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Marlay Park Fairy Tree

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Marlay Park Fairy Tree This is my first ‘Out and About’ post of the year on Curiously Creatively, though the activity does hark back to last year. I have been meaning to write about one of my favourite features of the south Dublin parkscape for some time, but it has taken me a while to get around to it. I am, as you might perhaps have guessed from the photograph here, talking about the Fairy Tree in Marlay Park. All of these photographs date back to a walk in the park during the Easter holidays last year, when we decided to pay another visit to the Fairy Tree (it is a truth universally acknowledged that nobody is ever too old for a Fairy Tree). This blog post and the photos have been lurking in the ether ever since.

We discovered the wonderful Fairy Tree a few years ago, suddenly coming across it during one of our rambles in our early Dublin days. It seemed so amazing, almost a magical moment, to find the customised tree near the stream in the middle of the woodland. I always intended to try to find out something about it, the who, why and when of this fantasy creation in the woodland. I hazarded a guess that it was not actually constructed by the fairies, but then again, you never can tell what goes on in the woods when nobody is watching. The top of the tree resembles a castle from a fairy story, with several turrets now pointing skyward in the place of tree branches. It was a lovely find for us that day, as we had no idea it existed and its charm certainly added to (and continues to add) to the appeal of Marlay Park. 

After asking the ever-helpful Google a few questions I came across a 2014 post on the HSE EVE Estuary Centre website where I discovered that an art teacher called Paul O’Hare created the Fairy Tree. He works with adults with learning difficulties at St Michael’s House in Templeogue and began the tree project in 2010. Several years later, the tree looks to be thriving so I assume that work and maintenance continue. The base of the fairy tree is an old beech tree stump (about twenty feet tall) the remains of a 300 year old storm damaged woodland veteran. It is nice to see something so delightful created from the remains of a once leafy tree, giving it a new lease of life. Judging from various blog entries and TripAdvisor contributor posts, Paul O’Hare and his students have created their very own five-star rated Dublin tourist attraction (and of course it is free to visit). As one person commented, ‘Beautiful piece of art and the fun of the fairies’.

The tree has been fitted out with enough windows and doors to accommodate the most discerning of fairy folk. I tried to get some good shots of the details of the construction for those of you who have yet to discover this woodland feature. You can see a couple of different styles of window and a very sturdy looking wooden door. For somebody like me (as also does Verity) who has always loved dolls houses and all things miniature, it is wonderful to take in the attention to detail here. The interesting thing about looking at all of the tiny features on this exclusive tree house is just how easy it is to suspend your disbelief (or maybe that’s just me). I know that there are no fairies (or other woodland folk for that matter), behind the façade yet nevertheless I am lured into the fantasy as I walk around the tree seeking every little feature. Perhaps that is because the idea of trees being houses and safe havens is a theme that crops up in so many children’s stories.

 

 The Fairy Tree in Marlay Park combines very effectively a beautifully crafted fairy palace with audience participation in the traditional form of leaving gifts for the fairies. Young visitors have made their own contributions to the tree, leaving notes and gifts for the fairy community. As you can see, somebody has even left a gift of some Easter eggs on a windowsill. At some point, the tradition of leaving babies’ soothers for the fairies seems to have started and then become a regular feature of the Marlay Park Fairy Tree. I noticed on the parenting website Rollercoaster that one piece of advice to a mother asking about ways to persuade her child to give up the soother included taking it for the fairies at Marlay. This has obviously become a regular practice judging by the offerings that we saw left at the tree, so I can only assume it works! I also spotted a pretty triangular decoration made of twigs, though I don’t know whether this was made by a visitor or one of Paul O’Hare’s team.

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If you haven’t been to Marlay Park and visited the fairies, do go and drop in on them sometime. There’s also plenty more activities to do in the park, including strolling around the lovely walled garden.

I would love to hear from any other Fairy Tree fans out there!

 

 

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Christmas project plan

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Now the Christmas holidays are here, I can get cracking on a few projects I have lined up. The first is a laptop case. I bought brown suede fabric with a white furry lining from Hickeys. I want to make a simple case, just a rectangle I can fold up and sew. It will need a flap and probably a button or some sort of other fastening.

Suede fabric

Fabric for the laptop case

The next project is that embroidery, which I still haven’t finished! I need to buy some more skeins of embroidery thread, in peach, dark brown, light brown, light blue, red and pink. I also want to try to whiten the fabric a bit more, but at the same time I’m scared of damaging it. Any suggestions of a good fabric cleaner would be welcome.

The last project is another miniature one. I bought a small, plastic dolls’ house for 1 in a charity shop, with  view to doing it up. The house only has a roof and wall on one side, so I’m going to make the other side out of cardboard, covered with tiled paper. The house could do with some carpeting and I could make curtains for the windows. Handkerchief material is good for curtains because if its weight and the range of colours. The ground floor window opens and is a bit like a bay window. I want to make a hinged roof, but I’m not sure how to go about it. I could use some kind of tape or the small hinges sold in miniature shops. Any advice would be welcome!

