Making miniature landscapes come to life

Artist and photographer Kali Vermès landscapes and curates miniature gardens. The Franco-American launched her business Grow Little in 2010 and has since made hundreds of terrariums to satisfy her creative impulses and her need to do something practical, as well as make a living.

Her tiny yet perfectly formed gardens are encased in blown glass vessels of various sizes, and shipped around Paris and the world, adding a touch of ‘nature’s poetry’ to their new owners’ homes. So popular have her creations been that they’ve featured in various major home decor magazines including Marie Claire Maison and Milk, and been highlighted on television.

Kali Vermes Terrarium Grow Little

A Day in the Life of Kali Vermès

Why the change from photography to terrariums?

I felt like moving towards an immediate hands-on kind of feeling that comes with a direct connection with my tangible reality.

What do you find most inspiring about terrariums?

Each microcosm under glass encapsulates a balance between minimalism – a nod to the Japanese wabi-sabi aesthetic – and nature’s inherent abundance. All five senses are stimulated in a very concentrated way.

What’s your most adored terrarium you’ve made? 

It’s a terrarium in a tall oval glass that others also seem to appreciate. There’s a lot of demand for that particular shape but unfortunately it was one of a kind – a discovery in the middle of a flea market in Burgundy.

Kali Vermes Terrarium Grow Little

Tell us about any new projects you’re working on right now?

I’m working on a book project with a prominent French publisher; it focuses on my terrariums.

What or who inspires your designs – the beauty of real life green spaces, or imaginary ones? Or other artists?

I begin my compositions with the container and the process evolves from there. The shape defines and confines the plants that I carefully select. As I mix and match and create a composition, this miniature world comes alive. Nature, gardens and contemporary dance are catalysts for my work. I’ve always been attracted to patterns in textiles as well as those in nature. I especially love batik and Japanese oriental designs; they are inspirational for me.

Kali Vermes Terrarium Grow Little

What do you love most about your job?

The physical side of it and composing with plants, living organisms. I got bored sitting behind a computer or simply standing behind a camera. Planting and working with different materials is a source of great satisfaction for me and it was during my artist residency at Robert Wilson’s Watermill Centre that I got the opportunity to explore this.

Best Kept Secrets

I khoollect a few …

I collect plants of course, and seeds that I collect from the gardens I walk through in the fall. I also like to collect stones and kitschy books from the 70s on interior plants.

What’s your favourite item in your khoollection?

I have a love for jewellery and my most treasured possession is a set of rings that are more like delicate sculptures, designed by an inspiring english Jeweller named Wendy Ramshaw.

Your favourite plant or flower?

My favorite plant at the moment is a terrestrial orchid named Ludisia discolor, also known as Jewel Orchid. It’s prized for its foliage rather than its flowers. It has very dark green leaves with fine white pinstripe markings. In certain light the maroon colour underneath the leaves can shine through and turn the white lines a hue of red.

The best gift you ever received?

That’s hard to answer; I guess it would be my first camera, a polaroid camera my father gave me. But recently I was given some light sensitive paper to make photograms with, so I’m looking forward to using it with dried foliage.

Who’s your #khoollectcrush?

Glass blower Jeremy Maxwell Wintrebert. Recently I’ve also been blown away by beautiful plant-inspired mirrors and furniture from the 1920s made by designer Claude Lalanne.

Urban Favourites

Where do you call home and what do you love most about it?

Paris for now. I love its late evening light during the summer and the pace of living.

Your favourite places for coffee and a bite to eat?

Lately I’ve been going to Fragments for a coffee and a tasty cookie – it’s very close to my work. For lunch, I’ve been enjoying a cute little Japanese soup kitchen in the 9th called Ito Chan. I love their tray special with a choice of maquerel, veggies and rice, each delicately placed seperately on their own wooden dish.

The best nook in the city for getting your zen back?

A small garden I designed in the 9th arrondissement in a hotel called Hotel Amour.

How do you spend a lazy Sunday?

I like to go walk in the woods near where I live on the outskirts of Paris.

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Read Kali’s tips for creating terrariums at home.
Visit Grow Little.
Find Grow Little on Instagram and Facebook.
Terrariums by Kali Vermès and Paolo Codeluppi | Photos by Kali Vermès.