Thursday, July 21, 2016

So what is all the fuss about?

 Why write a book about making Faerie Houses?

 There are in fact several answers that are true for me. Let me first say that there are a lot of good fairy house building books out there already. However, I noticed that most of those books fell into two categories: either they were compilations of fairy house artists such as myself and were thus good sources of inspiration, or they were written with children in mind. It seemed that the books written for adults were reluctant to show how to actually build a house while the books that were written more for kids, or for adults who were guiding kids, focused primarily on building temporary structures outdoors...which is a GREAT way to get kids outdoors, to be sure! There were also books dedicated to fairy furniture and fairy costumes- which were also lovely and very inspiring, and while a few tutorials could be found, it seemed that in general, house builders were keeping their secrets to themselves. All of this is to say, there seemed to be a niche that was waiting to be filled.

 In my 10 years of making these creations, I have been asked numerous times if I gave workshops so I knew there was a segment of the population who wanted to learn how to make their own little houses. Trouble is, organizing a class and leading people successfully thru a workshop takes a lot of time and is a specialty in itself. Also, these little structures, while simple-looking take more than a few hours to make, many more than can actually be fit into a day class even for the craftiest of students. So making a book to show people exactly how these things are built felt like a calling of sorts. 

 But there is another reason to write this book: young people, especially those who like to build on a more advanced level and who may have a penchant for architecture might find a way into learning about designing with nature in mind if they had a practical guide to how this is done. So I wrote this for the present generation of talented crafts people who want to learn the specific ways to build these structures in deep detail, but also the budding architects out there who are keen to take their cues from the natural world and let their fresh imaginations soar.

The book starts like any good craft book, speaking briefly about tools and materials.

 Then a few words about collecting materials in the wild is in order because we do need to learn how to collect in respectful and sustainable ways so we don't hurt the natural world we all love and need. 

And then we just dive into how these houses are put together, and I show just about  everything…from bases, to roofs…windows and doors…wallpaper and lighting…all of it.It's a builders bible, really...just on a very tiny scale!

 I tried to give readers a good foundation in basic skills and techniques so once they are mastered, you can go on and apply your own brand of style and whimsy and build with confidence.

I’ll share more tidbits from the book here on the blog as time allows. But for now, let me just say that in the book I will show you how to build the house that is shown at the top of the page if you’d like to learn how!

 If anyone would like to take advantage of a good sale, Amazon is selling the book now and you can find it HERE (along with a very nice pre-release sale price).

But wait, there's MORE!!!!!

 Yesterday I got word that the 2017 Amber Lotus wall calendars are out! And they are my best collection yet! 

Here is the image that was used for the cover:
And for those of you who have been asking for a smaller version... heads up! They heard you!! You will soon find the calendars in all the usual places where you like to shop on the ground, but for those who want to make certain they get theirs before the calendars sell out (it happens every year, sadly) you can order NOW from various websites including Amazon. Shop HERE for the wall calendars, and HERE for the mini calendars (which are absolutely adorable BTW). Both are on good sales right now too.

And for my fans in Canada, here are Amazon Canada links:
Wall calendar HERE
Mini calendar HERE

And finally, if you'd like to order directly from the publisher, (and give us a bigger %) you can order directly from them HERE for the wall calendar and HERE for the mini calendars. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Emerging from the cave

If you ever wonder how you really feel about something, then a good test is to write a book about it, and if after you’re finished you still love what you wrote about, then, it must be love! I’ve just emerged from that process myself and I can honestly say that nothing has been more challenging for me to do and complete. And what amazes me is that I can’t wait to get out in the forest and make some more Faerie houses…so, it must be that I really love what I do!

The book project began a year ago with an inquiry from a publisher. I didn’t really want to do a book. I already had one that was on my work-table (my Enviromaginations book that was funded thru Kickstarter) and I knew if I took up another book before that one was finished, it would delay the first one even more….which I did not even want to contemplate. But… who knew if this opportunity would come again…so I reluctantly said “Yes”.

