fairy houses 2015: making “Grate Hall”


Fairy House blog-1It’s been an exciting week in the fairy neighborhood! Every day, more wee domiciles are popping up around the grounds of Highfield Hall and Gardens in Falmouth, MA (Cape Cod). By the time the Fairy Houses of Highfield Hall exhibit opens this Sunday, June 28th at 1:00pm, there will be 32 fairy houses installed and ready to view. Just like the previous show in 2013, this display is sure to bring in many visitors from near and far!

Last winter I invited 30 local artists and fairy aficionados to make houses for this summer’s exhibit. Each builder started the process by walking around the property and picking their favorite spot. They spent the next few months planning and working on their creations. I haven’t been privy to any finished houses until this week, and from what I’ve seen, this year’s collection is spectacular! There’s a wide variety of interpretations of the “fairy house” concept, from cozy abodes to airy perches. Building materials are as eclectic as the pieces themselves: clay, wood, mushrooms, paper, moss, felt, plants, shells, bark, stones, glass, metal, etc. Don’t worry if you live too far to see the originals — in the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing photos on this blog, Facebook and Instagram.


The Fairy Houses of Highfield Hall and Gardens will be on display until August 31, 2015. The exhibit is free, with a suggested donation. Stop by the hall to pick up a map with house locations and artists’ names. Inside the hall you can also see my fairy family. Raffle tickets for a chance to win the 5 doll set can be purchased online here. Read a post about making the fairy family here. I hope that many of you have a chance to visit this extraordinary outdoor event!

Making my fairy house….
Come along, while I make my fairy house, “Great Hall”, which is pictured at the beginning of this post. It began with a bunch of old metal graters that I saved, while cleaning out deceased relatives’ kitchens. For years I’ve been eying them for a future project and thought they’d give a solid structure to a fairy house. I drilled holes and bolted 4 of them together to make walls and a roof.


Then, I used my felt covered wire technique to form a base and arched beams. This single glove was in a box of my grandmother’s things. She and her sisters did a lot of tatting in the early 1900’s, so perhaps one of them made it.


I incorporated the glove into the front wall, leaving room for a door opening and curled loops of felt covered wire.


I stitched wool tapestry yarn in a zigzag pattern to fill in some areas, while leaving some open for viewing inside the house.


FairyHouses-1-7I tried not to get too fussy, but the door required a bit more detailed work.


I worked on the house during the snowy winter — my favorite time to be engrossed in a project.


The whisk was another kitchen find that I added near the end.


I pruned some supple branches off my blueberry bushes and lashed them to the grates and wire, adding a more organic façade.


I wanted the interior to be magical, so I draped strings of glass beads and crystals from the ceiling. Tiny blue and white LED lights (run on batteries) added a glow as well.


In the daylight, it’s hard to see the lit interior, so I sprinkled small round Shisha mirrors on the ground inside to reflect the lights and make it sparkle.


still life photos around the house



I spent a little time this week taking still life photographs. Rob is giving me tips about lighting and operating my camera. Some of the photos show seasonal arrangements and others are permanent displays around the house. While looking for things to take pictures of, I noticed that almost every object in our house has been in Rob’s or my family for a long time. It’s an eclectic collection of stuff, from a 3 ft. high bronze Buddha my great grandfather bought from a missionary in Russia in the late 1900’s to tiny silver salt shakers Rob inherited. Very few items are new or were purchased by us. Both of our families are small and we have become the keepers of the past by default.





Spectacular artifacts

specs1 Last winter, I had the pleasure of being invited to look through the Falmouth Historical Society’s archives and choosing interesting items to be shown alongside my artwork. The museum’s curator, Amanda Wastrom came up with this brilliant idea, which creates a tie between art of today with objects from the past. We discovered many boxes full of delightful surprises, like collections of old eye glasses and doll shoes. There was no question that these favorote finds would be included somehow. specs2I arranged the different styled spectacles, including a selection of green sun glasses on my table top and sewed them to a stretched piece of fabric. Each pair was unique in some way, but I liked playing around with  the commonality of oval shapes of wire and glass. specs5Someone said that these sun glasses made with wire mesh are from the 1700’s. specs6We hung up the glasses display, along with other items from the museum’s archives. Sometimes visitors to my show are confused and think that everything hanging on the wall is from my own personal collection, so I want to clear that up. specs7These dolls’ shoes and miniature knitted mittens melted my heart! ThenandNow13 The exhibit, Salley Mavor: Expressions in Stitches, Then and Now will be showing at Falmouth Museums on the Green until August 16th. I am thrilled that so many visitors have come already! ThenandNow12 shoes

Close-ups (beds)


The first image in this series of bed pictures is an illustration for a poem called Tumbling, which is included in my 1997 poetry anthology, You and Me:Poems of Friendship. Then there’s a page from my 2001 picture book In the Heart, which was written by Ann Turner. Copies of In the Heart are available in my Etsy Shop


“Are the children in their beds?” from my Wee Willie Winkie board book.


