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Living Sculpture

Marjie Killeen | January 4, 2017 | Feature Features National

Laura Mae Noble creates tiny worlds of beauty under glass.
Terrariums, $75-$2,000, by Noble Terraria at Cultivate Urban Rainforest & Gallery and FEW Spirits, Evanston

Artist Laura Mae Noble’s latest work with terrarium design explores the concept of biophilia—the idea that humans are innately attracted to nature and other forms of life. “These little ecosystems are the next level for me in expressing the essence of my creative work,” says the founder of Noble Terraria. “My visual art and my terrarium art are really about life.”

Noble, who has a BFA in illustration from the Rhode Island School of Design, works in many different mediums, including illustration, fashion and fine-art painting. She studied in Rome, lived and worked as an artist and model in NYC, and now lives in Chicago, where she teaches fashion illustration at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

While loving her life in the city, Noble still missed the sweeping landscapes of her rural Vermont childhood. (She grew up in a cabin without electricity.) She was working as a container plant designer at Gethsemane Garden Center in Edgewater when “I started getting obsessed with the little tiny plants in the greenhouse,” she says. “It became an addiction.”

Designing terrariums allows Noble to experiment with unique vessels and materials—her substrate might incorporate shards of pottery or 24K gold flakes—as well as create living environments that are both beautiful and sustainable. “I care about how healthy the plants are as much as how the terrarium looks,” she explains, and only uses plants that naturally thrive in a warm, wet climate, like mosses, and aquatic and bog plants. Inspired by her time in Rome, her living sculptures also explore the concept of layering: the strata of soil, the combination of living and inanimate objects, and the experience of art evolving over time. Laura Mae Noble-taught terrarium classes $95, Jan. 18, Persimmon, Wilmette,; Jan. 20 and 21, Feb. 17 and 18, Chalet, Wilmette,


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