Dolls' house

The front of the house

Dolls' house

The inside of the house

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you have any projects going at the moment? Are you finding the Christmas season inspiring too?

Small things: making miniatures

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This post will my first post about miniatures. I got my first dolls’ house when I was four and have loved miniatures ever since. I like making small pieces for them but it is a tricky thing to do because of the small scale. This post is mainly based around pictures of miniatures, just to give a taster of the miniature world.

The first picture shows a mixture of bought and found things. The frame came from a Christmas cracker, the globe is a pencil sharpener and the rucksack used to belong to a Bratz doll. The ‘diploma’ in the frame was cut from a card. Moving on to the handmade things, the rug is made of plaited wool scraps. I sewed it in a coil and edged the rug with green beads. It should be backed with weighting fabric but I don’t know where to buy it. The chair and footstool were made according to instructions in The New Dolls’ House Do-It-Yourself Book by Venus and Martin Dodge (D&C). They are not difficult and the materials can be adapted. The footstool is supposed to be made in wood but I did it with the top of a champagne cork. The laptop is my favourite piece because it is simple but effective. It is two rectangles of thin cardboard with the screen and keys drawn in marker.

Handmade miniatures

The hardworking student

The chair and footstool that I showed previously make a second appearance in a different setting. The book is handmade, but not by me. I bought it at the RDS Craft Fair from a stall selling a wide variety of small books. They are hand sewn and can really be written in. Chris has a pair of even smaller ones attached to earring hooks. The piano is a little music box that only plays one tune. The flowers in the pot and the vase are made of flower shaped beads with wire stems. The vase is a wooden bead, the end filled with blue-tack to help it stand and the pot was once one of the cups that come with medicine bottles. I painted it, filled it with Plasticine, inserted the flowers and topped it with real moss, sprayed with hairspray. The screen is actually a piece of plastic material, with a kind of furry surface that I cut from the box my hairdryer came in. It is not hinged, merely bent into shape and the pictures are just stickers.

A collection of miniatures

Ladies and hats

And now we come to the hats. I love making dolls’ hats, there are so many ways to be creative with them! The left hand one is three pieces of white felt stitched together for the crown, band and brim. There is a length of white and green beads around the band. The other hat looks like straw, but is actually white paper raffia. It is more of a cloche hat, the reason being that I found it difficult to made a brim with the raffia. The bow on the hat is also paper raffia. Last of all there is the outfit worn by the doll in the armchair. It is a skirt and top of stretchy, mushroom coloured fabric. The top was supposed to be long, but kept rolling up, so I arranged it to be tucked up instead. I like the wide sleeves, but I have to confess that the neck is not hemmed, I quailed at the thought of the task. The skirt is very inexpertly gathered, but you can’t see that under the top. Oh, and the carpet. It was a piece of felt that came with a bead kit. I drew a marker design on the plain side and because of the trimmed edges, iI think it looks rather effective.

Raffia and feathers

Grocery shopping

There is not as much to say about the next picture (I can hear the sighs of relief). The doll on the left wears an apron made of a piece of a patterned handkerchief. The basket in the middle is made using the same technique as the ‘straw’ hat. The handles are plaited raffia. The doll on the right wears a blue felt coat and a matching hat. This hat is made in quite a different way to the others. I soaked a piece of felt in wallpaper paste and shaped in over a mould, then cut the brim to shape. The hat is trimmed with a purple feather and blue and purple beads. The bag is red felt with a small button and a leather strap.

'Found' items

The Captain’s kit

This picture is a small collection of ‘found’ items. In my book, ‘found’ items are things that you use for a different purpose than the one they were made for. Except for the book, all the things in this picture go along with that. The compass is actually a cuff link, again bought at the RDS Craft Fair. The clock and the keys were originally earrings, from Claire’s. The bunch of keys just needed the hook taken off but the clock was more difficult. It was a stud earring and I couldn’t get the shaft off so I folded it in instead. There are lots of cool things you can find on earrings and other jewellery so it’s worth having a look in an accessory shop for useful pieces.

Handmade miniatures

The hat shop

The last photo shows two more hats. Again, these are three pieces of felt sewn together. The purple hat is trimmed with ribbon and a rose shaped bead, the white with a bead and some stiff string. The basket is plaited paper raffia sewn together. Inside, there are lengths of cotton and two pins, for knitting needles. The little books are supposed to be look-books or catalogues for a hat shop. The pictures are real photos that I took of my hats worn by ‘models’. They were printed out small and stuck together to make a book.

That’s all the pictures done now, I hope you are inspired for your own small projects!

Have you made any miniatures, got any techniques or ideas? Please share them in the comment box…

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