Have you ever tried to create art with natural materials? Moss art or moss graffiti is a safe, interactive and enjoyable activity for families, schools and groups. This guide will show you different ways of using moss to have fun and reconnect with nature.
What we cover in this guide:
- the origins of ‘moss graffiti’
- the development of moss graffiti, as an art form
- different types of moss graffiti; and
- how easy it is to get into creating art with moss.
What is moss graffiti?
Moss graffiti is the act of creating natural art. This art form can be typically found on undesired street walls using moss (non-vascular flowerless plants), as the primary ingredient. This type of art has been transported into the limelight by enthusiasts creating the trend ‘moss graffiti’. It is also known as ‘living art’, ‘eco-graffiti’ or ‘green graffiti’.
The origins of moss graffiti
In 1970’s New York, the ‘guerrilla gardening’ movement began. A group of gardening enthusiasts, including Liz Christy (founder of the oldest community garden in New York), targeted public spaces in disrepair and added their artistic eco-flare. Over the years, guerrilla gardening has evolved, as artists have ventured toward creating art on walls around the world.
Anna Garforth, a London designer, brought the moss graffiti movement into the public eye through creating ‘living’ art, made from moss, famously including ‘The Big Bang’ and ‘King’s Cross’. Garforth also developed ‘moss typography’, an innovative way of creating words or quotes made from moss and exhibiting them on walls.
Moss graffiti methods
Moss graffiti can be created using the following methods:
Sheet Moss method
The sheet comprises one side of live moss and an adhesive on the opposite side. Word/image stencils are placed on top of moss and the moss is then cut using the stencils as a guide. The wall is wiped down to provide a clean surface for the sheet moss to connect to.
A surface is cleaned, and if desired stencilled, leaving an outline of words/images. The moss is harvested from different places, trimmed and then attached onto the stencilled wall (using an adhesive), leaving a short-term piece of art. To see the patchwork method in action click here.
This popular method begins by creating a ‘mossy milkshake’. Choose a surface away from direct sunlight, clean then stencil the surface, if desired, brush on the ‘moss milkshake mixture’. Reapply the mixture daily for a week and mist with water, often to maintain a moist environment.
Shaded or damp areas can yield vast patches of moss, which may be suitable for creating a mossy canvas. Instead of sourcing or growing moss and sticking it to the wall, moss is already available and ready to mould. Remove unwanted moss, to reveal your moss art image.
Getting started (before making moss graffiti)
Before creating moss graffiti, why not try 'mosscaping'? This activity can help turn an unloved outdoor space into a blanket of natural greenery.
When you're finally ready for something more ambitious, try creating your own piece of natural art, by deciding on a particular moss graffiti method.
Choosing a method
Short term (less than a week)
If you know a place that yields patches of moss, the following method is for you:
- Recycled method
Medium term (1-2 weeks)
For those of you who are keen to get started making moss graffiti, but haven’t got time to start growing moss.
- Sheet Moss method
- Patchwork method
Long term (1-3 months +)
For those of you who want to make moss from scratch, have time to source the amount required and experiment with different ‘mossy’ milkshake recipes. Please note that results may vary depending on; the moss milkshake recipe used, time allowed for moss to grow, and how well growing moss is maintained.
- Milkshake method
Please note that time frames suggested (see Choose your method) are a guide. Impacting factors include:
- how much time you have
- how accessible your moss source is; and
- how much moss you can find.
It could be useful to read Moss Plants and More: debunking moss graffiti before you decide on a method, as this will highlight false claims that have been made by some bloggers.
Moss is your number one ingredient, and can be sourced in different ways. For example:
- Grow your own - grow moss at home, starting with a sample harvested from a location, such as a woodland.
- Harvest from the outdoors - harvest greater quantities of moss from dark and damp outdoor locations such as woodlands, stone walls, pavements or garden rockeries. Harvest moss from more than one location, so that it can continue to re-establish itself.
- Purchase online - moss can be purchased from online sources and delivered to your home, ready to use.
Watch 'collecting & identifying moss' to help you understand how to; grow your own moss, and harvest from the outdoors.
Moss graffiti is a quirky, urban art form that connects art and nature. A great activity for all ages, but one that requires patience, a tool kit and a good source of moss. That said, moss graffiti can work. However, if you encounter problems or find that results vary, ‘outlearn’ advises that you examine the environment and ingredients used.
The internet is a ‘moss graffiti’ resource hub, allowing you to search for examples of finished artwork, videos and blogs. However, moss graffiti is not a quick and easy art form. It can take weeks or months to grow when using techniques like the ‘milkshake method’. Growing substantial and usable moss (for moss graffiti) also requires an appropriate habitat and ideal environmental conditions.
This article does not show you personally tried and tested methods, it aims to present to the reader a selection of moss graffiti methods and has outlined activities enabling you to connect with nature.
Take a look at our nature-based activity resources.