Like legend and myth, magic fades when it is unused — hence all the old tales of elfin kingdoms moving further and further away from our world, or that magical beings require our faith, our belief in their existence, to survive. That is a lie. All they require is our recognition.
―Charles de Lint
As we age, the pressure to settle down and turn serious builds. Doesn’t play keep us healthy and encourage awareness?
A faerie house is a miniature structure crafted and/or placed outdoors to shelter real or imaginary creatures. An old stump or a hole in a tree can provide an ideal place for a tiny person to take up residence. This is a traditional craft along the Atlantic seacoast of Maine, where these houses are often made from sustainable, natural materials, including shells, seeds, leaves, rocks, bark and feathers. In the spirit of mindfulness, care is often taken to use things that are already dead and fallen or that won’t be harmed by being part of the faerie house.The structure should be friendly to spiritual and animal occupants, not merely eye candy for human beings. Some designs do incorporate broken pottery, recycled bottles and various man made materials. If you are interested, you can buy a kit or a pre-fab model online, but the experience is so much richer if you collect your own materials and design your own architecture. This is also a great way to learn about your environment and pick up some design, landscaping and construction skills.
Here are some enchanting creations made by garden designers and artists. If you would like to see more of their work, please click on the links to investigate further.
Garden Walk, Garden Talk
An experienced Master Gardener and architect in Niagara Falls, Donna has a wonderful blog at Garden Walk, Garden Talk that shares the beauty of the gardens and scenery near her home. These fairy houses that she built for a client truly show off her love of the environment and her architecture background. Please take time to see the full post here— it’s delightful, written as an ad for the discerning fairy– and read more on her amazing blog. Lovely humor adds to the whimsy and charm of these elegant little houses.
Founded by Paul Busse in 1991, Applied Imagination, Ltd, makes railroad displays for outdoor gardens using natural materials. Their award-winning work has been seen all over the country, notably at New York Botanical Garden, United States Botanic Garden in Washington D.C., Chicago Botanic Garden, Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania, Atlanta Botanic Garden, New Orleans Botanical Garden, Bellagio Conservatory in Las Vegas, and The State Fair of Texas. Paul, who lives in Kentucky, struggles with Parkinson’s Disease and is now retired, but remains involved in the creative process. This piece from the New York Times will tell you much more about him. His love for trains and gardens and his background in landscape design have shaped a vibrant and innovative company. The craftsmanship is spectacular.
Applied Imagination’s fantastic creations include ostentatious palaces and simple designs. Fairy houses are only a small part of their output, which includes architectural models of famous structures, such as the Hagia Sophia and the Great Wall of China, as well as fairy tale locales like Rapunzel’s Tower and the Straw House from the Three Little Pigs. Long live imagination!!
Sally J. Smith
When it comes to creating magic, Sally J. Smith is a monumental talent. Sally began as a watercolor painter, which perhaps contributes to the light touch and ethereal qualities of her creations. In 2007 she began a new chapter in her artistic journey, the creation of environmental art. Since then, her Faerie Houses and Eartherials–sculptures that combine earthy qualities with otherworldly ones– have inspired quite an audience. She makes her home in the Adirondacks of upstate New York, near Lake Champlain.
Sally creates beautiful and thoughtful work that is completely at home in its environment. If you can’t see it in person, she has a delightful set of calendars and cards available on her website, Greenspirit Arts. It is terrific showcase of her work.
You don’t have to believe in faeries to enjoy the process or to enjoy looking at these delightful and frequently whimsical designs. Like many other arts, building faerie houses gives us the chance to contemplate things that we might never think about. Anything that enlarges our awareness and understanding of our planet and the creatures who share it with us is valuable.
Western society tells us that faeries are kid stuff and should be put away by grown-ups, like cartoons and stuffed animals. Thankfully, some of those rules are loosening, but you are still going to get funny looks in many circles if you cart your teddy bear to work or sport a My Little Pony lunchbox. We seem to think that people who retain or pursue such childhood connections lack the maturity to make practical decisions. I wonder if the reason we make poor decisions, such as basing our economies on technologies that poison the planet, comes from putting people in charge who lack imagination and the ability to play well with others. What harm can be done by cultivating enchantment?
I’m planning on creating some faerie houses in my yard this spring. How about you?
Images are used in accordance with Fair Use Policies for educational purposes.
To me in my childhood, elves and fairies of all sorts were very real things, and my dolls were as really children as I was myself a child.
My mother used to read to me every night when I was little. We got through most of the major fantasy books of that time. The Narnia books by C.S. Lewis were my favorites and, later, Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. I started making dolls to fill in the gaps of the dolls I had. Obviously we couldn’t buy centaurs and fauns and elves and fairies, so I made them to play with the normal dolls I had. I must have been about six years old when I started making fantasy dolls.
― Wendy Froud
Squeeze your eyes closed, as tight as you can, and think of all your favorite autumns, crisp and perfect, all bound up together like a stack of cards. That is what it is like, the awful, wonderful brightness of Fairy colors. Try to smell the hard, pale wood sending up sharp, green smoke into the afternoon. To feel the mellow, golden sun on your skin, more gentle and cozier and more golden than even the light of your favorite reading nook at the close of the day.
I don’t think I am like other people. I mean on some deep fundamental level. It’s not just being half a twin and reading a lot and seeing fairies. It’s not just being outside when they’re all inside. I used to be inside. I think there’s a way I stand aside and look backwards at things when they’re happening which isn’t normal.
― Mori, Jo Walton, Among Others