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This artist turns moss into art pieces in Ho Chi Minh City

Sunday, August 20, 2023, 11:00 GMT+7
This artist turns moss into art pieces in Ho Chi Minh City
Tran Duc Lap works at his terrarium and moss picture shop in Go Vap District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Tran Duc Lap, a resident of Go Vap District, Ho Chi Minh City, first discovered the art of terrarium building in 2015 while looking for a hobby to de-stress from his office job. 

As his interest in plants grew, so did his desire to make them a larger part of his daily life and it was not long before he quit his day job to focus all of his efforts on building miniature gardens.

A terrarium is typically a glass container with soil and plants inside. They are created in such a way that the glass container essentially houses its own ecosystem.

Now, eight years later, 32-year-old Lap makes a living selling both open and closed terrariums out of his shop in Go Vap District.

Though the concept of a terrarium is simple, there are several different kinds of the designs themselves that can be quite complex. 

Typically, closed terrariums are made by planting moisture-loving plants, such as moss and ferns, in sealed jars for decorations. 

Lap builds a closed terrariums. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Tran Duc Lap builds a closed terrarium in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Open terrariums, on the other hand, often feature a more diverse variety of plants grown in a jar with no lid.

Lap’s terrariums typically sell for VND250,000 to several million dong each. (US$1 = 23,852).

Open terrariums on display at Lap’s shop. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Open terrariums on display at Tran Duc Lap’s shop in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

But Lap’s plant artistry extends far beyond terrarium design. When he is not busy planting miniature gardens, he is engulfed in creating pictures out of moss, peat clay, wood, gravel, and plants.

Tran Duc Lap poses with a moss picture. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Tran Duc Lap poses with a moss picture in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

The materials needed to make a moss picture. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

The materials needed to make a moss picture. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

To make these pictures, Lap uses peat class to stick bushels of moss into a frame.

“The hardest part is to keep the moss attached to the painting [with the peat clay] and prevent everything from falling apart when the picture is hung on the wall,” Lap said. 

“Because moss has no roots, it takes moisture in through its leaves, so it is necessary to spray water on the moss regularly in order to keep it moist and beautiful.

“Moss pictures should be stored in an environment that is not too hot and has an appropriate amount of light and mist.”

Moss pictures are displayed at Lap’s shop. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Moss pictures are displayed at Tran Duc Lap’s shop in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

It normally takes Lap around 30-45 minutes to complete a small-sized moss picture, while larger works require more time and effort.

Lap sells each moss picture for a few hundred thousand dong to tens of millions of dong, depending on its size and level of detail.

Aside from selling terrariums and moss paintings at his 9X Garden shop at 479/38 Phan Van Tri Street in Go Vap, Lap also runs workshops where attendees can learn how to make terrariums for themselves.

Lap attaches add details to a moss picture. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

Tran Duc Lap adds details to a moss picture. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre News

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