Cactus Boxes Reflects the Beauty of Nature

by | Jul 2024

TJ Moran cares for cactus and creates his cactus boxes at his home in White Bear Lake.

TJ Moran cares for cactus and creates his cactus boxes at his home in White Bear Lake. Photos: Chris Emeott

TJ Moran crafts cactus boxes that mirror the natural world.

There’s nothing prickly about TJ Moran. From his White Bear Lake home and garden, Moran creates spellbinding and unique containers for cactuses and succulents—each one an aesthetic marvel.

Looking through Moran’s creations, there is evidence of someone who is deeply observant of nature and respectful of its raw beauty. His goal is to find harmony between plant and container. “Some boxes are more complicated than others, but it needs to compliment the plant more than stand on its own,” he says.

Moran has been developing this craft for close to six years. He grew up helping out at his family’s wood flooring distribution center, so he was always messing around with scrap wood. “I’d make stands for my bonsai trees, and one day, I made a box and was like, ‘Oh, what could I plant in this?’ That evolved into succulents,” he says.

Over the years, Moran has honed his aesthetic ability and developed his woodworking knowledge to make his creations stable and long-lasting.

Moran’s containers range from delicate to strong, depending on the design and the material used. “With wood, a lot of it comes down to lines I like. Do I want it to be aggressive or subtle and smooth? Sometimes the wood grain will be really beautiful, and I don’t want to obliterate it,” he says.

He’s an experimenter as much as a craftsman. “I’ve found ways to make wood almost look like stone with carving, burning and stains,” he says. Many of these designs are inspired by his time outdoors; while hiking, he takes note of patterns, colors and textures he’s drawn to.

Moran participates in the Northeast Minneapolis Farmers Market and the Franconia Art and Farmers Market in addition to selling via Etsy and Instagram. When you purchase a cactus box from Moran, he provides a care sheet. “Cactuses and succulents are easy to care for, and once you know the basics, the rules apply universally. More often than not, almost everybody who has killed a plant has cared for it too much,” he says.

Once you have a cactus from Moran, he’s happy to answer care questions. “I’ve been at the farmers market in Northeast for five years; [I] see regular people there who say that their plant is doing well, and they still love it,” he says.

Moran’s cactus boxes express his creative process, reveal meditations on nature and exalt his personal aesthetics. To him, it’s all about observation and finding the right combination. “Sometimes, I know right away, but sometimes not,” he says. “… A lot of times, I’ll make the container specifically for the plant. It looks like they’ve grown together.”

Etsy: Cactusboxes
Instagram: @cactus_boxes_


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