When I set out to decorate for fairy parties, I knew virtually nothing about fairies. I did a search for fairies on Etsy and 80,000 items came up. I refined my search for fairy houses…too expensive. I searched fairy furniture and 505 entries appeared. I looked through every entry and one of the artists who stood out to me was Pandora Jane. She didn’t have a picture of herself, just an artistic rendering. Her subtitle on her Etsy bio was an “American artist on the road in France.” Perhaps she was a gypsie.
I emailed her to negotiate a price for a few chairs and tables. She emailed me back and I placed my order. A few weeks later a box postmarked from Nantes, France arrived in my mailbox. The chairs and tables were beautiful. I was amazed at how detailed and sturdy they were. (My one- year-old got his little hands on them and they didn’t break.) I emailed Pandora Jane with the positive feedback. She wrote back, “I do try to produce something sturdy that will last and can actually be played with by children of school age and up as well as adults. I studied furniture making in school as part of my fine arts program.”
Pandora Jane was not a gypsy. She was a real live artist, who graduated from a fine arts college. Impressive.
I had my pretty furniture, but what next? I emailed Pandora Jane back. (I found out her real name is Diana Heyne. She uses Pandora because it conjures the idea of curiosity about hidden things. Jane is her middle name.) I told her what I was doing- decorating for children’s birthday parties and I asked if she had any ideas on design and composition.
She said to use green sheet moss, Spanish moss and reindeer moss. Place it around to help pull the different pieces together and create a scene. If I had these nice sized pieces of moss I could easily add interest by building different levels of landscape with moss draped over scrap wood, stones, bricks.
I liked her ideas, but I wasn’t sure if I could bring them to life. I asked her if she would mind sending some pictures of some of her work. She sent me back the website for Applied Imagination. She’d decorated a few little places like the New York Botanical Garden and the National Botanical Garden in Washington D.C. Who was this woman? Could I download her talent?
I had several pieces of fairy furniture and nothing to put them in. I tried picking Diana’s brain again. She suggested I browse her website and her blog . I quickly fell in love with her fairy caves. She encouraged me to try my hand at them. (They were paper mache.) I did try and got paper mache and sand all over my house. My husband said, “Stop this madness please.” I wrote Diana back and asked, “Would you please make me a cave?”
Diana served as my mentor through my whole fairy decorations process. When I asked her for a few references on fairy folklore, she sent me a literary review, an amazing list of references on fairy folklore. (She’d even read Robert Graves’ White Goddess, the only book of Celtic folklore I have on my bookshelf.) She used words like fairy renaissance. She stayed clear of “airy-fairy books that have been published in recent years for new age or neo-pagan readers.” Diana was not only an accomplished artist. She was also very well read and generous with her knowledge.
After receiving my beautiful cave in the mail, I wanted to ask her-why fairy furniture.
She said, “If I were going to write an artist’s statement for just the fairy furniture it would have to point out a few things, It’s easy to look at this miniature furniture and see something whimsical for the benefit of children and those adults who want to remember their childhood. So far so good– I believe children and the things that influence their development are of the utmost importance. I don’t perceive art for children as being any less important than that for adults.
I believe human beings need magic and mystery in their lives in order to be psychologically healthy. I believe there is something wondrous about our mind’s ability to travel down into a miniature world or likewise to expand outward into the cosmos. And the more times we take these “trips” the greater our understanding and flexibility of thought. If I can do anything to provide detente in a harried world I will. If my art can help children and adults to appreciate and see nature in a new way I am happy. Maybe then we can be more careful with our precious environment because we love and revere it–not because we had to be beaten about the head with scary prospects for the demise of our planet. Maybe we can slow down and see the enchantment in the everyday world and breathe and enjoy our lives again.”
Who were Diana’s influences? I expected her to name some big named artists or some of her professors at Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts. Instead she credited her grandmother.
“My grandmother had an almost mystical bond with the natural world that I’m certain helped to encourage my explorations. They (both mother and grandmother) were also great storytellers and I was certainly helped along on the conceptual front by their tales of mystery and enchantment and their encouragement of a love of reading. “
Of her grandmother in particular she said, “My acquaintance with fae lore was something I began absorbing from my grandmother’s influence more than from reading. Her family was from the west coast of Ireland and that area was a stronghold of faery belief as well as Gaelic language.”
I have a hard time grasping that much creativity and intelligence being passed down from a grandmother. It’s almost unfathomable. My paternal grandmother’s legacy was rather painful. My maternal grandmother died when I was four-not much time to impart knowledge of life, love or Celtic folklore, even though my grandmother was Irish. I remember snippets of her. She had a china tea set. She served me iced tea and put mint in it which she grew in her backyard. She lived in Houston on a street named Plumb. Most of what I know of her I learned from my mother and uncle. She was a school counselor and helped a lot of children. She never got angry. She traveled the world after retiring from the school district.
When I was six or seven I went through her travel keepsakes-a program from the Lipizzaner horses, Irish linen, silver spoons from Budapest and Istanbul, exquisite fans from Spain, postcards from the English countryside. My grandmother has always been curiously hidden to me.
Curiously hidden. That is Pandora Jane. One cannot grasp Diana Heyne from looking at her website. But she unfolded to me throughout these past few months, and there was no mistaking the depth, intelligence, talent and generosity of spirit which lies within. I am thankful for her willingness to share her creativity. Thank you to Diana and Diana’s grandmother for all they did to bring about my fairy decorations. It was a joint effort. I couldn’t have done it without them, which brings to mind this poem:
My grandmother kept a box of old photos in her attic.
We used to go up there on rainy days and sit on the floor in the dusty light and go through them.
And she would talk of witches and broken hearts and how we came from royal blood and it was all there in the pictures, she said.
Then we’d lose the light and we’d go downstairs for dinner and in our secret hearts
We’d sit taller knowing once we had ruled the world.
-by Brian Andreas