Gypsy Raku

A moss terrarium by Gypsy Raku
A moss terrarium by Gypsy Raku

The world of once upon a time lives on in fairy tales, myths and legends; however, sometimes it can be found in the most unusual of places. Pennsylvania natives Brittany and Nate Cline are a “husband and wife team who love to make art together.” Their specialties are live moss terrariums–fairy homes, and miniature habitats with gnomes and hobbit doors. Inspired by the imagination, the Cline’s draw from the earth, color, and fantasy world where happiness prevails and life is simple.  In truth, the Shire does exist.

Working what they considered to be dead end jobs in Pennsylvania, the Cline’s decided to quit and move south. “It was a toss-up between Texas and North Carolina, but we chose North Carolina because of the weather, and it has a good market for pottery and ceramics,” says Cline.   Making the move was nerve racking but having had the opportunity to take a layoff, they didn’t have to find a job.  Instead, by focusing on their art, they rallied enough business to make a living.

Interest in pottery making started when Cline was in high school. “I took a ceramics class and loved it,” she says. After graduating, I asked my dad to put me in a studio and he agreed.  He and my Mom are both successful potters.  Our first experience with the local craft and art shows was at the Music and Art festival in Buffalo New York, a fundraiser that helps keep art and music in the schools. “We made and sold ceramic necklaces, pendants with organic swirly designs and some with the Yin and Yang symbol,” says Cline.

With an art show scheduled in Raleigh for September 2012, and her parents having just moved to a new house with a back yard full of moss, Cline came up with an idea to make live moss terrariums with houses, mushrooms, and little landscapes.  A few weeks later, they opened the Gypsy Raku, an shop and started selling.  Within 24 hours they had made their first sale followed by one a week until Christmas when sales went through the roof. With the start of 2013, Cline revamped the Gypsy Raku with better photos.  This led to immediate success, and from that day on, “it’s seldom that we don’t get on average 3 to 5 sales per day,” says Cline.

Since their home is also their studio space, it must be organized.  They use various mediums to create the moss terrariums, such as clay, live moss, pebbles, glass, and earth.  Each sculpted piece is one of a kind, handmade and unique with varying colors. The firing process used is called Raku, and because of how the clay is baked, it creates a shiny, metallic, and crackled finish. Different from most pottery that is baked in a kiln and allowed to cool on its own, the Raku process pulls out the glazed pieces while they are red hot.  “We place them into a bin with something combustible such as newspaper or leaves. When the hot pieces come into contact with the material,” says Cline, “they normally catch on fire. We then smother the flame and let the piece sit in the smoldering smoke while the effects take place. Once the pieces cool, they’re cleaned, scrubbed, and torched.”

Learning how to harvest the moss and make terrariums was something Cline and her husband researched.  The concept of creating miniature landscapes and villages was because they were cute. “I think miniature things are adorable and what a container garden needs is a little house tucked into a little rock path with a moss covered tree, some mushrooms, and maybe a gnome or two,” says Cline. With bell jars and mason jars, and glassware with lids, the Cline’s have come up with a line of restockable items of which the top sellers are the Tree of Life live moss terrarium and the Hey Cupcake live moss terrarium. Almost every piece is custom made and can be personalized by adding a set of initials inside a heart carved into the tree trunk. “We also do wedding favors which are fun and little,” says Cline.

With a lot of new ideas on the horizon, such as Catch a Fairy Tale terrarium with field guide and journal, Gypsy Raku plans on developing an educational and imaginative kit both parents and their children can enjoy together.  Success is swift.  Based on the 1900 sales they’ve had during the one year, the five star rating plus over 3,850 followers, the Gypsy Raku might need a larger space sooner than they think.