Possible do-it-yourself natural media technique #4 moss

Moss signage and moss ads get attention and are spectacular. Using a plant to create your message is not only a great way to show that your company is dedicated to finding ways to reduce your advertising foot print but it is also very unique so it stands out and gets noticed.

However, much of the buzz around moss is one of the great internet myths of our time. Putting moss in a blender and adding beer, or yogurt or any one of the many recipes is misleading. This technique has been used for over a century with great success in gardens, under a tree where the conditions for moss are ideal. Moss is a very delicate plant and it likes cool dark moist places. To think you can paint a moss mixture onto a wall, in the sunlight where there is little moisture in the air is just not logical. Worse, those talking about these recipes use photos of moss that are not being grown but are cut out of moss that is harvest sustainably from the forest floor and then adhered to the surface. These moss works do look great and are alive and lush… for about a week and then the moss goes into hibernation, the color fades, it dries out and looks terrible. A picture may be worth a thousand words but they can also be misleading.

This does not mean that moss is not a great medium, it is! What it means is that you need to use it with proper expectations. The good news is that there are other types of moss that not only last for years and look great but have also been treated with a fire retardant material making it a better choice for indoor applications. However, this moss is actually naturally grey so the colors you see are created by dyes. It is not “alive” and it doesn’t have that amazing forest floor smell you have with flat moss.

The great thing about moss is that it is easy to work with, can be bought in any number of places and when used properly, it is spectacular. It is also the perfect “do-it-yourself” medium. You can save a small fortune by doing it yourself. It just requires the right materials, hands and time. 

The two most popular choice of moss are flat moss (living) and rain deer moss (dried and dyed). Let’s have a look a look at the two.

Flat moss is what you will see mostly on the internet. It is lush. It smells like the forest floor and is alive. Flat moss is harvested in northern countries from the forest floor. It comes in pieces that are quite large 20 x 20 cm and is easy to work with. Because it comes in larger pieces, you can create a moss work in a few hours. All you need is a template, a staple gun and some kind of glue. I prefer using a hot glue gun though this is not the most sustainable material. Hot glue is strong and it hardens quickly. Be sure to use a template material that will not warp over time or when it gets wet and it will get wet because you will want to mist it at least twice a day to keep it alive as long as possible. Perhaps if you were misting it twenty times a day it would continue to grow but that is not realistic. The best you can hope for is to prolong the effect. I have been able to stretch flat moss to look great for three weeks but it was high maintenance.

Rain deer moss is the moss that is used to by people who build model train sets and by architects. It comes in a wide variety of colors. It is a bit pricy and the pieces are small which is why these moss works can be very expensive to buy. A one square meter work can take 8 to 12 hours to produce and this would be considered a small moss work. If you have the hands and the time, you can create amazing works that will last for years and continue to look great. They are low maintenance but be warned, people will go out of their way to touch them and each touch will degrade them so you might need to touch them up every so often so keep the leftovers for the future. Rain deer moss is also adhered to a template and though you can use sustainable glues, these do not dry very quickly. I prefer to use a hot glue gun for rain deer moss as well. A piece of rain deer moss is about 2cm x 2cm if you get a really nice batch, sometimes you will get a batch where the pieces are 1 cm x 1 cm so you can see why it takes so long to create a moss work using this moss species.

If you do not have the time and just want to buy a moss work there are many companies out there who can make these for you. #thesavageway in the USA can produce one for you and their moss works are made with a lot of tender loving care. I am more than happy to help you produce them as well. It may take a bit of research but there are plenty of companies out there who will produce moss works that are simply amazing.

Moss is beautiful. Moss gets attention and moss is ideal for signage. But perhaps the best thing about moss is that it is easy to work with making it another one of the many natural media techniques that are ideal for “do-it-yourself” applications.

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Jim Bowes

Advertising professional specialising in Natural Media advertising techniques that have a low impact on the environment.