Erin Kinsey, Artisan Moss lead designer & owner, has developed a design style uniquely her own – utilizing organic, natural forms in a contemporary way. Here she answers a few questions about how she came to creating beautiful green moss art.
How did you come to do this work?
I’ve always been drawn to the natural world… I grew up in the mountains of Northern California. I began working with plants over 10 years ago in landscape design. At one point I had three jobs - I was working as a landscape designer, muralist and fine art restorer all at the same time! So coming up with and creating ‘plant paintings’ with moss seemed like a natural result of those three jobs.
I experimented with indoor living walls - but I had concerns about their upkeep and practicality. That led me to preserving mosses and ferns, making green walls into easy and beautiful indoor art. That’s where Artisan Moss started.
My inspiration starts with nature itself. I’m passionate about creating art with raw natural materials. I’ve always been drawn to the natural world and fascinated by the inherent beauty, the details of plants and branches. A lot of times an art piece will start with just one element: like a beautiful branch. I’ll go into the woods and find a branch myself. I know it when I see it! The process itself is quite meditative, once I get that initial branch or inspiration…the piece just naturally “grows” from there. I just sort of follow it to its natural conclusion.
Talking about a project with a client helps me define their wants and needs, too. Through talking with them and making mental notes of the words they use to describe what they envision, I can figure out if they want a more “masculine” piece, where I would then select stronger, thicker branches and ferns, or a feminine piece, which can be more with willow branches and subtle mosses.
What are the aesthetic properties of your moss art?
Aesthetically, I get a lot of inspiration from contemporary environmental artists like Azuma Makoto and Andy Goldsworthy… how they see nature and how they process forms in nature in a contemporary way, through a contemporary lens. I love exploring the combination of art and nature in a similar way. There’s a timelessness to it for me, yet it’s very modern.
I like working with just one or two dominant objects as the focus - then adding a couple of complimentary elements to that. Working within such a limited color palette helps me distill my ideas down to their essence - there’s a strength in that. In a broad sense my work looks very serene and simple, there’s so much green… yet there are so many details when you look at it closely, so it’s very complicated too! The piece can tell a wonderfully detailed story with just those few elements.
Explain how sustainability plays a roll.
It’s very important to me to keep our work sustainable, and we are very aware of the potential ecological impacts our profession can have on the environment. We only use sustainably harvested mosses from within the U.S. It’s hard to guarantee mosses from outside the country haven’t been stripped from an ecologically sensitive area. Shipping moss from outside the country also requires toxic chemicals and formaldehyde to preserve the plants to get them through customs. So we have our sustainable farms here and have developed a non-toxic, environment-friendly process to preserve our plants, to keep their natural flexibility and color.
We do not use reindeer moss. It’s a food source for caribou and takes a long time to grow back once it’s been taken.
We try to keep a small carbon footprint. We get our ferns locally, or we grow them ourselves. All of our branches and rocks are sourced locally: from our own land or from friends’ forested properties. A lot of times the wood is from brush that’s scheduled for for fire safety removal. All our wood for frames are local reclaimed lumber. We put a lot of effort into keeping the materials used in our work as natural as possible!
Can I order a custom piece? Or what if I have my own frame I want to use?
Our studio services range from initial conception to the fabrication and installation of the final product. We enjoy the creative challenge of each and every piece we make with all of our clients and customers. Get in touch with us and we can start a creative collaboration!