Botanique: Bondage Meets Horticulture

© @botaniqueboutique

Botanical artist Alyson Mowat on how to titilate your home with her new Araki-inspired plant sculptures

On a bright weekend morning in London’s Shoreditch House, Botanique founder Alyson Mowat, is showing a group of aspiring indoor gardeners how to nestle the roots of a baby fern into a tightly packed ball of soil, moss and leather cord. It is a messy business for inept green fingers, but Mowat is all smiles and encouraging words.

She calls these balls of moss, Kokedama, inspired by Japanese bondage or 'Kinbaku', popularized by the erotic photography of Nobuyoshi Araki. These moss Kokedama are bound using traditional knotting techniques and black leather cord, and then suspended from the ceiling, more 50 shades of green than grey.

Bondage for plants is one of the more unusual installations that Mowat has created for her company Botanique. Her lush, modern signature sculptures range from succulent and crystal filled terrariums, to plants cradled in concrete jewels and exposed root systems suspended in luminous glass pill containers.

Inspired by the healing powers of plants, Mowat left behind a career in graphic design and branding to try her luck with creating bespoke terrariums two years ago. From a residency at London members club the Hospital Club, and sculptural installations for a major music video coming out later this year, to ongoing botanical collaborations with artist Emma Winter and illustrator Louise Madzia, it's clear that Mowat has found her niche, and each of her designs are driven by a “desire to celebrate nature yet remain firmly rooted in the urban jungle of London.”

On America Vs. England...
"I spent time on the West Coast and I loved the way that people were using plants over there. It highlighted how bad we were at using plants in the UK! They’re always a bit of an afterthought, like a poinsettia at Christmas; frumpy looking houseplants that are bought throughout the year. So it was the beautiful plants in America that inspired me. I came back from San Fransisco and I started designing with glass – making these little crystal drops that then evolved into the terrariums."

On cultivating a career with plants...
"It started off as a hobby and within a year it became a business. I think I was really lucky in a lot of ways because suddenly there was this huge trend for indoor gardening, which happened at the same time. It allowed me to move from my previous job in fashion and design and allowed me to focus on my plants. I found it such a refreshing change to work with plants and to come away from my computer screen which I felt tied to for a good few years previously." 

On the benefits of plants...
"There are so many advantages as far as mental health goes and relaxation and so many things they do in our environment. It seems like a great thing to bring them indoors and to share our living space with them." 

On her personal aesthetic...
"I like estoerically witchy things, but my overall aesthetic is fairly minimal. My home is predominantly monochrome and the green plants are contrasting accents. I think that carries through in Botanique."

On her love of crystals...
"Before I started Botanique, I worked with jewellery, for an older artist called Angharad Rees. She used some beatiful stones and I was so interested in the history of these stones and the stories behind them. She would trace them back to amazing places in the world, as well as researching their scientific backgrounds and the healing properties. Later on I started thinking about the healing properties of the stones and the healing properties of plants, and there just seemed to be a kind of natural marriage between the two."

On the next trend in indoor gardening...
"I think it’s going to be focussed on lighting. I think the biggest problems for plants is overwatering and lack of light. It’s actually very simple to bring in the right amount of light for plants, so I’ve been looking at creating terrariums that include lighting. In terms of plant species – I think the Kokedama is so exciting, there’s something very beautiful about the simplicity of it. I think that’s a trend that’s just about to take off. I’m really imagining my Christmas tree this year as a Kokedama, I want to do it on a very big scale. I might even hang it upside down."

On her own green haven...
"I have hung lots of ivy curtains in my house. It’s wonderful to have the green obstructing the view of the street and the noise from outside - it feels like a green  sanctuary. The whole idea of Botanique, actually, comes from living in a city. I love urban living and the contrast between the fresh green plants and the concrete – how they work together. My Bijou Brut's were inspired by the conservatory at the Barbican – it’s my favourite spot in London."

On how to make your home a botanical paradise...
"I’ve always loved terrariums and I’ve always had them in my home but there’s so many other things. The Kokedama, the planters, it’s just about bringing green in. Bring as much a green in possible, in the most beautiful way you can!"

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