From left, Rodney and Miguel Nelson
Miguel Nelson is the Designer of Woolly Pockets
“We’d seen living walls before and were really fascinated with them. We set out to find a living wall system that would work for us,” says Miguel Nelson, who cofounded the company in 2009 with his brother Rodney. “We considered a lot of options, and had this idea to make a pocket that, as far as I know, has never been done. Using homemade felt pockets, my wife and I covered our event spaces with plants during 2007 and 2008. This inspired me to start Woolly Pocket with my brother in 2009.”
We recently caught up with Miguel to chat about the company’s newest product, his horticultural aha moment, why plants scare us, and a few species that really come alive when they go vertical.
Success came quickly for Woolly Pocket. How did the word start spreading?
In 2008 we built our second space, called SmogShoppe, in Culver City and totally covered the walls with plants. Both spaces [Marvimon and SmogShoppe] are about 7,000 square feet each, half inside, half outside. Marvimon’s main living wall is 18 feet tall and 30 feet wide. SmogShoppe’s living wall is double sides, and about 100 feet wide by 15 feet tall. The exterior is on high-traffic La Cienega Boulevard and was noticed by many folks who wanted their own.
We started getting a lot of inquiries — designers that wanted to use them, TV shows that were interested in them. [In developing Woolly Pockets], we talked to horticulturists. That’s why they worked so well — the felt was a breathable material, which meant that the roots were able air prune and don’t become pot bound, because we had this internal moisture barrier acting like a reservoir. We were the first and only modular, breathable and self-watering living wall system on the market. As far as I know, we are still the only modular, breathable living wall system on the market.
Did you grow up around plants?
We grew up in the desert, in Tucson and Sedona; our parents didn’t really garden at all, but our grandparents were avid gardeners. My grandmother could grow anything — plant a seed and all of a sudden she had a lime tree. I felt an affinity with anyone who was into the Earth. My brother [who lives in Phoenix] has a big green thumb — he’s kind of nutty with it. All his plants have plaques with their Latin names on them.