When I was in the third grade we were asked to create a diorama that represented a climate, or geographical setting of some kind. The tropics, perhaps a frozen tundra or a mountainous region. Honestly, I wasn’t paying all that much attention. I had just started reading A Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder and there wasn’t anything more riveting to me than reading about Laura and her Pa having to grind up wheat in the coffee mill. Or Ma Ingalls making ice cream out of some snow and maple syrup. Really, these people were geniuses.
The day before the project was due I decided that I would make a Desert scene. Tents, sheiks and the whole shebang. I would use whatever I had on hand – just like the Ingalls. I took out a rusty cookie sheet and filled it with scoops of sand from our sandbox. Then I made tiny paper tents and palm trees out of lined school paper and a #2 pencil. I bent the bottoms ever so slightly so the little I Dream of Jeanie style harem girls would stick upright in wet sand.
The next day, I carried that creation to the school – proud as all get out. And when it was my turn to present I carried that heavy cookie sheet to the front. Plunked it down and announced that it was the desert.
The thing was, all those paper figures that were sticking upright in their soggy sand base when I started out? They were gone. Because by the time I got to school the sand had dried and they had all blown away. So my desert was really and truly a barren landscape of sand. The teacher was not amused and I had to go home and transform a Frye Boot shoebox into a rainforest instead. Big whup.
I still think that simple dioramas are the coolest. I especially love dioramas in glass jars – there’s a sort of specimen feel to them that gives them a slightly twisted, mostly awesome perspective.
And I’m particularly in love with moss terrariums decorated with tiny folk or mushrooms.
You can make a terrarium/diorama of your own by buying a kit on Etsy or attempting to follow my directions. Though I am the girl with the tray of sand, so follow at your own risk.
Step 1 – Choose any glass container with a decent fitting lid. You don’t need a top with rubber suction. Just a lid that will fit correctly and not too wobbly. Cookie jars, an old mayonnaise jar would even work.
Step 2 – Line the bottom with a small handful of tiny stones or crushed gravel. Plain fish tank gravel works as well, the purpose is to provide drainage for the moss.
Step 3 – This is optional, but some crafters suggest using activated charcoal in the next layer. It’s something you can find at any fish store and it helps to keep down any funky smells. Febreezing your terrarium is not an option.
Step 4 – Layer a small bit of dark, rich, potting soil.
Step 5 – Lay down your moss! You can find this from an online supplier, at a garden center or on a walk in the woods. Once you’ve got all your layers down, give it all a gentle spritzing of water. Truly a spritzing, don’t pour water inside the container.
Best Step Ever – Stick your people in there!
Use a cupcake or cake decorations by Layer Cake Shop, a tiny plastic bride and groom or baby carriage by jocankit1 [missing-shop]. Heck even a McDonalds Happy Meal figurine would work. Place near a sunny (but not super hot) window once you’re through. Open up and spritz it about once a month!