Step into a whimsical land where magical creatures reside in miniature houses made of twigs, leaves and berries. In Fairy House Handbook (Down East Books, 2012), author Liza Gardner Walsh presents a fun craft and lore book that guides readers in the process of building a fairy house, from how to select a site to what tools and materials to use. Learn the basics of how to build a fairy house in this excerpt taken from the chapter “Building.”
So, now you have found a perfect site, planned, and gathered your materials. You are ready to build. The bark you have collected can now be turned into a wall. The giant clam shell can now be turned into a bath tub. Your nook, hollow, or hidey-hole will now become a home for a delighted fairy. You are now an official fairy house construction worker.
Many of you know exactly what to do first. You will build your house with not one ounce of hesitation. The perfectly flat rock becomes a patio for the fairies to watch the sunset. But others might be a bit more hesitant. They might be unsure where to begin or carefully layer twigs across two roots of a giant maple tree only to have them all tumble down. For those more reluctant builders, remember that a certain amount of frustration is normal in this endeavor. Don’t get bogged down. Keep going. Start stacking those twigs again. There are no mistakes in fairy house building, only patience, stick-to-itiveness, and a healthy dose of fairy ingenuity. (Do you know that word? Ingenuity? It is a good word for this hobby, in fact, it sums the whole business up. It means to be inventive or resourceful.) Keep in mind, that whatever you do and however you build your house, the fairies will be grateful. As much as I could tell you exactly how to build a fairy house, there is absolutely no one way to build a fairy house! They are like snowflakes—never were two fairy houses exactly alike.
The best thing to do is to dive in. Look at your site and your materials and start putting things together. Those twigs and long pieces of grass can be woven together to make a roof. The sheets of birch bark can stand on either side. What you want to achieve is some house-like form. A-frame or teepee-shape. Cabinesque. Hut-like. You want a place where fairies can fly in and rest a while. As one friend said, “I think fairies like medium–size houses because if it is too big they will get lost in it and if it is too small they won’t be able to move around too well.”
Once you have some walls and a roof, you can begin building the other features: a chimney, windows, and a door. Walkways are fun and since most of you have gathered countless pebbles, seeds, little shells, or small pinecones, you will have plenty of materials for a grand entrance. Think about your own house—the shingles on the roof, the trim of the windows, the siding. What could you use for shingles—maybe pine-cone bracts? (Bracts are a fancy way of saying the leaves on a pine-cone.)
Depending on how big a space you have, your house can have a variety of rooms. A separate kitchen and bedroom. A bathroom. You may ask the perfectly natural question, do fairies use bathrooms? Well, the following conversation came up when some kids were building a fairy house village. My friend Ian said, “I found a perfect toilet seat! It is soft and has a hole in the middle.” And then Tatum responded by saying, “I thought fairies went to the bathroom in the woods instead of using the toilet.” Hmmm—what do you think?
Not every fairy house needs a door and not every way of constructing will allow for one. But say you found a piece of driftwood with a hole worn through the center—well, use it as your door. Another technique is to find a V-shaped stick and use that to form an archway into your house. Some fairy house builders spend a lot of time constructing their doors. One friend weaves twigs together to make a rectangle and then rests it up against the house. Personally, I think fairies value a little privacy. Being a fairy is hard work and they might just need a nap away from the peering eyes of woodland creatures.
Another aspect to consider is the landscaping around your house. As I said earlier, fairies love order. Clearing out the area around your site promotes this sense of tidiness and makes room for a fairy garden, or outdoor dining area. A nicely laid out garden or pathway is as important as your actual structure.
But let’s get back to the construction zone for a second. We have an issue that needs to be addressed—a big debate in the fairy house world. The question is, to glue or not to glue. Can you use glue when building a fairy house since it is, after all, a man-made material?
I say if you want your fairy house to last, a little glue can’t hurt. One fairy house purist I know recently used a sharp rock to puncture a hole in a piece of bark and then took seaweed and tied it through to bend it into a bowl shape. Now that is commitment. This is the same amazing person who said, “I don’t think fairies really like glue. When they build their own houses, they must have a way of not using glue.” I have heard of fairies using sap to attach things, but I wouldn’t recommend this as you will get uncomfortably sticky. I leave the choice to you, however. You can weave a piece of grass around twigs to make ladder rungs or add a drop of glue at each step and move onto another part of your house. One of my favorite uses for glue is in making sea glass windows. Sea glass bordered by tiny twigs looks elegant. Remember the pine-cone shingles I mentioned earlier. (The pine-cone bracts.) A little glue will go a long way with that endeavor. Again, it is up to you. I see nothing wrong with an occasional dab of glue and I think fairies ultimately will enjoy the elaboration that glue allows.
So step back and look at your fairy house. Pat yourself on the back, for you have taken all of the elements you gathered and created this beautiful and unique dwelling. I can almost hear the fairies clapping. But we are not finished quite yet. It is time to make the fairies comfortable, to “feather the nest,” as they say.
For more on how to build a fairy house and garden, check out these blog posts from author and Mother Earth Living guest blogger Liza Gardner Walsh.
• Building Fairy Gardens
• Fairy Gardening: Making Mud Pies and More
This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Fairy House Handbook by Liza Gardner Walsh, published by Down East Books, 2012.