Imperfect glass perfect for terrarium business

Mynott and Kovalik make handmade glass terrariums at their home studio in north-end Halifax. They’re expanding their online business, Minimalistos, to include a new line featuring recycled and imperfect glass.

Jelsi Mynott and Vlad Kovalik are on the hunt for old storm windows. If they’re warped with air bubbles, all the better.

Mynott and Kovalik make handmade glass terrariums at their home studio in north-end Halifax. They’re expanding their online business, Minimalistos, to include a new Heritage Line featuring recycled and imperfect glass.

“These oddities are pretty common in older glass out of wooden framed windows,” said Mynott. Although, for their current orders they avoid scratches and bubbles as much as possible, this line will incorporate them.

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Kovalik and Mynott travel around Nova Scotia collecting window glass wherever it’s available. They like storm windows and old windows with wood frames.

“We have over 100 windows sitting in our basement right now,” said Kovalik. “There’s always window glass everywhere in our house,” said Mynott.

By using recycled glass only from Nova Scotia, Kovalik and Mynott hope to reduce their impact on the environment while keeping with a minimal design aesthetic.

“I think it’s neat that we’re sending parts of Nova Scotia around the world. These windows have seen so much weather and history,” Mynott said holding up individual pieces of triangle shaped glass.

Mynott and Kovalik, both 26, started Minimalistos in 2013. They turned a large second bedroom into a home studio and put a table in the middle of the room where they measure and cut glass.

“It’s all done in our home studio. Everything is done by hand from finding glass, to grinding the edges of the glass down, to soldering the pieces together to form a shape,” said Kovalik.

More than 20 terrariums of different shapes and sizes are on display in the couple’s house. Kovalik picks up one of the square-shaped designs with freshly soldered edges and a missing panel of glass.

“It takes hours of work getting it out of the frame, especially the ones with wooden frames. The learning curve can be pretty sharp especially when you risk breaking a vital pieces of glass,” said Mynott.

Their work day begins with a cup of coffee together. When they’re ready, they remove the glass from its frame and cut it into long strips. Then they cut the glass into shapes and use solder and a soldering iron to attach the pieces together.

They say they spend up to 50 hours a week creating their geometric glass sculptures. They have even begun working on weekends to keep up with product orders.

“A partnership makes all the work a little easier because sometimes I just don’t feel like working and he’s there telling me to get going,” said Mynott.

Currently, Minimalisto terrariums are sold worldwide through an online website where prices range from $55 for smaller shapes to $160 for larger, more complex shapes.

Several shops in Halifax, including Makenew, The Flower Shop and Common Values Emporium also carry the couple’s handmade sculptures. Mynott and Kovalik say they’ve sold more than 500 individual terrariums so far.

They will do custom designs for customers, and Mynott said they’re currently designing an exclusive line for Crown Flora Studio in Ontario.

They’re also experimenting with copper-coloured terrariums as part of their new designs.

“We never thought we would ever actually have a business, that was a bit unexpected but I think having the time to make things creatively as a career is amazing,” said Mynott.

Neither Mynott nor Kovalik have formal training in creative design. Mynott studied philosophy and Kovalik’s background is in medical research.

“We’ve always been DIYers. If there’s something we really want that’s way out of reach because we couldn’t possibly afford it then we’ll try and build it. That’s always been a big part of our relationship,” said Mynott.

Boxes of bubble-wrapped terrariums sit in the corner of the studio ready to be shipped.

Mynott said having a good relationship with their customers is what makes them work harder to make their deadlines.

“Halifax is a very supportive environment and very connected community which pushes you to do even better work,” she said.