February gallery exhibit will showcase the wonders of terrariums

As a young girl, Ashley McDevitt could often be found in her backyard, scooping up handfuls of dirt, peering through the grass, and turning over every rock she found.

“I was fascinated by rocks. I was always digging them up and looking at bugs,” says McDevitt, a designer with Kathy Davis Studios. “I love tiny, little worlds, and I liked the idea that you could turn over this rock and find a new world.”

These days, the Kutztown University graduate is making mini worlds of her own. McDevitt will showcase her whimsical miniature universes in “Imaginarium Terrarium,” the February gallery exhibit at the Scatter Joy Center for the Arts in Horsham.

Ashley will offer booklets on terrarium care along with her creations.

Ashley will offer booklets on terrarium care along with her creations.

A collection of about 20 of her small gardens in a glass will be displayed during the exhibit, along with a dozen “faux terrariums” – creations comprising fake plants, stones, moss and painted rocks for those doubtful of their green thumb.

“There’s nothing in there you can kill, but they’ll still look pretty,” McDevitt promises.

Her passion, however, is for the terrariums she creates with succulents of varying sizes, shades and shapes (jade happens to be her favorite), accessorizing them with marbles, crystals, tiny figurines and more natural elements such as driftwood, rocks, and branches.

Ashley's very first terrarium features a skull gazebo and doll's hand rising from the dirt.

Ashley’s very first terrarium features a skull gazebo and doll’s hand rising from the dirt.

She admits she’s become slightly obsessed with these apartment-friendly tiny plant projects since taking a class on terrarium building last year. Indeed, the low-maintenance gardens, once a staple of elementary school arts and craft projects, have captivated countless DIY types and design creatives amid a resurging popularity in the last several years.

McDevitt, whose parents grew vegetable gardens, always wanted to have her own plants. Terrariums seemed a great fit to channel both her creativity and her love of nature. A painter and sketch artist who works mostly with pen and ink, or pen and watercolor, she was also drawn to the idea of using her hands in a different artistic vein.

“When I took that class, I was so excited,” she recalls. “I found it very relaxing and something apart from what I usually do. It was more like sculpting but it was still compositional. I was still arranging things.”

McDevitt was first drawn to art from about age 10. When she wasn’t exploring life in her backyard, she could often be found filling sketch books with her drawings, following an impulse that felt more natural than anything else at which she’d tried her hand.

“I didn’t do sports or anything, so it was my outlet. That was the one thing I knew was mine,” says McDevitt, who majored in communication design with a focus in illustration at Kutztown. “It always felt right.”

Her watercolors will draw on an airy spring palette.

Her watercolors will draw on an airy spring palette.

Her newfound love for minuscule gardens doesn’t mean she has abandoned creating with pen and ink. “Imaginarium Terrarium” will also feature 40 of her original watercolors.

“It’s all about this whimsical little world,” says McDevitt of the overall theme of her exhibit. “I kept my watercolors very light and airy. There’s a very calm, springy kind of feel to them, and then you walk into this tiny terrarium world.”

“Imaginarium Terrarium” opens Feb. 26, with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Scatter Joy Center for the Arts, 305 Horsham Road. The exhibit will remain on view in the center’s farmhouse through March 15.