The playful spirit of a 10-year-old recognized the magic in Faerie Houses before it became a business by the same name.
Nineteen years ago, Frank and Bell Barr of Edina were making birdhouses from ceramics, adorned with copper roofs and steel trimmings. Because he likes miniature things, Frank made a few petite birdhouses and gave them to friends and family.
“This family we gave one to, their little daughter said, ‘Oh, it’s a fairy house!’ ” Frank Barr recalls. “I just thought they were houses that were too small for birds to live in. Once we knew they were fairy houses, there was even more reason to keep doing them.”
“She was the young spirit who woke us up to fairies and the fairy realm,” Bell says.
The Barrs now create most of their fairy houses in batches; the smaller ones take approximately 30 minutes, while larger ones can take days. Frank forms the clay, designs the architecture and copper roofs and Bell brings the faeries’ houses to life with three coats of detailed glazing that gives each an electric depth of color. Every roof exhibits a patch, like a butterfly, dragonfly, star or flower as a symbol of repair. Carefully shake a house to hear the teeny bell tucked inside.
Each piece comes with intriguing instructions to “place a twig or flower from your garden in the small hole on the front of your faerie house” as a perch. The artists also imprint the word NOW on each house to remind people to be present in life.
They didn’t initially have a business plan; the idea for unique faerie houses just appeared in their lives. They brought Faerie Houses to a handful of art shows that first year and have participated in the Edina Art Fair since 1998; they now do around 18 shows a year.
“[Choosing art shows] has all been trial and error. We know that if a community has an art center, they probably are our peeps. We knew from the beginning that art fairs were a good fit for us,” Bell says.
Her favorite part of Faerie Houses is being charged by the energy at art shows. “I love doing art fairs because it feels like faeries are called to our booth. You meet a lot of faeries and it’s a really sweet time to connect with people.”
Frank echoes his wife’s sentiment. “I enjoy interacting with people at art fairs, goofing around with them, and making connections. That’s gratifying. It isn’t just an exchange of money for goods, people who come to our booth—our customers—are just really heart-centered people.”
Not only do Faerie Houses attract master gardeners as well as engineers intrigued by the architecture, Bell cheerfully describes how to spot a person who will likely appreciate their resplendent art—a fairy.
“A lot of times if they have a sparkly shirt on or sparkly shoes or sparkly glasses, they’re our peeps. Fairies enjoy sparkles, and we make our booth sparkly, so I think that’s why they are attracted to our booth.”
People arrange Faerie Houses throughout their gardens and sometimes place them in trouble spots. “One woman told us her clematis didn't bloom for three years. She put a Faerie House near it and she got blooms!” Bell exclaims.
Indoors, these vibrant houses can be suspended from curtain rods, hung over kitchen sinks and add playfulness by placing a pixie potty in the bathroom. Feng shui practitioners use a red fairy house by the front door as a remedy to welcome prosperity. A kindergarten teacher uses a graceberry fairy house to help her class quiet down and listen for fairies.
Occasionally the energy goes deeper. One intense summer, four separate families shared stories with the Barrs of children who had died. They purchased Faerie Houses for the gravesites. “It seemed like the houses were being used as a tool to help [the families] bring back joy because I think a lot of people know that fairies are the bringers of joy,” says Bell.
Edina residents Christina Mielke and her wife, Kimberly Branson, have been captivated by Faerie Houses since their first purchase in the 1990s.
“I will never forget rounding the corner at the [Renaissance] festival and seeing their display of magical, whimsical houses,” Mielke says. “We instantly fell in love. It was fun to learn from Bell that they were fairy houses. Each one is blessed with fairy dust and a fairy bell.”
The couple displays Faerie Houses, ranging from the tiniest hut to a mighty mansion that stands 4 feet tall, in every room in their house, walls, gardens, fence, and offices.
Mielke says, “In this technologically fast-paced world we live in, having a whimsical art piece reminding us to slow down, breathe and enjoy each moment is a gift Faerie House provides every day.”
One can imagine a dainty fairy whirling off her perch and ringing the wee bell, releasing a dusting of peace and joy throughout the garden.
Master gardeners as well as engineers intrigued by Frank and Bell’s designs are drawn to Faerie Houses.
Available at the website here, Edina Art Center, Bloomington Center for the Arts, or call Frank and Bell Barr 952.922.7190