The Creation Process
A Fairy Woodland Fairy House is not "made" or "handcrafted" â€“ like all living creatures, it's "born."Â The disparate pieces like twigs, stones, shells, sea glass, come together in a bed of sand â€“ a kind of primordial "ooze" â€“ from which they emerge as a coherent, unique creation.Â
The Artist's View
By John C. Crawford
"The creation of a Fairy House is a constant interaction between the vision first seen in the twigs and the practical considerations of durability and other technical problems in realizing the house.Â I seek to render a house that is as real as the Fairies that I meet â€“ dusty, well used, eroded by the winds of time.Â
It is always a battle to keep that sense of veracity alive while trying to construct a sculptural object that can be transported and lived with without it falling apart.Â The making of a Fairy House is not just a matter of making a model but instead is interwoven with the need to keep alive the whole life history of the twigs and stones of which it is constructed.Â
A Fairy Woodland Fairy House is never "shiny" or "new."Â It always carries the dings and dents, the scratches and scrapes of life of the elements of which it's made."
Finding the Twigs
Each Fairy Woodland Fairy House begins with the discovery of a twig that shouts, "Choose me to be in a Fairy House!" Walking down a path, it's almost as though you hear a voice and you turn and notice that there's a branch or a twig that has a marvelous shape, or character.Â It grabs your imagination, causes you to think of it in relationship to something else you hadn't even considered, takes your creative thoughts into a whole new direction. (By the way, we always ask permission before we take a twig or stone home. Â If permission is not granted, it stays where we found it.)
Different materials carry different stories.Â For example, driftwood has a sense of movement and being tossed, windswept, and lost in vast stretches of sea and sand and the stories will reflect that.Â Mossy covered twigs from the forest have a sense of abundant life and ancient roots, rooted in one place, part of an enormous, ancient community of trees and spirits.
All of the raw materials are carefully selected from special, often spiritual places on the earth and are chosen for their personality and energy. Sand from an ancient native site and twigs tossed for years in the sea might come together in the same house. Anywhere from which materials have been gathered is a place that speaks to the heart and some portion of the essence of the life force can be felt in the objects chosen. No living branches are ever cut, only those that have been naturally shed are used.Â
The craft part: (Written in response to the many questions from those who see the HGTV "The Carol Duvall Show" segment)First of all, the glue.Â The glue used to tac the twigs together is a hot melt glue used in the packaging industry and is made by 3M. It is not generally available in craft or hardware stores.Â It differs from ordinary hot melt glue in that it comes in 12 in. long sticks and has a higher melting temperature, making it more stable when exposed to hot sun.Â However, the hot melt glue, for me, is only a temporary method of holding the twigs together while I perform the other operations, so ordinary hot melt wood glue will probably work fine for that purpose. The glue that is actually used to hold the shingles together is a polyurethane exterior glue which is available at any good hardware store.
Â Now, the mortar. Unfortunately, I can't be quite as helpful with that. The mortar, which I referred to as cold processed porcelain for simplicity's sake,Â is a formula that I have evolved myself and is not commercially available.Â It is a combination of rare earth elements and chemical compounds and the formula is proprietary. Additionally, some of the materials needed to make the formula are only available in very large quantities and the cost is in excess of a single house.Â
Â But if you don't mind the adventure of making a new house every year or two, there are other materials that can be used to create a fairy house using the method of free casting in sand.Â Let me give you the good news and the bad news with each of them.
Plaster of paris:Â It is very easy to work with, readily available, is easy to clean up in places where it doesn't look believable as mortar.Â This is the material that I began with.Â If I could design the universe, I would still be using this material.Â Unfortunately (bad news) gypsum, which is what plaster of paris is, is water soluble.Â Despite its rock-like appearance, after about a year of exposure to the elements, it will begin to erode and the twigs will become disengaged from the house, resulting in a pile of rubble.Â If you intend to keep the house indoors, this will work fine.Â (You can try coating the finished walls with boat resin or penetrating epoxy but they both smell awful, are terribly toxic, and the fairies gave me all kinds of shit about using it.)
Hydrostone:Â Same problem.Â
Fast setting cement:Â Will not dissolve, but does not adhere very well to the twigs.Â After one or two years, you will end up with a pile of rubble.
Dry lock:Â Same characteristics as fast setting cement.
Â The rest of the process of making fairy houses in the way that I do is shown on the Carol Duvall show segment or falls into the category of micro management and really requires your own creativity.Â The most important part of the process remains finding and listening to the twigs and stones that you use.Â
The houses begin their lives in a bed of sand â€“ that's where the twigs are glued together to make the framework for the walls.Â That bed of sand is the foundation, the primal ooze, from which the houses ultimately emerge.Â So what makes up the bed of sand is the heart of the alchemy.Â
The sand is a metaphysical soup that has been collected from a wide variety of places including the Anza Borego Desert, an ancient sea bed which contains 12 million year old fossils including small fragments of the Tree of Life.1 Â Â It contains sands from numerous places on the West Coast, from the Hopi reservation, from the Hogan of a Navajo medicine man, the banks of the Hudson River, the Herkimer diamond mine in upstate New York, volcanic sands from Mt. Rainier, the Ard As Sawwan Desert in Jordan and mother lode goldmine tailings from the Sierra Nevada Mountains.Â We keep adding to the soup because we want as broad and varied an energy base for the houses as possible.
Shaping the Fairy House
Once the materials have been gathered, John Crawford fashions his extraordinary Fairy Houses using an unconventional sculptural approach. He free casts the houses in sand, which allows for spontaneous development of abstract shapes, using the natural materials to dictate the form.
The shapes and character of the collected materials lead directly to the design of each house. Â John specially selects the twigs and fits them together as a form for the walls of the house. He then chooses stones and other naturally found materials to incorporate into the casting of the walls. He hand splits the shingles for the roof. The house is assembled using a weather resistant, Fairy compatible mortar. Out of respect for the more sensitive tribes of Fairies, no iron is used in the construction process.
Each Fairy House is a poem â€“ a unique symbiosis of wood and stone and artistic design which speaks from a place of magic to stir the creative spirit in those who come to engage it.
After the house has been created, Bridget Wolfe sits with the house to hear its tale.Â Sometimes the house whispers, sometimes it shouts but, because the wood, stone, and sand all have voices, there is always a story to be told.
"When I meet a new Fairy House, I feel as though I've been invited to be present at a birth and given the honor of celebrating the naming ceremony.Â As the house and I get to know each other, it invites me in and I find myself wandering the landscape of the Otherworld and meeting the Fairies who inhabit it.Â Sometimes the word picture the house wants painted revolves around the geographical place in Faerie where the house lives.Â Other times, the story is taken over by a Fairy who lives there."Â -- Bridget Wolfe
The brief tale, when married with the house, creates the beginning of a living myth.Â It's the entrance to a magical story â€“ YOUR magical story â€“ which will radiate out from the Fairy House to engage you in an enchanted world.Â Â
1Jamie Sams, Â Other Council Fires Were Here Before Ours.Â The story is about the destruction of the Tree of Life by the two leggeds (humans).