News | 4 June 2024
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Wellington artists away with the fairies

While our park rangers often find fairy houses in our reserves made from harmful plastics and glitter, local artists Sharon Powick and Debbie Bidlake bring whimsy to Wellington by creating and installing sustainable fairy gardens in Karori.

Image of a small fairy house on a tree. the fairy house has a red door.

Sharon and Debbie previously hosted a City Nature Challenge event based around the fairy houses and their nature connections along the skyline walk, inspiring tamariki to get out into the world and play. 

Ensuring their creations are only made from natural materials, the artists feel strongly about making magic without microplastics. We caught up to learn their top tips on making your own fairy gardens. 

How did you get into making fairy gardens?

Debbie: My first fairy houses were made from stained ice cream sticks and horseshoes, along with cool (non-invasive) nuts, seeds, and shells I found. They were fantastic but couldn't withstand the weather in Karori! Now, I'm working on more durable versions. It's a balancing act — they need to biodegrade reasonably but also be sturdy enough to justify the effort involved. I'm experimenting with wood pallets and incorporating our locally present flora and fauna to better reflect our broader restoration work.

Sharon: I started making fairy houses during COVID because I was bored. I love making art and often collect driftwood and stones at the beach, so I decided to try fairy houses! Living in Karori near the Skyline Reserve, I began placing my magical creations around for kids to find. My favourite elements blend subtly into their environment, like a tiny, bright red door in a natural space that catches the eye. I think it's cool. I like doing things for the community — I'm probably a big kid at heart myself.
 How do you find these fairy villages?

Sharon: The one I made is at the end of Percy Dyett drive, on one of the main tracks that goes up to the Skyline. The other one is in Karori Park, past the off-leash dog area. It’s really cool because there's an old tree that fell down across the park, and you have to duck under it. I thought, what can I do here? So, I painted a rainbow on a piece of wood to prevent people from hitting their heads. Then, I decided to turn it into a troll bridge. I labelled it as such and painted eyes, sticking them underneath so that when you duck to go under, you see the eyes looking at you. 

Debbie: The latest fairy garden is in Karori Reserve, and we have just put in several ‘bug hotels’. To encourage curiosity, Sharon and I are in the process of naming them after their future local inhabitants e.g., Chateau Will de Weta (plus, a bunch of other invertebrates our friends at the Department of Conversation suggested). We are also painting footprints of different species on wooden steppingstones in another area. I think it’s awesome to kids to engage with and enjoy nature wherever they find it.

What are your tips for making sustainable Fairy Gardens?

Sharon: Just give it a go and be creative! I think less is more, look around the environment to see what things you can make little doors or roofs out of, like bark that’s fallen off a tree. I find that hot glue doesn’t last, so I use superglue or wires to connect everything together.

If you want to make fairy houses in our public spaces you just need to have a chat to your local park Rangers, and make sure that you're going to use natural resources that can just disintegrate and disappear in time. 

Debbie: Our rākau don't enjoy having holes drilled into them. So, including them in our parks and reserves is generally a no-no. Go for gold on your own balcony, fence and in your own garden though! Keep your creations as natural as possible - treated timber, glue, paint, and varnish are not natural so the less you use of them the better. Definitely no plastic! 

Create with purpose — fairy houses are about bringing magic and joy to our tamariki. But for me at least, they are also about celebrating the magic of our natural world and encouraging our connection to it through exploration. 
I honestly think the best fairy houses are the ones our tamariki make with rocks, sticks, and leaves so reuse and recycle — use your imagination, not your wallet!

If you’re interested in creating a fairy garden for public enjoyment, get in touch with our park ranger team.