The book’s style and content needed a few revisions and try as I might to rein it in and make it go one way, it ended up going another. I hitched my project to a greater guidance system and devoted myself 110%. It has been almost 8 straight months of heavy, focused pressure to get it done. Now that it is finished I can finally say what form the book has taken. I know this will be a shock to some of you, but it is all about how to build Faerie Houses!  :-)

More specifically, it is an advanced course in the secret art of Faerie house building that is directed towards adults (or very crafty younger people).  I have many step-by-step guides showing how to actually build the bits and pieces, plus there are complete, step-by-step instructions for how to complete two full houses. Along the way there are loads of inspirational images of completed projects and lot of little helpful tips and tricks. There is nothing quite like this on the market. In the pages you will learn in detail, how to DO this work, which is what I really wanted to share. It is my hope that for the folks who have often wondered if they could make their own little creations, either for their own gardens or children, this will give them all the information they need to do it with confidence.

There are loads of good making faerie houses books out there that are for kids or for people working with kids. There are fabulous inspirational books that show marvelous work done by other builders. There are even specialized books focusing on just Faerie furniture or clothing…. But as far as I know, this book will be the first one geared towards showing adults how to craft with found/natural materials and make their own creations, without resorting to measuring, using kits or power tools. All hand-built… using your hands!

So that is what I’ve been up to for the past half-year+ and why there have been so very few posts here in this blog…ALL my typing/communicating energy was being channeled in one direction: towards getting this book created and now that it is done, and I’ve re-charged my batteries a bit, I hope to come back to posting more frequently and sharing with you inspirational stories, new creative work and observations from this lovely part of the world.

Thank you everyone who has been writing kind words of support and waiting patiently. You’re the BEST!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Coming up for air


It has been far, far too long since I've written here to you all ...but there is a reason for the long absence -  I've been working non-stop since last December on my book and the past 4 months have been especially focused, intense and often grueling with 10-14 hours of writing, photo editing and creating new work for the pages of the book.

I'm not out of the woods yet, but we've reached a point where I can come up for air. While I know you've not heard from me here, I feel as if I've been speaking to you all non-stop during the whole process given the format of the book we've been working on. I'll get to that more in the coming days, but for now....some are some items that were created just for the book... more details to follow, as soon as time permits.

A stand-alone Faerie Portal which was created to act as a shelf or mantelpiece decoration:

Another project produced just for the book was this little cutie:


and last, but not least, this was the penultimate tutorial project:

I hope to be able to discuss the book project in more detail soon and these specific examples (and more) shortly. Time is very precious right now as spring is in full swing and the forests and gardens are calling for me to come and make some images in those happy locations. However, this book project is not yet done, so the horses cannot yet be fully let loose to run wild but Oh how they are stamping and snorting in my heart to burst forth and get outside!

This is much more news to share beside this one project as well, but time is very short at the moment, so this will have to do for now...

Thanks to everyone who has kept encouraging me from near and far. Your well-wishes have sustained me more than you know!

Happy Spring, Everyone!


Sunday, February 21, 2016

Hemp faerie house in the round- all views

Greetings Everyone,

  I thought you might like to see the individual 360 views of the Hemp Faerie house so I've put all the images into this one final post so you can see it from all angles in good clarity. Hope you enjoy it!

Hemp Faerie house finished!

Greetings Everyone!

(apologies to my subscribers if you are seeing this a second time. There was an issue with the Youtube video presentation that I did not like so I've replaced that video below)

   And now we get to the fun part! The final landscaping and "dressing" of the Faerie house with all the little details is always the most enjoyable part of the process and this house was no exception. The challenge however remained to incorporate as much hemp as possible... which meant hemp stones, of course! 

  I took some of the fluffy hemp and rolled it into small rounded pea and bean sized balls and then wrapped them in the coarse, thin fibers to make my "hemp pebbles". They had a fun an pillowy look which I liked.
I did have a bit of trouble getting the fine strands of hemp however... as BB had decided that he liked the hemp for his own pillow.

Finally I needed a way for the door to have some sort of entrance ramp or stairs. I had envisioned a spiral ramp and did make one. 

But it had a problem in that when viewed from above, the ramp hid all the beautiful details in the wood base. That seemed a shame so I went back to the materials to see what I could come up with to give a sense of a staircase. I ended up fashioning a sort of a tree fungus, mushroom and emerging mushroom out of the hemp batting. These were installed and they worked much better without hiding the wood burl details:

The final step was to add some sparkle. I had some nice pale green beads that were wired into a vine but the green paper covering the wires was too bright so I took more of the hemp paper and re-wrapped all the wired vines to help them blend in better. It was a small detail that took hours to do but in the end was well worth the effort. 

