Meet The Maker – Isobel Cortese

Isobel Cortese

Isobel Cortese

Isobel designs and creates bespoke terrariums. Combining her passion for plants and all things quirky, she is re-kindling this popular Victorian trend but with a modern twist.

Large terrarium showing a washing line scene

Large terrarium showing a washing line scene

The Wardian case, as it was originally called, was invented by accident around 1829 by Nathaniel Ward, a London doctor. It gained in popularity during the Victorian era and it’s name eventually changed to “terrarium”. A word derived from the Latin word terra, meaning earth and arium, the word ending of aquarium.

Large terrarium featuring a horse and rider

Large terrarium featuring a horse and rider

Each of Isobel’s creations captures a snapshot in miniature of scenes from daily life, staged amongst a verdant setting. Each design is unique and can be customised to the finest detail.

Medium jar showing a bit of lawn mowing in action!

Large terrarium showing a bit of moss mowing in action!

Isobel loves using moss in the terrariums as it is great for landscaping her little worlds. She believes there is something quite enchanting about moss. “When walking through a forest, with moss cushioning the floor, on closer inspection you can see it reflects the forest in miniature and it is easy to imagine little people living amongst it.”

Isobel's terrariums come in all shapes and sizes

Isobel’s terrariums come in all shapes and sizes

Isobel likes to re-create this feeling of enchantment and wonder by containing it inside a glass vessel, so people can be intrigued and look inside to be filled with delight at the magical world.

Large terrarium

Large terrarium with a bride & groom. A popular choice for a bespoke gift


As Isobel sources the majority of the glass vessels she uses for her terrariums from vintage shops, antique centres, auctions, charity shops etc it makes each scene unique and special and no two terrariums are the same. This means that here at Heart Gallery we can not only sell from our ever-changing display of about 10 terrariums but we can offer a personalised and bespoke service too. Working closely with Isobel we can source the right vessel for you then all you have to do is tell us the scene you wish to recreate by providing photographs and information.

Terrariums ... enchanting miniature worlds

Terrariums … enchanting miniature worlds created in Hebden Bridge by Isobel

The possibilities are endless; all it needs is a little bit of background information from you and then just sit back and allow Isobel’s imagination to wander and capture that enchantment.

Close up views of some of the terrarium worlds created by Isobel

Close up views of some of the terrarium worlds created by Isobel


2 thoughts on “Meet The Maker – Isobel Cortese

  1. Hi. Love your work and saw the policeman and punk at Leeds city hall gallery…. how do I purchase items from you? Thanks
    Sam Davies

    1. Hi Sam

      the punk and policeman is one of our best sellers! Isobel is moving in a slightly different direction this year but when we re-open in June there will be some new work by her so do bob along to see x

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