Photos by Andrea Younes
Sometimes art is a hereditary thing, and for Helen Oldham of Glass Gardens, that's definitely the case. Helen is this month's DIME Store featured maker, and she couldn't wait to share about the process and backstory of her amazing terrarium vessels. See what she has to say about her unique skills and the organic start to her business in the interview below...
WDDI: How did you learn the amazing skills required to assemble these gems?
Helen Oldham: My dad owned a Stained Glass Shop here in Denton on Locust for about 10 years, back in the 90s. He still does freelance stained glass work now and then, so I have been surrounded by it my entire life. Last spring, after eyeballing these types of creations online for months, I realized “my dad probably knows how to do this!” And of course he did. So over spring break Dad and I made the first four terrariums! They were a big hit with family and friends so I knew I needed to make more. The first shapes we made where the large and small “diamonds” and once I got bored of those I began to try different ones. After creating enough it was fun to start improvising and inventing new shapes and hanging devices.
What inspired you to use these skills toward terrariums?
Weeks before Spring Break I had begun my crazy indoor gardening phase. I was planting any kind of cacti or succulent into any kind of cup or pot I could. I began selling these little mini gardens at Mulberry Street Cantina’s monthly Arts and Crafts Fair. I knew that the same audience that wanted to but adorable cacti in vintage vessels would like these terrariums I had just learned to make. It combined my two favorite hobbies at the time, gardening and glass.
We’re personally pretty terrible at keeping plants alive, even succulents. What’s your favorite plant to home in your vessels?
Truthfully I’m not great at it either! Thankfully the process of replanting a fresh batch of plants is fun so I'm not too heartbroken when they die. Even though succulents don’t much care for these containers with no drainage, they are still my favorite. I have had some survive since last spring so it is possible. The best way to keep these desert plants happy is to place some stones in the bottom of the terrarium under the soil for drainage. Ferns, Orchids, and any other potted plants do great in the terrariums!
We heard a rumor that you’re also working on wrapping up a Communication Design degree from UNT. How do your creative skills in that field apply to your work with Glass Gardens?
Yes I am so close to the finish line! Truthfully terrarium building is more of a brake from my Graphic Design projects. The hands on and active creating is a nice contrast to computer work. However, I did create my own logo and all the collateral needed for Glass Gardens. I do plan on making more products that will need labeling and some package design some time soon.
Do you prefer one medium over the other?
I definitely don’t prefer one over the other but like I said, they contrast each other very nicely.
How do you plan to use your combination of skills in your future career as an artist?
I hope to hang in Denton for a while just creating everything I can. Terrariums, posters, prints, a few stained glass projects and some self branding and packaging. Once I decide to get a job with an agency or design company or move to a different city or town, I will always have Glass Gardens as a hobby and creative outlet.
How did you get involved with the DIME Store?
I had been to the DIME Store and number of times before and had bought several gifts for myself and others. Knowing that all of the work was made in Denton was exciting. Once selling my terrariums to friends, and friends of friends, became too much for me to do alone while in school and taking classes I immediately though of the DIME Store. It was the perfect next step to the “business.”
Where can we find your work aside from DIME?
Currently I don’t have a site set up for Glass Gardens. With school going on I would not have time to create enough terrariums to stock an online store. So for now they are only available either with me in person, or at DIME. I hope to be apart of the Handmade Harvest next year, and possibly the Denton Community Market in the spring. There is also an Arts Fest every year in Frisco that I have my eyes on as well. I do post what I'm currently working on on Instagram if anyone ever whats to see what Glass Gardens is up to!
The DIME Store is a shop and artist collective in downtown Denton that features art, craft, and vintage from 40+ local makers. Rachel Aughtry and Shelley Christner act as the "curators and purveyors" of the shop. When they're not at DIME, you'll find them behind their sewing machines or enjoying a margarita at The Greenhouse.