Here we are beginning to see the final result. The hemp "stones" are in place, the mushroom steps are working well and the sparkly greenery is adding a nice softening effect while pulling the whole sculpture together.

And here it is! 

and with the lights on:

and at twilight:

as an extra treat, here you can see it in the round at the end of this post!  

Thanks Everyone for reading about the hemp house construction. Now for a final bit of news.... this house is for sale!  If anyone is in New York city, you can go see the house in-person as it will be at the "Art on paper" show March 3-6 at Pier 36 ( link to the show is HERE ).

The house is being sold at the show but you can also purchase it online if you are unable to get to the show by clicking  here:!raffle/pyxfm 

Thanks everyone!

As for the video below, I'm not sure why but blogger has compressed the video so much that it looks terrible when seen full screen. Such a shame.
If you'd like to see the video in youtube you can click HERE to go see it. Unfortunately, I cannot control the video clips that are offered after my video is finished. Youtube chooses those and I was not pleased with what they chose to follow my presentation. My apologies for the confusion.


Saturday, February 20, 2016

Hemp House part 3

Greetings Everyone,

   I'm so excited because the Hemp house is finally finished. But before I do the big reveal, here's how it went together:
     I took the off-white hemp-paper roof panels and overlaid them with several layers of the fancy, green Japanese papers. Between some of the layers I collaged in some bits of a the darker hemp paper to give a more organic look. I added curled ends for a bit more whimsy and a corded edge under the final layer to give the outer edge a bit of extra strength. Here are all the new roofs:
 As you can see the original cream coloured paper is still visible in the inside of the top-right roof.

Next I took the front panels and matched them up with their corresponding roof panel just to make sure they were all fitting together nicely. Many small adjustments had to be made to get the roofs to fit snugly around the wall panels, but eventually they were all paired up

 However, I did not glue them in place because if I did I would not be able to install the lighting. But I did add extra batting around the edges so the light would not leak thru at the joints. Here you can see a detail of how that worked:

 The pink arrow points to the rolled batting material that made a fat, felt-like worm that was glued in place. When the wall panel was laid in place, it would rest against this baffle and eliminate any small places where the light would leak out because the joints might not be a perfect match. The blue arrow shows how the original pattern had a cut-out design that was now covered over by the outer skin. That will play a very important role once the house is complete. Here you can see one of the windows from the back:

I did this same process with all seven windows. It took many days to get them all ready for installation. Now it was time to do the lighting but in order to do that I had to know exactly where each window was going to be placed, so the work of installing the windows and the wire with the lights happened in the same (painfully slow) step. 

  I took the base and created a small space where the batter pack would go by carving out the vertical portion of the base where it met the horizontal burl slab it all sat upon. Then I drilled holes into the base to feed the tiny wires up to the first window. There was too large a gap from that first window to the next window so I figured out a way to drill from one window to the next, but it was very tricky. At last the wire could be passed to the doorway panel which you can see below. Once I had all the positions of the windows figured out, I installed pegs which led up the rood sections by way of a small "floor".  Here you can see the wire is in place and the pegs are as well.

The actual door way is connected by the one wire you can see, but there are more wires in the frame of the doorway for additional lights. You can see how the wire is taped to the base and winds around. I wanted to make sure the lights were reaching every window with no lights being seen in between the windows (though it was OK if the wire could be seen as I could disguise that later). This took a lot of fine-tuning to get right. (the top of the vertical section is covered because I grab this part a lot as I work on the piece and because the raw wood is so absorbent, it would have become discolored by the time I was finished making the piece)

Here you can get a feel for how each window is configured:
The roof of the window sits on the pegs that are affixed to the vertical base by way of a small floor that adds strength and keeps the roof spread out at the proper width. It is then carefully glued and matched to the uneven wood surface of the vertical part of the base. With the front wall being removable, I'm able to gain access to the interior and make sure that the joints meet absolutely flush and is sealed very well. Another fat roll of baffling is installed where the roof meets the vertical wood, just to make sure there is no light leakage there.

Finally, all the windows were in place after several more days of detailed work. Here you can see them all on the base. The front walls are not fully glued in place just yet, because I need to make sure everything is right where I want it. Once the wall is glued in place I am no longer able to make any adjustments.

Next it was time to test it and make sure it was all working as I had hoped.... drum roll please....

YAY! It worked! Now you can see how the cut-outs from the under-layer allow a pattern of light to come out of the roof, a bit like a sky-light in reverse.

