Exotic Plants’ Kifumi Keppler and staff create one-of-a-kind pieces with natural materials
By Debbie Arrington
With the creative skills of Kifumi Keppler and her staff, moss becomes art. Using this plant material, she creates three-dimensional green scenery that can cover an entire wall.
“We’ve had so many requests for moss walls; they’re just flying out the door,” says Keppler, founder and owner of Exotic Plants in Sacramento. “We’re getting inundated with orders, from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. It’s kind of exciting.”
Known for its wide selection of indoor and tropical plants, Exotic Plants has earned new customers throughout California and Nevada for its handcrafted moss walls and other moss art pieces. The garden store on Fulton Avenue features a large gallery devoted to moss art including a spectacular waterfall scene studded with blue stones.
To most people, moss doesn’t inspire art. It grows on the north side of trees and walls; that’s about all they know.
But moss comes in many forms, varieties and colors, including a full spectrum of green hues and earthy tones. Keppler appreciates the textures that moss gives when combined with other natural materials such as dried limbs, twigs or stones.
“It gives life to a room,” she says, “like living art.”
That “living art” doesn’t need watering; although they keep their green color, the mosses are actually preserved and not alive.
Because the moss is not growing, it needs no light either. That makes moss art ideal for dark corridors or rooms. Without the demands of indoor plants, moss brings the vibrant feel of greenery and plant life to windowless spaces – with little if any care.
“A moss wall is the perfect substitute for a ‘living wall,’” says Keppler, referring to vertical installation of indoor plants, “but without all the trouble and complications.”
Exotic Plants’ moss art can be seen in several Sacramento-area businesses. Recently, Exotic Plants installed large moss walls in hallways at the headquarters of a local construction company. A row of meditative moss scenes fill the space above work stations in an otherwise cold computer room in a Roseville real estate office.
“I did 36 for one company,” Keppler says. “There’s so much life incorporated into a moss wall.”
Moss art is part collage, part mosaic. The layers of material give the final piece depth and a three-dimensional feel. The individual materials fit together snugly like a puzzle.
Often, Keppler depicts scenery in her moss art; the moss becomes a meadow or forest foliage. Sometimes, the moss whimsically depicts other moss – on a stylized tree or rock made of different-hued mosses, bark and lichen.
More abstract designs follow the graceful arc of driftwood or other focal point.
“I like a cascading branch,” Keppler explains. “Think of the way they look in the wild, then follow that line with texture.”
Keppler has experimented incorporating living plants – such as air plants, ferns and succulents – as part of moss walls. But those additions have light and water needs that can make them incompatible with the moss base; they may drip when watered and degrade the moss. Instead, she usually uses high-grade imitations or silk petals for those leafy or flower-like accents.
Overall, moss art and moss walls capture the same serenity that moss evokes in nature.
“They have the same appeal as a living plant,” Keppler says, “but with zero maintenance. And they survive in zero light; too much light can actually bleach them out.”
In addition to its moss gallery, Exotic Plants makes moss walls and art pieces to order. Pricing depends on the size and complexity of the creation.
On May 28, learn how to make your own moss art during a special evening workshop at Exotic Plants. The class includes instruction plus all materials to make a framed moss art piece. Tickets start at $80 for a 12- by 12-inch moss art piece and range up to $150 for a 14- by 20-inch moss mini-wall. Call the store for reservations or more information.
Exotic Plants is located at 1525 Fulton Ave., Sacramento. Call 916-922-4269 or click on www.exoticplantsltd.com.