In these modern days, many people have become accustomed to living in big cities, with their concrete-grey landscapes. As a result, we, the city dwellers, make the most of our green spaces and fall in love with them in search for a balance. This is something that can be reflected in Zöld, a brand of terrariums from Buenos Aires City.
The company takes its name from the word “green” in Hungarian. The blend of nature and urbanism is strengthened through the union of botany and geometry. Each piece is designed and hand-made using the Tiffany technique.
Argentinean Silvana Rossi and Hungarian Balázs Kispéter are the creators responsible for this project. They have also created a family, with a lovely, seven-month-old son. As they declare in their website: “We celebrate the world of Botany and the connexion with nature in urban life. We are inspired by a vision of plants as living sculptures in a constant changing process and create special objects to hold them, exhibit, observe and adore them: terrarium, pots and other object with geometrical forms.”
We visited Zöld’s brand new store in Palermo, where they share the space with Obra (Silvana’s other undertaking of sustainable design and craftsmanship with her sister, Sandra). We met the passionate entrepreneurs and had a conversation over a cup of tea.
What is your story?
Silvana: We are both a couple and partners in business.
Balázs: I needed to choose between living in Europe or coming to Argentina and living with her. I chose the latter. The first time I came here was approximately seven years ago.
Silvana: Actually, we met ten years ago in New Zealand by chance. Then, our story began. We both lived in London for a year. I studied marketing there. I couldn’t make up my mind about living there, so he finally came here. He stayed and after some time we developed our project together.
How does the dynamic work between you two?
Silvana: It’s difficult sometimes because we are doing everything together all the time, but we make it work anyway.
Balázs: It is different than working for somebody else. I prefer this alternative. We are lucky because we have a lot of space: a studio where I make the terrariums and keep all the necessary materials; and meanwhile she is working upstairs with the computer. Sometimes we are kind of separated, but we need to talk a lot all the time; regarding how and why doing things, about looking for new things, how to make different models of terrariums and sort it all out.
Silvana: What is difficult is to separate things because you end up talking about work all day long. For instance, he wants to have a break and I am enthusiastically working on something. On the other hand, we have different tasks as well as spaces which help to keep a distinct place for each one of us within the undertaking.
What was the origin of Zöld?
Silvana: Fundamentally, it meant to join our interests. First of all, we met in a flower factory in New Zealand, so we already had the Botany theme around us. Then, he worked in gardening in London for a long time, with a friend. When Balázs moved to Argentina, he started in the same field for a while.
Meanwhile, I have always been closer to design. I studied Clothing and Textile Design at Buenos Aires University and had worked in an Author Design brand first, which I liked. Then, I had a job as designer at a commercial brand. I guess that I got bored. After that, I decided to travel; I met him and, later, I studied Marketing in London.
Finally, we came with all of this “baggage” of things. I love design in general and we saw that this was a strong trend abroad: green walls, terrariums, plants and “designer flowerpots”. In other words, everything that has to do with taking a little piece of nature to urban spaces. That’s where people had lost touch with it and therefore needed a reduced space to keep a small garden. Since he enjoys craftsmanship, we started to learn about terrariums and tested it. He liked the technique and loved the manual work. So, eventually, we went for it.
Is there a sort of philosophy or idea behind Zöld?
Silvana: To be honest, it came from a visual overview and the necessity of producing beautiful objects that were linked to nature and to handmade craft. This mix is what we are attracted to. Personally, I assemble the natural content and I find it interesting when I create a small landscape and combine different elements such as rocks. I have in mind several textures and colours of plants. I aim for this when I put it all together, thinking about the person that will enjoy it in his/her apartment or house because of the lack of access to a bigger space. I mean, to delight in a small and wonderful piece of nature in your own home.
Why do you draw upon geometrical forms?
Silvana: At first, we came to the conclusion that it was another huge trend about to be set. After that, we started investigating about geometry in general and the sacred geometry, in particular. So, even though nature seems organic, there is a geometrical structure behind it. We were interested in geometry from this point of view.
Afterwards, it was fascinating making moulds and putting the pieces together to create the shapes. Geometry came easily to us. We didn’t come up with the idea of making something more organic.
Now, we have in mind a different model of terrariums: closed and tropical ones. These types of plants need a more humid climate inside of the recipient, so it needs to be shut. For some reason, we imagine that these should have an organic shape. Thus, we’re looking for recipients similar to old flagons (which are proving difficult to be found). In contrast, cactus and succulents require open terrariums and geometry seemed more adequate in order to combine all of their shapes.
