The need to be around nature is deep-seated in the human psyche. Even those of us who love the city still find comfort in greenery. Ohsum Mossum is a Kuala Lumpur collective combining that appeal with a love for art and design. They create preserved moss, faux plant, and terrarium art for the home and office. Giant wall-mounted pieces with hills and valleys, ceiling-mounted lamps with bright leafy greens, and small glass-enclosed pieces displayed on a shelf bring nature indoors with little or no maintenance needed.
“We try to evoke scenes of lush greenery, we imagine scenes of deep untouched forests,” says founder Ronnie Khoo. “A green mossy landscape dotted with rocks and roots and covered in mist is serene, primordial, and sacred.” Sometimes called biophilic design or interior rewilding, plant art combines these spiritual and psychological leanings with a love for human creation.
Khoo originally studied electrical engineering and worked in telecommunications but was an aquascaping hobbyist, where he’d arrange water plants with rocks and wood in an aquarium. Plant art became a full-time affair in 2015 and his work has grown from small terrariums to room-sized installations with five full-time employees. Mossum also teaches classes so people can create their own.
Ohsum Mossum primarily works with preserved moss, which they process from living moss in their workshop. “We prefer to make it ourselves because we get more control over quality, color, and customization,” Khoo explains. “It’s a bit like a painter who buys their paint versus one who makes their own.” The faux plants are made from plastic or preserved leafy plants. He says preserved plants are easier to care for than living walls so they take less investment from the owner. For the closed terrariums, they use small plants that can grow in moderate lighting with glass cases made by a small manufacturer they work closely with.
Much of their motivation comes from nature walks in the tropical forests just outside of Kuala Lumpur, where they go to study and capture reference material for their pieces. “It’s a source of inspiration and adventure. Our house style is all about realism, so we hope to make installations that are increasingly closer to what we observe in the field.”
Mossum’s work has grown in both intricacy and scale over the years. Topographical maps of Malaysia with multi-colored moss. Ceiling installations embedded into hanging lamps that give the green a rich glow. Pieces embedded into walls behind glass or with shelving. It’s now on a level with interior architecture. “Preserved moss art is relatively new, so there aren’t centuries of heritage to draw from,” Khoo says. “We’re learning and getting better over the span of years and with every project you can see improvement.”