And here’s “my son John, went to sleep with his trousers on” from Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes. I offer autographed copies with a poster in my Etsy Shop.


“Go to bed first, a golden purse” from Pocketful of Posies. See the touring exhibit of the original embroidered illustrations from the book. Next location: Highfield Hall in Falmouth, MA, Sept. 4 ~ October 31, 2013.


And here’s Elsie Marley, who won’t get up to feed the swine, which is also from Pocketful of Posies.


Fairy Houses of Beebe Woods #3


“Home of the Tooth Fairy” by Sue Beardsley

People are still flocking to see The Fairy Houses of Beebe Woods exhibit, which will be in and around the grounds of Highfield Hall until July 21st. Stop by the building to get a tour map during their open hours (M – F, 10 – 4, S – S 10 – 2) or print out your own from this pdf file.

fairyfamilyraffleOther Fairy House News
(added May 30, 2015)
The Fairy Houses of Highfield Hall outdoor exhibit will be held from June 28th to August 31, 2015 at Highfield Hall in Falmouth, MA. In addition to curating the exhibit, Salley Mavor has made a fairy family of 5, which is being raffled (3 tickets for $5.00). Tickets may be purchased online or at Highfield Hall, where the fairy family is on display. The raffle drawing will be August 30, 2015. The prize will be sent to the winner anywhere in the world! Good luck!


detail from “Home of the Tooth Fairy” by Sue Beardsley

My husband, Rob took these “house portraits” of the dwellings in the morning or evening light, depending on their orientation. As you can see, each artist has interpreted the Fairy House theme in a vastly different way. More photographs of other houses can be seen on posts #1 and #2.


“Beech House” by Bobbi Bailin


detail from “Beech House” by Bobbi Bailin


“Casa de Hadas” by Anne Halpin


“Low Living High Flying” by Molly Bang


“Fire Flye Hollow” by Amy Wilson Sanger


“The Ministry of Metamorphosis & Faerie Hatchery” by Angela Tanner


“Sea Shanty” by Rebecca Edwards


“Solvagen” by Jane Parhiala


“Wild Cherry Village” by Skee Houghton


“Sentinel” by Andrea Moore


“Chippikomuk” by Jenny Junker

Fairy Houses of Beebe Woods exhibit

You may wonder, “Where is this Beebe Woods that keeps popping up in titles on my blog”? It’s a gem of a property (pronounced Bee-bee) in the center of my home town of Falmouth, Massachusetts, right on the edge of Historic Highfield Hall, which was built in 1878 for the Beebe family, who were prominent summer people. My Birds of Beebe Woods piece was made for last year’s exhibit celebrating the forest. Also, Highfield is hosting the Pocketful of Posies traveling exhibit Sept. 4 – Oct. 31, 2013.

This summer, the grounds and gardens of Highfield will be magically transformed into a “fairy” neighborhood, with small-scale habitats hidden throughout the property. Highfield has given me the exciting opportunity to curate The Fairy Houses of Beebe Woods exhibit, which promises to be a popular event during the height of the season.

I got the idea from the Florence Griswold Museum in Lyme, CT, which has hosted several Fairy house events. See my posts about last fall’s exhibit here and here.


I’ve invited 2 dozen local artists to participate in the event and they’ve spent the last few months picking building spots, gathering natural construction materials and thinking about what to make and how to make it. Everyone will bring their own vision and sensibility to their structure, creating a wildly varied display full of architectural whimsy. The outdoor exhibit will be open June 20th – July 21, 2013.


This past winter, I made and photographed 2 models that could be used for advance publicity purposes. Since I didn’t use a glue suitable for outdoors, these won’t be in the exhibit, but I will have another house to show. I’m in the process of constructing a more weather resistant cottage that will be perched in a magnificent copper beech tree. I hope that many of you will have a chance to visit the exhibit this summer and for those of you who live far away, I’ll post pictures.



fairy house tour (part 2)

The fairy house tour around the grounds of the Florence Griswold Museum continues with photos of some of my favorite structures. Out of 33 very different styles, I found the naturalistic interpretations more believable as fairy dwellings. These tended to blend in with the landscape and mostly used materials found in nature. Please note: This fairy house exhibit is closed, with the next scheduled for 2014.

fairyfamilyraffleOther Fairy House News
(added May 30, 2015)
The Fairy Houses of Highfield Hall outdoor exhibit will be held from June 28th to August 31, 2015 at Highfield Hall in Falmouth, MA. In addition to curating the exhibit, Salley Mavor has made a fairy family of 5, which is being raffled (3 tickets for $5.00). Tickets may be purchased online or at Highfield Hall, where the fairy family is on display. The raffle drawing will be August 30, 2015. The prize will be sent to the winner anywhere in the world! Good luck!

A house with a teapot doorway.

This tree had several entrances.

These cottages perched on the roots look like guest houses for sprites.

A cozy picnic spot.

A wee painter’s shack.

Dew Drop Villas and a muscle shell windmill conclude the tour.