Among my many unemployable skillsets is one in particular that I have been doing for a long, long time. Building faerie houses, you might say, has been my life’s work. When no one would play with me and hiding in the bathroom every single recess in third grade was no longer an option, I wandered to the far corner of the schoolyard and built faerie houses under the trees. My cousin and I built faerie houses all through our youth, and into our teenhood. When I became a preschool teacher and eventually a nanny, it became a pastime that I was able to teach little kids.
My work in faerie houses has evolved over time – those early years of jamming four mismatched sticks into the dirt, balancing a leaf on top and holding my breath in the hopes that it would stay together are long over. Much like reinventing the wheel, I “discovered” how structures went together, how to make doors, what materials were useful for tying and bonding and hanging.
I used to have a strict policy (mandated by the faeries themselves, I liked to think) that all materials – except maybe glue – had to be natural, and found nearby. Therefore the selection of the faerie house location was paramount. Large swaths of moss were a must. An area with lots of fallen twigs was essential. Loose tree bark made for a good door, while dried grasses could be woven in between the sticks for walls.
Over the years my tastes changed, I had less time for building, and my devotion to the faeries’ wishes waned. I also discovered craft stores. And Pinterest. Suddenly even more techniques and options (from the years *other* nerds had spent making faerie houses) were available. Perfectly straight sticks came precut in just the right sizes. Moss came in dried rolls. String came in greens and browns and raffia-wrapped wiring. Along with all this new technology came the expectation that the end product must be Pinterest-worthy (otherwise what’s the point of all that time and money?)
Now I try to navigate between the two worlds. I enjoy foraging for materials on a walk – sometimes you happen to find just the right stick or rectangle of bark, and that’s so much more satisfying than perusing the dozens of perfect specimens at the store. It makes you think creatively about what you find, and it adds mystery and character to the house. It’s kind of like a puzzle with no box (I’m a big fan of those. Check back for future shell creations – the ultimate no-box puzzles!)
But I don’t shun useful materials or tricks, especially if I’m building a house with a kid, whose attention spans can wane pretty fast. At a certain point, it just has to work, or they lose interest and get too frustrated with the project. It has to be fun!
So here are a couple of faerie houses I built recently (with help from a certain 4-year-old!)
Vaguely Fall-Themed Faerie House:
2-litre bottle, cap removed and bottom two inches cut off
Bird nest, 3″ diameter, (we found it at Seattle Recreative, a recycled art supply store)
Pre-cut twigs, 4″ long, 1/4″ wide (I found these on Etsy)
A cool knotty piece of bark from a nurse log we found in the park
Moss we found at a park
“Moss” I got from a craft store (it’s actually lichen)
Plastic flowers and leaves (also from Seattle Recreative, but can be found at craft stores)
A string of micro-LED lights
Hot glue gun/glue
- Cut a door shape from the bottom of the bottle – we left ours attached along one side, but you don’t have to.
- Glue the bird nest to the top of the bottle. Use more glue than you think you’ll need, and hold the nest and bottle tightly for a few minutes to make sure it’s stuck on!
- Glue “feature” pieces on. In our case this was the knotty bark, which we put right above the door. Again, use plenty of hot glue, and press them onto the bottle a few minutes to make sure they set.
- Add other bark or sticks around the outside of the house, if you’re going to use them. We glued sticks side-by-side on the door, for example.
- Once all your bark and sticks are set, glue your patches of moss in between them, to cover up the rest of the bottle. You can leave little empty patches for flowers and leaves if you want, at this point.
- Once your moss is set, wrap the string lights around the bird nest (or the house).
- Decorate! Now is the time to glue on any flowers or leaves you want, or anything, really. Beads, glitter, etc. We stuck flower stems into the bird nest on top, and glued some leaves and flowers around the sides.
- Turn on the lights, and let the faeries know their house is ready!
In this case, I knew we were going to use the bottle as a base, but the bird nest was an unexpected find that worked perfectly for this project. And the bark was a bit more damp than I would have liked, but it was so cool looking, we made it work.
Christmas Faerie House:
This one was a little easier, since we just used a wooden base (from the birdhouse section of the craft store – birdhouses actually make great faerie house bases!)
Wooden gazebo “birdhouse”
Dried moss, from the craft store
Paint (we used washable, for obvious reasons, but acrylic would be better)
Glittery pinecones and holiday baubles, from the craft store
A small pine branch, from the Christmas tree
Green florist wire, not too thick
A battery-powered Christmas Light necklace
Hot glue gun
- Paint the wooden birdhouse. Let dry completely.
- Glue moss onto the roof.
- Wrap pine branch into a circle and glue together. Tie the ribbon into a bow, and glue the bow onto the pretty side of the pine branch wreath. Use the florist wire to attach the wreath – we wrapped it around the little knob at the top of the roof and hung it so that the wreath was just over the eaves.
- If the pinecones/berries/flowers/whatever have wire attachments, wrap these around the roof. Otherwise, use hot glue to attach them to the moss of the roof.
- Drape the Christmas lights around the roof, and turn them on!