Reconnecting with nature through biophilic design

In 2008, industrial designer and artist Paloma Teppa founded Plant the Future, an award-winning botanical art gallery and nature-inspired design firm based in Miami, Florida. Their mission is to help people reconnect with nature through art and design and understand why biophilia exists through experiences inspired by Mother Nature.

This universal feeling of admiration for the natural world – which, since Lladró’s origins seven decades ago, has transcended many of its creations – is embodied in a capsule collection of animal planters: Plant the Future.

In this interview, Paloma talks about innate biophilia and how her collaboration with Lladró fuses the unique art of handmade porcelain with botanical art in contemporary style pieces.

Where did you grow up, what were your influences and interests? Tell us about your background.

I grew up in Córdoba, Argentina, surrounded by nature. It was a blessing to live in a relatively secluded area with an abundance of trees, flowers, rivers, and animals. There weren’t many other children around or distractions like tablets or tv, so my interaction was directly with Mother Earth and her elements. By age 7, I felt that I was able to spiritually communicate with nature and I spent the majority of time outdoors playing with my dogs, running through the grass, swimming in the river that ran near my backyard, eating fruits from the trees, stargazing, and living in communion with nature. I believe we all have this intuitive connection with nature that is part of our essence as human beings.

What is Plant the Future, and when did you start the project?

Plant the Future is a biophilic design studio, botanical art gallery, and plant boutique. We are based in Miami, FL, but have worked on projects across the globe. I started working with plants in 2004, and formally launched Plant the Future in 2008. We use art and design to help people reconnect with nature, especially in big cities, where many people don’t have easy access to the natural world. I believe plants have many deep layers of wisdom; they are healers that make us feel at peace when in their presence, and I want to share that with the world.

After more than a decade of starting with Plant the Future, is society more involved in the wellbeing of nature and sustainability?

Yes, I believe the world has gone through a phase of enlightenment in recent years and there is more awareness surrounding nature and sustainability. I also think people are starting to understand that plants are not just decoration for your home; plants are medicine for your mind, body and soul. Now that we understand this, we have to ask ourselves what actions we can take to be more aligned with Mother Earth, whether it’s using more biodegradable materials, recycling, upcycling, or supporting eco-conscious brands. As humans, we must be aware that all of our present actions have an effect on our planet, and we need to be more conscious of what we buy, and how much we buy.

What has your experience with plants taught you?

Plants have taught me everything I know and have helped me find internal peace. They have made me more grounded and encouraged me to be more spiritual. They taught me to go with the flow of life, how to be more flexible when faced with challenges, and how to shift gears when things don’t go as I planned. They have inspired me to give my all every single day just as they selflessly give us all their oxygen, food, shade, flowers, and shelter every day. I think plants are the most magical beings and if we all learned to be as selfless as they are, the world would be a better place.

You believe that biophilic design can bring incredible effects to our psyche. How can the connection with nature pave the way towards better understanding of ourselves?

I think it’s important to understand that we are a part of nature. I once saw a study that said we share 50% of our DNA with trees, meaning the connection runs so deep that it even applies on a physical and cellular level. As humans, we are meant to live as one with nature; being connected with nature is being connected with our essence. Living with all of the distractions that are present in our current world, drives us away from our essence and our natural instincts. Being surrounded by nature improves your physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing, helping you feel at peace, improve concentration, and listen to your inner voice.

How did you get to know the Lladró brand?

I have known about Lladró since I was a child. Growing up, it was a staple in all the homes I visited in Argentina. Lladró pieces were always easy to detect due to their colors and the magical world they portrayed. I loved that each piece told a story and felt like a scene from a fairytale. I always thought that there was something very romantic and poetic about each figurine.

What values did you see in Lladró that made you want to start the collaboration between Plant the Future and Lladró? Lladro’s incredible history and use of noble materials inspired me to join forces with them to create this collection. It is an honor as a designer to work with Lladro, with a material as sophisticated as porcelain. I admire Lladro’s long trajectory as a company and their ability to transform while still maintaining their tradition of handmade artistry. I love feeling that I am now part of this trajectory and am playing a small part in keeping this tradition alive. I love the effort and skill that goes into creating every detail of every piece.

Why are all the Lladró creations chosen for this collection animals?

To me, it’s a tribute to how animals and plants live in perfect harmony without harming one another. I think that as humans, we need to learn from that relationship and understand that all living things play a vital role in our ecosystem.

The artisanal process of Lladró creations has many connections with a project like yours: design, creativity, respect for the environment, do you think this is transmitted in the final result?

Yes, I think this collection shows the union between all of the elements – earth, water, fire, and air. These pieces give everyone the opportunity to connect and coexist with Mother Earth by nurturing the plants.

Applied to design and many other fields, biomimicry is the methodology that looks to the natural world as a springboard for unlimited creativity and innovation, based on its absolute respect for the Planet Earth. Can this science help us to solve some of the major challenges we are facing today?

Designing with biomimicry as a guideline helps people form a genuine connection with nature and all of its healing properties. When we are immersed in nature or in environments that are designed using the codes of Mother Earth, everything becomes an extension of our body, allowing us to feel connected and in harmony with everything around us. This reminds us that we are all one with each other and one with the Earth.