New Fairy Decorations & Diana Heyne

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

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Austin’s Bebe Paluzza

Kid’s Directory booth decorated by Parties Austin, Bebe Paluzza-2011

Bravo to all the vendors at Bebe Paluzza this weekend. There was a fine showing of kid related media outlets…Austin Kid’s Directory & Macaroni Kid. My son received a free assortment of baby food from Ella’s Kitchen. (He refused to try the baby food from Sprout. No reflection on Sprout-the food looked great- but by the time we got to that booth I think he was stuffed.) I enjoyed meeting a very pleasant photographer, Kerry Gray, who offered me $100.00 off her regular $200.00 sitting fee. I met a dear sweet lady, Linda Goodwin, who was selling her self-published children’s book. Her illustrations were amazing, and I ended up bringing one of them home. I bought a Munchie Mug from a man from Sonoma, CA in hopes that my son will quit spilling all his cereal in his baby seat. We received a free balloon rattlesnake from Michelle Arrieta at Cutting Edge Balloons. I saw a pregnant woman having her belly “face painted” by a very talented face painter named Susan Forney. (Her business card says she also airbrushes tattoos.) Gymboree had a booth manned by their very enthusiastic marketing director, Morgan. I ran into Danny from Baby Safe Homes who actually did a very fine job babyproofing our home about six months ago. Big box stores like Buy Buy Baby and Pottery Barn for Kids also made a showing. All in all, it was a fabulous day. I marveled at how hard all the vendors worked. How much money and energy they spent being there.

The showing by Austin mothers was not very strong. I’m not sure why. I think advertising was very limited. (My husband asked, “Was this some kind of secret meeting? I haven’t heard a thing about it.”) Apparently this was the first year for new owners, so their lack of advertising may be a rookie mistake which can be rectified.

Bebe Paluzza is a great idea. It’s much like a Bridal Extravaganza. Except Bridal Extravaganzas are currently much more well attended. I asked myself the question …why? Perhaps brides with all their youthful enthusiasm and energy are much more apt to go shopping for all things bride related. Perhaps by the time they become mothers they are tired and downtrodden…and most of their buying is done on the Internet through PayPal. The only food they buy is at a drive-thru.

Maybe Bebe Paluzza should offer free baby sitters. They had spa services but my son is not one to wait around while I get massaged. I tried a few months ago, and he cried the whole time, so I had to hold him and the masseuse just rubbed my shoulders for 45 minutes.

Mothers are a hard audience. But thank you to Bebe Paluzza and all the vendors for reaching out to us and making yourselves available. I learned something new. I made some great new purchases, and my son and I both had a great time. And thank you to Debbie Tye at Austin Kids Directory for asking us to decorate her booth with mermaids!

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Doll maker Annabel Ho

Annabel Ho is a handmade doll maker extraordinaire. I discovered her on the arts website, Etsy. Searching for mermaid dolls, her mermaid, Jade, was a standout. I placed my order and in a few days, Jade was sitting on my doorstep. Beautifully detailed. Dressed to the nines mermaid. Wispy yarn hair. I’d never had such a beautiful doll.

So began my admiration of Annabel’s work. As her Etsy site is rather nondescript, I did my own research on her. I discovered she works as an accomplished pastry chef at Jin Patisserie in Venice, California. I found her in the LA Times.

I asked Annabel if being a pastry chef and doll maker required similar skill sets. Annabel said no they’re very different artistry. Sometimes, she finds it easier to sculpt something using chocolate rather than cloth. If she likes sculpting, why not use polymer clay? She said she did work with clay a lot as a child, but she prefers plush dolls, things that she can squeeze.

Annabel started making dolls for herself at age 14. She writes on her Etsy sight, “I love making sculptured dolls for myself….so much so that I wound up with far too many and they were given to charities…a gift that I truly enjoyed giving, as the children the dolls were donated to, needed the dolls much more than I did. Even though I wound up with far too many, I did not want to stop creating these beautiful dolls and so I began thinking and looking for another way to create them. In my search, I discovered screen printing and realized it would be perfect! Even though the dolls are screen printed, I use a sculptured detailed sewing technique, which gives the dolls the depth, and sculptured look that I wanted and love.”

Annabel hopes to one day get her dolls in individual specialty dolls shops. She encourages anyone who wants to make dolls, to practice. She says, “It’s easy as long as you master the foundation. Lots of practice makes it better.” One of the cloth doll makers she admires most is Lisa Lichtenfels, for very life-like cloth sculptures.

Find Annabel’s work on Etsy . You can buy from her inventory or commission her to create something of your very own. I hope you will love her dolls as much as I do.

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Birthday Cakes

Today I was in Precision Camera looking for a SLR camera, and I ran into a former high school classmate of mine. I told him I needed a better camera to post fun pictures on my website, and he said, “You put on parties? Who does your cakes?” I said, “No one. We aren’t in the cake business.” He proceeded to pull out his smart phone and show me his wife’s latest creations. She graduated from culinary school and is decorating cakes on the side.

They were amazing looking birthday cakes. Very thematic. She made detailed super heroes that looked more like action figures rather than something edible. This led me to wonder…how important are birthday cakes?

The last few parties I’ve been to, the cakes were from Sam’s Club. Don’t get me wrong, they were very impressive cakes. I think Sam’s Club does a great job, and the kids seemed overjoyed to smear blue icing all over the face and teeth. Most of the cake was half eaten or ended up on the patio anyway. Perhaps designer cakes are just for the adults in the children’s lives. Are birthday cakes all that important? Do you remember one of your birthday cakes from years ago? I do. It was pink and white and the theme was Cinderella. I remember several flowers which were sugar decorations, hard like sugar cubes. I loved those flowers.

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