Specimen Lab: Home for Peculiar Plants

Man With A Plan / LifestyleSlideshow

Written By
Annisa Puspa Andira

Edited By
Fazrah Heryanda

Photograph By
Danis Sie
Fadhli Zaky

Having a whole craft collection might be familiar in the public eye, but it is almost nowhere to encounter a peculiar plants collector in town. Let alone establish a business combining art and those plants. But, Danies Sie, who was traveling to Japan to pay a friend a visit, never thought he would be captivated and started to collect it as his friend did. While being a collector rookie back then, Danis realize how much more enticing the plant was if there’s a vessel that matches its beauty. With a compelling story behind each plant, Specimen Lab (@specimenlab) wants to show the peculiar plants also deserve to be a daystar.

Hi Danis! Please tell us about your newest project Specimen Lab!

So, Specimen Lab is a brand project focusing on art plants, planters, and objects. ‘We’re focusing on rare, peculiar, slow-growing creatures and desert plants, such as cactus, xerophyte, pachypodium, haworthia and more. Along with it, there are special pots ‘we’ve created to fit its unique ”personality.”

It's fascinating you choose those plants since 'it's a rare thing in local markets. So, how did it started?

There is no business idea whatsoever in the beginning. It just happens when I visited some friend in Japan ‘who’s a collector of plants like pachypodium and Madagascar plants. My friend talked me into it and showed me his collection. By then, I was hooked and started collecting it too.

At first, I was collecting plants like cactus, pachypodium, etc. and planting it in a plastic pot. However, some of the plants got rotten, so I switch the pots with a clay one. Then, I found an odd feeling and thinking that the plant itself has a distinct character, and a regular clay pot ‘doesn’t do much in showing its beauty. So, I think it is a good idea to make a special pot that has character, unique and match with the plant features and ‘that’s what I am aiming about through Specimen Lab.

Other than giving the plant a distinguish pot, is there more goals that Specimen Lab wants to achieve?

In Specimen Lab, we didn’t want to sell a product but also telling people the story behind every plant we offer. Most of the plants are conserved plants. With a long journey, what a shame if people ‘don’t know what ‘they’ve been through to get here. Aside to create a right composition, the pots we made becoming a part of our way to storytelling these plants.

From there, we also want to build a strong bond between human and plants because we believe the relationship between them ‘it’s essential. In doing that, we emphasize on the process and journey in taking care of the plants. So, we came up with a notion: Patience + Conserve for people to enjoy looking after the plant, be patience doing it, and appreciate every little progress.

Photo Source: Danis Sie

Can you share with us more about those conserved plants?

Our plants are coming from many places; local nurseries, local collectors, and overseas like Africa and America. However, there are several cases involving a critical situation of the plants that we managed. For instance, some of the plants had to pull out from their habitats because of the mining activities that are damaging the plants and ruin their environment. Furthermore, some of our plants are critically endangered like Pachypodium inopinatum as it is stated in the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources website.

It's devastated to know that the plants are endangered. So, how do you achieve the goals you've mentioned before and give these plants a better life?

We have been working closely with experts such as local grower and collectors. Their specialty and skills in each field help us in developing our project. Therefore, we’ve got to know how to treat the plants properly and giving the plants a life that they deserve. The knowledge ‘they’ve shared is a learning for us and the consumer that genuinely wanted to take care of these plants. We also collaborated with several artists, illustrators, designers, and craftsman on our work in the pots. In the end, collaboration is essential because it pushes us to get better. It allows us to achieve the aim that ‘we’ve initiated before.

Photo Source: Specimen Lab

Speaking of the pots Specimen Lab has made, it's odd but intriguing at the same time. Hauntingly beautiful as we say. How do you define the creative process behind it?

In the process of making those pots, we’ve collaborated with both local and international artists. From local, there’s talented pottery artist, Panji Wisesa. We’ve been working with him to make a unique pot that fit our plant’s collection. In the process, we are always experimenting in the material and the mixing that we used. There’s our recent project, ”Black Moon Series” collaborate with a potter from Thailand, Plant Monsters. It’s inspired by the ‘moon’s surface and asteroid debris as projected on the pots with dark colors mood to portrayed mysterious sci-fi ambiance.

Combining the uniqueness of plant shapes with ceramic artwork is not an easy thing because each plant has a different form, and we must combine the two to look like a single unit. Giving the plants an enrapture and distinctive pot to bring out its beauty, like a sculpture.

Last question. Being a new project, what is the thing that you consider as a challenge, and the reason that makes you keep going?

Perhaps, acceptance becomes one of the challenges to face in our journey. There are still many people think our product is too expensive whereas they’re not realizing that plant itself has been through so much, and the pots itself are handmade with a long and intricate process to make it. Moreover, people still think it’s strange because pot specialized is still rare in here. However, I become optimistic because there are also a bunch of people that appreciate what we’re doing and has an interest in botanical.