I love vertical gardens. Every time I see them I get all excited, and I’ve wanted to build one for just ages. We had such a lovely rainy spring this year, and with nothing to do but walk around our neighborhood, I got to know all the local mosses really well. I watched them spring to life every time it rained, and then dry up and disappear for sunny days, only to reappear in all their glory two minutes after the first raindrop hit. Moss is so cool.
I had a great time skipping through the fields and hiking by the river, collecting all this moss. It took a little experimentation to get it gathered, cleaned, and preserved — I didn’t want to have to maintain or water it (especially after adding LEDs!) so I learned how to preserve the moss to maintain its softness (by soaking it in hot water and glycerine). I let it dry for a few days then realized I also needed to dye it to maintain its gorgeous color. I used green fabric dye I found in the back of my cupboard (I had a fabric dyeing experimentation phase about 10 years ago, man, it feels good to have this amazing craft supply stash). It still wasn’t super bright and vibrant like it gets right after a rain. I experimented a bit, and ended up using fluorescent UV pigment in bright yellow and green.
It sounds really weird.. like a velvet-elvis painting with blacklight on it, but yowza, does that UV pigment make the moss look vibrant and alive. 🙂
The concept behind the lighting: since the moss loves the rain so much, I wanted to see if I could make my artwork weather-reactive. The CLUE microcontroller has an onboard barometer sensor and humidity sensor, so I decided to use those, and map the colors in the frame to change color based on the barometric pressure in my room.
I realize this sounds rather farfetched and crazy, but I gotta tell you — it works really, really well. I have five different color-mapped sections showing data from the last 9 hours or so, showing me at a glance if the pressure is high or low and which direction it’s heading. I’m still learning to interpret that based on the weather systems moving through — generally, rapidly dropping pressure means a storm is coming and rapidly rising pressure means you can expect sunshine.
In practice, this means that every day, this artwork surprises and delights me with a different color combination, full of meaning and promise about my outdoor environment.
This artwork is really delightful. Here’s the write-up about how I built it! Enjoy. 🙂