One of my goals on my list for 2015 was to create an original terrarium based off of one of my favorite book series, Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling.
When brainstorming what aspect of the Harry Potter world my terrarium would be – (and there were SO many amazing possibilities!), I decided to focus on the Hogwarts Express. For me this train embodies Harry’s journey back into the magical world each school year. Once I had the image in my head I went to the books and the movies to expand my vision. I heavily relied on J.K. Rowling’s description of the journey in the first two Harry Potter novels. Book one, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone called the landscape as ‘wild’, and as having ‘woods, twisting rivers and dark green hills’. In book two, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the landscape was described as having ‘wide purplish moors, a great city alive with cars like multicolored ants, villages with tiny toy churches.”
The process of building the terrarium was very fluid- one piece fitting into the next. Doing even more research I found the Glenfinnan Viaduct in Scotland was was used for filming in four of the Harry Potter films. You can even travel on this line on the Jacobite steam train. (This experience is now on my bucket list!) Even though in the films and in real life this viaduct spans only above the wild greenery, I knew I wanted to build a waterfall and lake- so the design formed around that as the focus. The idea was to create a moment in the movement of the train- one glimpse of the scenery- but if you’re on the train snoozing or practicing spells you would completely miss it.
I divided my terrarium into two spaces with an unused glass frame. This would enable me to create two levels so that the waterfall could be built. On the back (higher) side I prepped the area with dirt and left the front empty for the time being. For a refresher on building a terrarium, check out my blog post here. That’s when I used Sculpty clay to create the rock/land base for the river, the back of the cliff wall and the lake which would later hold the fake water. After baking it in the oven I used superglue to shore up any holes and weak areas in the Sculpty so the fake water wouldn’t seep through. I painted the feature to replicate rock, and used blues and greens where the water would be as well as brown to imitate a depth in the lake. After following the instructions for the fake water (about $8 for a kit that filled up this small area at Walmart), I had my lake done. I added rocks and fake greenery from Hobby Lobby to complete the effect. The rest of the built up rock is made similarly. I painted the glass to hide it and added bits of painted Sculpty to give it the look of a rugged cliff.
The waterfall itself is created from a liquid nail product. I applied it to wax paper in long strips that once dry, could be formed together to create an effect of falling water. On several of the strips I ran a toothpick with a dab of white acrylic paint on the end to create the effect of rushing water. This was a good time to add my plants also.
Sculpty clay has to be baked and so you have to move it after modeling it. For this reason I used a recipe found online to mix my own air dry ‘modeling clay’ (mostly glue and cornstarch) to make the bridge and the train. The bridge was tricky to keep up even as it was with the span of empty air below. Using the modeling clay that dried in place made the process easier. For the bridge I purchased a train track from Hobby Lobby. With a little care and pressure the rail would snap off of the track.
Adding the final touches made the terrarium come to life. This included the Sculpty village homes and church, and the fake greenery from Hobby Lobby to fill in where the real plants couldn’t.
Stay tuned for my Lord of the Rings Terrarium!