I was really pleased with how this was going. The test done, I glued all the front panels in place and let them dry for an extra day.Now all that was left was to add some trim around each of the windows and some landscaping details...that comes next!!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Hemp House construction part 2

Greetings Everyone!

 Sending out early Valentines Greetings to you and yours...wishing you a warm, loving and peaceful weekend no matter where you are. May the magic of love, in whatever form it takes, bring to you a smile this day and every day! 

  I'm having so much fun with the Hemp house project! As you may recall, this was a brand new material for me to work with so that meant I had to do a lot of testing first to see what was possible. In this picture you can see some of those early tests:

#1 shows the raw, dried stems that I got from Joel at Vermont Hemp Company. The stems have a lot of strength and are quite dense so I know I'll use them as structural supports. The pile of straightened material ( #2) is what I developed by taking the raw bark-like strands that are shown at the very top. These are the fibers that are used for rope and fabric making. They are very long (sometimes over 3 ft long!) and the strips are somewhat malleable, but they first have to be dampened and straightened, which is what I did to get the thin strips in #2. This took quite a bit of time to achieve, but the golden-honey colour strips are fun to work with once you get them. The back-side has a shimmery creamy white appearance so I wanted to use both sides if I could in my designs.

I used some strips to weave a panel # 3 and # 4 in the image above, #3 shows all the strips with the same side up and #4 shows using the front side/back side up in an alternating pattern.  

#4 shows how I then trimmed a woven section to fit my paper pattern shape to begin the window walls for the house. #5 shows another treatment which was just laying down several strips in a row and laminating them to the hemp-paper pattern directly. I use epoxy for this process as I don't want the strips to come off the support and the epoxy seems to work really well for that.

I took all the pattern pieces and tackled the window and door panels first since these give the main shape to each of the projections that come off the base. Here you can see all the finished window panels:

it was important to me to make each panel a little different but because they are all made from the same materials they all have a nice harmonious balance, design-wise. Except for the glue holding them all together, these are 100% hemp.  The door panel required a little different treatment as I wanted it to be a bit more sparkly.

There were several trials with real draongfly wings as mentioned previously. I had hoped they would work as "glass" doors, but I just didn't feel confident that they would be durable enough and I thought it would be such a shame if down the road something happened to the would ruin the whole sculpture. So to be cautious, I used the same concept only with different materials. I had some photographs of dragonfly wings that had been printed on clear acetate. These are what I ended up using. They were the same idea, just very strong. Here they are installed with their glass "jewels" in place to add a bit of sparkle. The white stuff is the fluffy hemp that is used to make thread. I rolled/spun it very loosely to make a fat length and then cross-stitched it on with some decorative hemp cord. This whole panel is very small, less than 4 inches tall...the door itself is about 2.25 inches tall. After this step I added a few Austrian crystal micro beads sprinkled on the white fluff arch, to add a bit more sparkle. I don't have a photo of that yet.
    Next it was time to tackle the roof sections. I was absolutely thrilled that the hand-made paper from Japan arrived. It was gorgeous and this photograph does not do it justice but it is the back-ground in the photo below:

Here we have all my roof patterns transferred to the hemp paper support panels, cut out and laminated. Each roof section is made from two sheets of the heavy hemp paper and is then glued together. In my experimenting, I discovered that hemp paper will take a bit of manipulation when it is wet and when it dries will hold the shape if white glue is used in the dampening process. So each roof got a bit of molding and shaping while it was wet and then the pattern was traced onto the dried panel and cut out as you can see above. I was very excited about the curly, turned up ends that this process allowed- it was a bit like my birch-bark curls I sometimes add to my other faerie houses so this was an added bonus. The diamond cut-outs will be places where the interior lights will be allowed to shine thru the roof, a bit like sky-lights in reverse. Since I had no idea how I was going to cover these roofs, I had to do more experimenting! And here is the horrible, yet very instructive result!

This is not an actual roof but a piece constructed to test several techniques - there are actually SIX tests in this single piece. It was a bit discouraging at first because all the things I thought I was going to be able to do, did not in the end work out. But with more trials and tests I finally found a solution that I was quite pleased with..... but I'll save that for next time!!
Welcome to the enchanted world of Environmental art and Faerie Houses sculptures created by Sally J Smith. Here you will find photos of the artist's unique art-forms and hear some of the stories from behind the scenes as she shares with you her creative process.