Twenty-three-year-old Rafael Pulido, a Biology student in his final year at Malaga University, discovered his hobby when he was playing on his grandmother's patio in his home town of Priego de Córdoba. His blog where he advertises his unique skills has already generated interest, but he hopes to open a proper shop in the future where he can sell his products.
His line of work is known as terrariophilia and consists of making small living works of art, ecosystems in themselves, such as miniature forests and woodland, where the light, rain and temperature are directly controlled by the latest technology, which could even be the mobile phone of the customer.
“It's a hobby which has led to more than that. Since I was little I have always been interested in looking after aquariums, which I taught myself how to do through Internet forums, most of them from the United States,” he said. Although it is not a very popular hobby here, in other European countries, such as Germany and the United Kingdom, there are big events to celebrate terrariophilia. Despite being so young, Pulido has ten years of experience under his belt and has been doing this professionally for four years. His next goal is to have a professional platform where he can sell his terrariums, as he has already gained clients through his blog, through creating a company which specialises in the design and creation of these installations.
Among his clientele, which mostly consists of people with high purchasing power who want to decorate their homes, are spaces like hotels, medical centres, offices and zoos. “I can make miniature habitats of any environment, humidity and temperature, from deserts for reptiles or rainforests to waterfalls and aquatic homes for reptiles and fish,” he added.
Clinging to trunks and rocks
The biologist has already created over 30 terrariums. For one of his first projects, he constructed a column of 90 centimetres built out of small tropical orchids of five centimetres each. The plants grow clinging to trunks and rocks. On top of that, the terrarium has its own camouflaged weather station which measures humidity and temperature and is connected to the home automation system, so the customer can control it from their phone and switch on the “rain” when necessary. This is the largest project that he has completed so far.
Currently, he is working on another project for a customer: a tropical terrarium containing plants, a large water feature, which is home to small fish, and a waterfall.
“It is a self-regulating micro ecosystem in itself; in time it will become almost completely self-sufficient, with automatic lighting, watering and heating,” he explained. In his eyes, he has started something that can lead on to much more; every day there is more demand and there are very few companies which specialise in terrariums on a national level. In Malaga, Pulido is yet to find someone with the same business. In the future, a second line of business will be selling the materials and accessories to amateurs who want to construct their own miniature forests.