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Letting the Outside In

“Sometimes what you want is right in front of you. All you have to do is open your eyes and see it.” This quote by American author Meg Cabot holds so much truth in our technological society today.


More often than not, you will hear a lot of people complaining about having too many things to worry about. Technology definitely does not help in this regard as we end up being exposed to the lives of many other people and especially so when we see others having more fun than we are.


But, is this really our fate? Stuck behind the screen wallowing over how others are having a ball while we are stuck here typing away on our computers? Heck no, not by a long shot. Funnily enough, the answer to this is something we see every day, something we choose to ignore because of our familiarity with it but unawareness of its wonders—Nature.


InOut Atelier is a company that specialises in building Terrariums, Mossariums and more recently, Moss Frames—services they graciously provide at an affordable rate as a way for them to achieve their goal of introducing outdoors indoors to the common masses disconnected from Mother Nature’s blessings. I recently got an opportunity to talk to the small group behind this initiative.

Upon entering their office, I was greeted with glass jars of varying sizes each filled with different varieties of moss and grass, along with the smiling faces of the group behind each work of art. Among them was Ming Kuang who kickstarted the whole operation during his polytechnic days; Mei Shien, the graphic designer of the website; Izzwan, the consultant, in-charge of meeting with clients; and Sunny, the part-time project manager. A commonality among these fine folks is the fact that they all studied Environment Design at Temasek Polytechnic.

The roots of this blossoming little company is a humble one.


“When I was still in Polytechnic, I once saw a terrarium being sold in a store called ‘Rockstar’ at Cathay for more than $200,” Ming Kuang remembered. “I remember thinking at the time: “That’s too expensive. It’s just a plant.””


It was at this moment that an idea sprouted in Ming Kuang’s creative mind.


“I wanted to create a cheaper alternative that made terrariums more accessible to everybody.”

It was also an opportune time as that was when he had recently been taught about experimenting with glass and how glass allows us to not feel as disconnected from the outside as we do with concrete walls. Designers were focused on bringing the exteriors into the interiors.


And so, that was when he shared this idea with Izzwan and Sunny. At the start, they only started with a capital of $100 per person. However, thanks to their partnership with Public Garden allowing them to gain a lot of exposure.


Ming Kuang now owns a collection of very rare plants that cost more than $100. He also proudly boasts a terrarium that he has kept alive for 6 years which speaks for the quality of his terrariums, really.

Mei Shien, the last member of the group but certainly not discounted, joined soon after to take on the role of Graphic Designer. She mentions that she was not very fond of this idea as she had Helminthophobia—a fear of worms. Over time, however, she learnt to be more open-minded and helped the group with beautifying the website and is also responsible for a lot of the company’s visual materials. According to the whole group, she was probably “the missing puzzle piece” to the success of the company. To which Mei Shien could only respond with a shy smile.


Something a lot of people confuse about Terrariums is whether or not it is similar to Gardening. InOut Atelier definitely thinks not. According to them, gardening is more of a purposeful hobby—you make a spice garden or grow a specific vegetable for the purpose of consuming them. Terrarium-building, on the other hand, is meant as a decoration. It is a delicate process that, when done right, becomes self-sustaining and helps to satisfy the lack of greenery indoors.


“The best part about building terrariums is when customers appreciate your work,” Ming Kuang reflects. “You wonder to yourself, “how can I create a scene?” to really make a unique terrarium. When you see your customers happy with what you’ve built for them, you know you’re doing a good job.”

The mission of InOut Atelier is really to ease our eyes off the pain of the digital world and introduce us to some calming and relaxing greenery all in the comfort of our homes. And they have been able to accomplish this with their numerous workshops and services that allow for anyone to come and create their own living art piece from the outside world to admire inside.


They have also expanded beyond terrariums and moved to moss frames as well to further spread the greens inside our homes.

If you wish to participate in any of their upcoming workshops, you are in luck! This December, they will be hosting one at Wheeler’s Yard on 18 November which is a Saturday. The total cost for the whole workshop will be $55 but you are only required to deposit $25 online and pay the rest later on the day itself. More information on that here: https://www.inoutatelier.com/products/terrarium-workshop-at-wheelers-yard


They will also be having an event in collaboration with People’s Association this December as a form of Parent-children bonding session through terrarium-building.


Finally, a piece of insight from Ming Kuang, “Begin with the end in mind. In terms of terrarium-building, think of where you want to put the terrarium and work around that. The best way to start is to have a clear image of the end results.”


Check out InOut Atelier’s website here: https://www.inoutatelier.com/

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