because I wanted to create a piece that enabled me to be able to not only keep my air plants hydrated, but in order to do that, remove them from the structure for their weekly soak. For specific air plant care, please see my Botanical Issue and its remarks on the differences of tropical watering approaches.

WHAT YOU'LL NEED

First and most importantly, we'll need some corks. If you're not a wine drinker and don't know someone who is, there are corks available at Michaels and other craft stores as well. A bag of 30 costs about $12, so those are probably the most pricey element of our project depending on how you're able to get ahold of yours. You are also going to need a number of air plants. Air plants are Epiphytes, which means they do not have a root system, and gather moisture from the air. We don't need any soil, but they will need to be hydrated. My advice is to think smaller rather than larger for this particular project, unless you're looking to add wire. Our plants won't be glued onto the frame, so the lighter the better. There are a lot of different kinds of air plants so you have tons of options and looks to play around with. Mix and match!

Now, as I mentioned Michaels was having a pretty fabulous sale on garden items. I picked up a wooden planter to treat as a frame for our corks, chose some moss (there are a number of different types to choose from and personalize your aesthetic), glue sticks, a glue gun, and small picture hanging hooks (I chose sawtooth).

WHAT TO DO


The first thing we're going to want to do is put the picture hangers on the back of our planter. The reason to kick this off first is two-fold. First and more importantly the frame is pretty thin. So when the nails come through they're going to be visible and we're going to need to ultimately disguise them with the corks. So it's a good move to lay those through early and know how to work over them.​ And secondly, we don't want to be smacking this with a hammer after being so careful about putting all of these items in place.

Before there's any gluing happening, a good idea is to create the layout that you'd like to see. I found this to be pretty satisfactory and balanced.

​And now it's time to get the glue out! If you haven't used a glue gun before, don't be worried. A good idea is to have a glass of cold water nearby though in case you accidentally get a little bit on a finger, which has happened. It'll definitely get your attention, and not in a good way. But it won't do much damage.

You're going to put a bit of hot glue on one end of the cork. Which end that is is up to you and your aesthetic. I like the ripped up ends facing out and the more red wine corks available the better. They add some pop to the layout as well as texture and dimensionality.

As I was gluing the corks down into the frame, I had to also lay the air plants in and work around them, creating small pockets that they would eventually be tucked into. I chose not to glue the air plants on, because to me that creates a limited timeline for the piece. Air plants, while beautiful, are finicky and need to not only be misted every so many days with water but also soaked- usually once a week. These are tropical plants and it's tough to provide them as much moisture as they need when they are glued into a structure. And I don't think it's nice or comfortable for the plant, to be totally honest. So using the moss and cork structure, we're going to do a bit of gravity defying here.

The two smaller air plants were able to be tucked in to each corner, ultimately remaining secure even when the structure was propped vertically, as it would ultimately be positioned when hanging.

Our next order of business, is to line the pockets with moss. The moss will help provide bulk and resistance to the plants as well as create an appearance of natural growth on the frame. It not only helps the plants stay put, but in the case of the larger plant actually props it into the air in such a secure way that we don't even need any glue to hold it where it needs to be. Be advised, when working with the moss it's much easier to burn yourself by accident with the hot glue. I recommend using another cork or even a pencil to press it into place so that your fingers don't get too close.

As you work you'll find how you want to lay out your moss and plants, and maybe there's even a small flower decoration you'd like to add. But now you're all set to hang the frame where you'd like it to be and add some color and greenery to your favorite place in the home. So start saving those corks, you never know when you're going to come across a great set of garden items on sale at your favorite craft store!