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How to Make a Personalized Terrarium

by Dayna Isom

Aug 7, 2018

Craft a tiny, self-contained representation of your hometown—or your happy place—with a custom DIY terrarium, inspired by Episode 2 of Making It.

Photo by: Root & Timber

Every Tuesday evening from July 31–September 4, we’ll be hosting a quick recap of the latest episode of NBC’s competitive crafting show, Making It, and sharing original DIYs and shopping ideas tied to each week’s theme. So mark your calendars and don’t forget to tune in at 10/9c—or stream it whenever you need a dose of inspo—then meet us here to get inspired and get crafty. On this week’s episode of Making It, the contestants built hometown terrariums using materials that reminded them of their roots. Of course this immediately got me thinking about what my own hometown terrarium would look like—I grew up in the sticks of Virginia, so I’m picturing something involving a miniature barn and a tiny “Virginia is for Lovers” sign. But you could also go more abstract with the concept and make your terrarium a peek into your happy place, or even a place that exists only in your imagination.

Learn more about Making It

To make your own, start by searching for terrarium-friendly supplies, from natural “landscaping” materials to cheeky miniatures and figurines. You’ll be amazed at how you can find minis to fit just about any theme on Etsy; good search terms to try include terrarium figurines, fairy garden miniatures, or even cake toppers. As you add tiny treasures to your cart, check each one's size to make sure they'll all work well together. Once you have your scene figured out, choose a clear vessel to act as its home, taking the scale of your individual items into account—and don’t forget to factor in the size of the container’s opening!
You can go as basic as a mason jar or a fish bowl (like most of the Making It contestants used) or try something more unique, like a modern apothecary jar or even a reclaimed lightbulb. (Or get a jumpstart on the whole process by ordering a terrarium kit that has all the basics you need.) If you’ll be including any live botanicals like moss or air plants, be sure to choose a container with enough room for them to thrive; colorful dried moss, lichens, and seaweed make great substitutes if you have a truly black thumb (or just don’t want the pressure). Also important: Make sure your chosen decorations can hang with the level of moisture you're going to be working with—if you're only including dried elements, you might be fine with wood and paper accessories, but wetter terrariums will want sturdier minis. Ready to get started? Read on for unique terrarium themes with tons of personalization potential.

If you treasure small-town sweetness:

Design your own charming neighborhood scene using little ceramic houses, miniature fruit trees, and maybe some nostalgic extras like a tire swing or a crate of farmer's market produce. If you’ve moved away from the town you loved growing up in, this is a perfect way to big-up the place you’re from. Plus: By adding rose bushes in bloom or a sprinkling of tiny red and orange leaves, you can even have a permanent reminder of your favorite fleeting season.

If you live for a day at the beach:

Create a self-contained beach you can mentally escape to any time, even in the dead of winter. Pose a petite swimmer figurine or two with an octopus, otter, or whale, then fill in around them with a little sand and some shells, sea glass, or driftwood collected along a go-to strip of shoreline. Other beachy finds that’ll set the scene: a mini surfboard, lifeguard chair, or lounge chairs.

If your one true home is on the road:

Planes, trains, a cool vintage automobile—this unexpected terrarium idea pays tribute to the mode of transportation you daydream about the most. Perhaps a stamp-size brass sailboat, a fleet of wooden mini scooters, or a DIY laser-cut wood kit that yields an airplane you can fit in the palm of your hand. (This is also a great gift idea for your travel buddy who's always on standby and ready for adventure.)

If you inhabit a fantasy land:

Indulge your most whimsical impulses by assembling an otherworldly array of unicorns, fairy houses, and polka-dotted mushrooms. Or if you’re a mermaid lover (I know lots of you exist!) you could have tons of creative fun going that terrarium route, starting with a base of colorful sand.

If you thrive where the positive energy is:

This terrarium is a view into my own heart, which is basically full of crystals and geodes. If you like to keep things a little bit mystical and dig desert-hippie vibes, make your terrarium a spiritual home filled with glittery quartz and some tiny air plants scattered about—maybe even an air plant growing on a gold-dipped crystal (yes, it’s peak Instagram).

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Dayna Isom

Dayna Isom Johnson is Etsy’s resident trend expert. Always on the hunt for the latest and greatest products, Dayna keeps her finger firmly on the pulse of the hottest market trends, up-and-coming Etsy designers, and sellers with exciting stories.