518 Fairy Homes has magical effect

Project offers eager families a chance at hands-on activity in increasingly distant world
A fairy home is displayed under a tree in front of the Woodlawn Public Library in Schenectady.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
A fairy home is displayed under a tree in front of the Woodlawn Public Library in Schenectady.

Categories: Life & Arts

The Capital Region is becoming a more welcoming place for fairies and gnomes, thanks to the 518 Fairy Homes project. 

Organized by the Mohawk Valley Library System, the project encourages children and families to build fairy and gnome homes using found materials, and to display them at their homes, libraries or local parks. 

Since the 518 Fairy Homes Facebook group and website (518fairyhomes.com) launched earlier this summer, dozens of these miniature homes have popped up at Central Park in Schenectady, Landis Arboretum, in yards around the Capital Region and, of course, at local libraries. 

The idea began with Jennie Mosher, the program director at the Schoharie Free Library. 

“I know everybody’s tired of being online and we need to do something for real,” Mosher said.  

She and her children have enjoyed making fairy and gnome homes for years, and when she first approached her fellow librarians about turning the craft into a community project many of them immediately jumped on board. They quickly created a website and Facebook group filled with project ideas, videos, scavenger hunts and other activities.

“It takes all these different people from all over our communities who have come together to help make this project into something more than a couple of fairy houses at a library,” Mosher said. 

One such person is Kaela Wallman, coordinator of youth services at the Schenectady County Public Library, who helped bring the project to other libraries in the county. 

“With all of our virtual programming that we do, we knew we had to offer something in person, something you don’t need a screen for,” Wallman said, “It just seemed like the perfect fit. Even though a lot of our libraries are in an urban setting, it’s still something that you can do even if you have a little piece of land, at the base of a tree or a bush around your house. Or you can just do it in Central Park or any of the other parks.”

Many of the fairy homes are constructed out of twigs, branches, moss, acorns, leaves and other natural materials. Designing the tiny homes involves a bit of creativity, problem-solving and engineering.  

The idea came at the perfect time for the Zebrowski family of Scotia.

“Honestly, we’ve been good about social distancing, but we’ve been getting a little bored,” said Gretchen Zebrowski, who is a teacher at Woodlawn Elementary School. 

She and her three daughters, Alyeene, 16, Adele,10, and Audra, 6, all worked to create a fairy home earlier this month.  

“It was a nice project because they all were able to be interested in it and they really got into it. They were looking at things on Pinterest and ordering little things, and then we went on a walk around the neighborhood to find more pieces and different things we could put on it,” Zebrowski said. 

They installed the miniature home in their yard, utilizing parts from a former dollhouse, moss, stones and even candles. 

“We still have ideas to add. It’s an ongoing project,” Zebrowski said. 

When they go on family walks, they often collect more materials for future fairy and gnome homes. 

“We have some trees in the back, so we’re thinking we’re going to try to make something with those. Depending on how many natural materials we can find, we can put something at the library. It’s just a fun thing to be thinking about,” Zebrowski said. 

Librarians in the Mohawk Valley Library System have also gotten into the project. 

“A lot of the ones that are around libraries have been created by library staff. Let me tell you, we’re all excited about it, too. We’re having a blast with it. I’ve made one for the library and two or three [for the] nature trails there. As soon as I can get back to it I want to do more,” Mosher said. 

While Mosher hopes the project results in people getting out and enjoying nature, she also hopes it brings people a sense of community in what has otherwise been an isolating time. 

The 518 Fairy Homes Facebook group has in part brought that sense of community, with members posting photos of homes they’ve made or homes they’ve discovered in the area. 

It’s also become a place to share some of the activities surrounding the project, including coloring pages, guides on how to throw a fairy tea party, a fairy and gnome field journal and more. 

While the project was started in the Capital Region, Mosher has noticed it’s moved well beyond the area. 

“I couldn’t believe when we were hiking in the Adirondacks near Eagle Bay, that’s a couple hours away from here, and came across a gnome home. There was a rock on it that said something like ‘Gnome Home. Welcome,’ ” Mosher said. 

This is an ongoing program, and families are encouraged to post and share the homes they create or homes they find on social media, by using #518FairyHomes. 

“I hope that it brings joy. Fairies and gnomes are these magical creatures, and it’s so fun to build something for them. It’s designed for families and children to have some joy and creativity and expression, and really some engineering. . . . I think the adults also [find] joy in it as well,” Wallman said. 

For information, visit 518FairyHomes.com. 

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