Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Duke Gardens Fairy House Village

Sarah and Catherine strategize on their Duke Gardens fairy house.

Update: Here's the fairy house article that appeared in the Herald-Sun June 20.

Sarah Kunz isn’t certain how many fairies live in the woods outside her house. But the Durham 8-year-old is sure there must be some.

So this month, she and her sisters gathered construction materials to build a village for the wood sprites to live in. The building supplies: rocks, sticks, big leaves, pine straw and other items easily scrounged from any yard.

She and her 5-year-old sister Catherine got some practice for the project last month, when they and other children built a fairy village at Sarah P. Duke Gardens.

The popular project was part of the Gardens’ inaugural Family Fun Day, the kickoff for its free Sunday drop-in program. The children – from toddlers on up – built about 25 tiny homes, each distinct from the others.

Sarah’s mother, Diane Kunz, was so enchanted with the village and the ease of construction that she immediately made plans to work on one at home. It isn’t hard, and it costs nothing. Almost anything, from cardboard to gourds, feathers and shells, can make for a suitable shelter for fairies – or for any garden creatures that live nearby

"To me, this was a revelation," says Kunz, who calls her daughters "the fabulous flower fairies." "I know you can buy a fairy village in stores. But it had never occurred to me that you can make one from what you have."

The Kunzes’ Gardens house had an airy, island hut feel to it, with a bamboo frame and a sandy floor.

"My friend Gigi has a porch where they can just sit there and relax and read a magazine or a book and listen to the birds," she said of her architecture plan. "And so I added a porch. I felt like I was creating a new world for the fairies."

She wasn’t sure what her backyard fairy house would entail. But the trial and error of the Duke Gardens project – including a bamboo frame that initially kept falling down – prepared her for roadblocks.

She has some advice for newbie house-builders, especially those with limited materials.

"If you want to make a fairy house and you don’t really have a choice of what to use, you can just let your imagination go and use stuff from nature and make it comfortable as if you wanted to live in it. So you can be happy for those fairies and they can be happy for you."

Her biggest tip: be flexible.

"You need to be very patient and just go with what happens, and if some stuff messes up then you make new stuff with it," she says.

"Like with my sisters, I don’t get angry when they mess up," she says. "I go, like, 'Wow, that's a good idea.' When something messes up, it sometimes creates something new for your house. Sometimes it's hard to be patient and steady, but the longer you try, and if you can just try so hard, the better your house will be and the steadier it will be."

For fairy house instruction and inspiration, go to fairyhouses.com. If you've made your own fairy house, we'd love to see it. You can post photos at our Facebook fan page here.

Original post:

Here are some photos of the Fairy House Village that children built on Family Fun Day. Some of them were shot a day later, after the night breezes tested their structural integrity. So they aren't as pristine as they originally were. But as you'll see from the variety of styles, these youngsters had plenty of imagination. And many of them talked about going home to build more.

Please join us next year to make another village for fairies and garden creatures. And until then, consider making one in your own neighborhood.

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