What is the creating process of a terrarium?
Silvana: Generally, we begin by working on ideas regarding the shape of the object. We draw them and start elaborating the moulds in the computer (that’s part of my job). Then, we test the mould in paper. When you think something in 2-D and then translate it into 3-D, proportions usually change and results differ from what we had in mind. After testing the mould, it is done in rigid cardboard and it passes to Balázs’ hands.
Balázs: I like making a terrarium very much because it is a work that needs to be perfect. Glass is not a flexible thing: you can’t pull it or turn it. So, you need to make precise cuts by hand, based on the moulds. After that, the side of the glass piece is sanded down and wrapped in copper foil (where the different parts have contact) because solder doesn’t stick on glass’ surface. You need to use a special flux in order to make a better melting substance with solder, and to allow sealing the junction. Next, I put the pieces in the right angles and hold them together, making contact between the bottom and top edge of each one. Sometimes, I don’t continue unless it is perfect.
Silvana: Once the terrarium is completed, the pieces are washed and a patina is passed along the metal unions. Nowadays, we are offering three colours: copper, black and silver. Next, we apply a polish or wax to fix the patina and make it shinier. The piece gets a final cleaning and the piece comes back to my hands, to be planted.
We work with a great number of small rocks and colours, to create a substratum for cactus and succulent species. Then, we choose plants with different textures and heights to catch your eye. Finally, we add some decorative elements and it is finished. Sometimes, we get asked for some specific combination of plants and we offer those, too.
What do you think are the benefits of having a terrarium at home?
Silvana: I believe that it is an object that attracts a lot of attention. As I mentioned previously, it is also nice to be able to sit and look at a small world of nature in your own home. So, it has to do with getting in touch with nature. Moreover, there are lots of people fascinated by the sacred geometry behind nature and they have bought our terrariums because of the shape. For instance, the five platonic solids: the tetrahedron, the cube, the octahedron, the dodecahedron and the icosahedron.
Apart from that, it is a nice, designer object that enhances the atmosphere of the room. It could also be a piece that leads to an interesting conversation when you have guests. And there are always collectors of cactus and succulent plants. They are actual fans of these things and, in my opinion, I think that terrariums are an original way to exhibit them and being able to admire them. I would absolutely put my favourite plant inside one. It is like a renovating the value of the ordinary flowerpot.
What is the care for these pieces and their maintenance?
Silvana: First, the location is really important: terrariums must receive natural light but not in direct contact. Secondly, it needs a low level of watering; you should only water it when the soil is dry. Do not over-water it or leave it totally dried. Thirdly, we use activated charcoal in the assembling, which prevents fungus from appearing and growing. However, everything can happen because they are plants and need some care. Fourthly, the glass can be normally cleaned. When it comes to the joints, metal can be transformed over time due to its contact with air and water. In that case, they can be polished again with wax and recover its shine.
However, we always include a card with the instructions for care of our products in every purchase. And we’re always available to respond any inquire regarding this matter.
What are your plans for the future?
Silvana: We have lots of ideas and we’re eager to do new things but we’re kind of in the middle of a family revolution (laughs). The opening of our store was a big dream come true. Just as everything we do, we’re taking it step by step and focusing all our effort.
We would like to expand our present line of products: we have a few ideas regarding new shapes. Nevertheless, it is hard to take on new forms and bring them to reality. We feel like creating the organic and closed terrariums that I have mentioned. They are rarely seen here and they involve a different kind of plants and care.
In addition to this, we would want to use the same technique to create other objects such as candles or lamps. We would also like to experiment with other materials, like mirrors or coloured glass. We have already done some flowerpots with mirrors and this resulted in a nice alternative. Another idea is to broaden the use of plants, for example, to the interior species. This could all mean the possibility to create other lines of flowerpots within our brand’s aesthetic.
Furthermore, we are planning to start giving some courses on Tiffany technique in our store. We would like to teach the technique and how to assemble a terrarium. We are taking into consideration several types of recipients, not only the ones that we do. Perhaps people have a nice one and would like to use it as a terrarium and we would show them how to do so.
In the beginning we were also considering to get involve in gardening in a city and thought about instruments and tools that people could use. Anyway, I have a million of possible products in my mind; uniting them within the limits of the image and aesthetic of Zöld, but expanding our lines over time, always in close relation with Botany, plants and geometry. Definitely, there is a surplus of ideas and will.