Found object terrariums capture nature in jars.
‘Ubiquitous’, 2009. Glass jar, tree, 35 x 70 x 50 in. Images courtesy the artist.

Found Object Terrariums Capture Nature in Jars

Naoko Ito encapsulates wilderness ephemera in glass and wood.
May 6, 2017, 12:10pm

Severed into a dozen pieces, an imposing tree branch is magically encapsulated in glass jars, evoking ice-covered limbs. In her Urban Nature body of work, artist Naoko Ito tames nature by capturing wilderness inside of glass, like found object terrariums. The presentation is somewhat similar to Finnish photographer Christoffer Relander's jars filled with double exposed photos of the wilderness, except Ito creates room-scale installations of jars filled with nature. Visually, the work is more in line with German-Korean artist Andrei Koschmieder's installations of jars filled with fake weed—except, of course, Ito's captured objects are real items found in the wilderness, and presumably legal.


Ito, who originally studied visual communication design in Tokyo and worked as a graphic designer, moved to New York City in the late-00s for an MFA at the School of Visual Arts. There, she created a fine-tuned balance between her design approach and artistic investigations.

'Plight', 2011. Glass jar, tree, soil, wood, shelf, book, acrylic sheet. 65 x 100 x 70 in. Installation View, Urban Nature, CAM Raleigh, Raleigh, NC, 2011.

"I utilize glass jars for multiple reasons for installation works," Ito tells Creators. "The installation piece Silence (2009) is the first time I used glass jars. One of the subjects is expressing winter's landscape in New York, and I became interested in using glass, because its characteristics are similar to ice—transparency, fragility, and coldness."

In more recent works in the Urban Nature series, Ito has added words to the jars. In one, she places "Wind" on a jar, while inside is a leaf. "I employ glass jars to explore the idea of catching a moment," she says. "As [for] Wind, I did catch the leaf and wind."

Ito says she worked on the latest entry in the Urban Nature series while at a residency program in Finland last year. There, she researched Everyman's right, the country's public right that allows anyone to access public and private lands for recreation.

'Everyman's right', 2016. Glass jar, mushroom. 19.6 x 39.3 x 5.1 in. Installation View, Valoja, Serlachius Residency- Aleksanterin Iinna, Mänttä, Finland, 2016.

"Nature-related subjects are always interesting to me," says Ito. "And the relationship between moral values and social values is another one of my interests since I moved to the US."

While the nature motifs are ever-present, Ito has no set process for finding objects and selecting text, then combining these and other elements with frames, beams, pieces of wood, and other surfaces.

'Plight', 2011. Glass jar, tree, soil, wood, shelf, book, acrylic sheet. 65 x 100 x 70 in. Installation View, Urban Nature, CAM Raleigh, Raleigh, NC, 2011.

"It's hard to talk about the process, because each time there are different ways and it's still difficult to find a right way," she says. "But I am always looking for objects, words, stories, and images."

While the Finland additions to Urban Nature are extremely minimal, like the piece titled Everyman's right, which features a mushroom inside a jar, much of Ito's work is more structurally complex. The piece Ubiquitous, for instance, is tree branch cut up and placed inside jars; so that while it is in dozens of pieces it still looks like a whole branch.

Glass jar collection from 'Urban Nature' project, 2016. Glass jar, acorn, leaf.

But not all of the Urban Nature series is objects inside jars. Ito also regularly works with metal wire, bending and configuring it in ways that almost make it look like netting, cobwebs, or the leaves of willow trees. She is currently working on an installation made completely with wire, while also planning an upcoming installation.

Detail on 'Ubiquitous'

'Spelling Out', 2012-13. Wire, 55 x 117 x 128 in. Installation View, 'Bronx Calling: The Second AIM Biennial', Wave Hill, Bronx, New York, 2013.

'Wind', 2016. Glass jar, leaf, glass, wood, hinge. 43.3 x 47.2 x 33.4 in. Installation View, Valoja, Serlachius Residency-Aleksanterin Iinna, Mänttä, Finland.