Know a Builder: Jeanne Waldren
Known affectionately in the Chester community as "Grandma Jeanne", Jeanne Waldren has officially served as Youth Services Librarian at Whiting Library in Chester since 2017 though her work there stems back to 2013. She has built varying structures over five different fests. We were thrilled to catch up with her recently to learn more about what motivates her participation, plus tips she has for first-time builders.
How did you first hear about the Fairy House Festival?
Looking for different activities for my grandchildren. We would visit the Nature Museum and had friends involved with the Museum.
What's your favorite material to work with when creating a fairy house?
The bark from the trees that has fallen on the ground as well as moss and lichen.
Who do you build fairy structures with?
It used to be my grandchildren and then became the children visiting Whiting Library.
About how much time do you estimate it takes you to collect materials, assemble a house, and take it to the fairy house trail?
I have gathered lots of nature materials and stored them, so looking for building materials doesn’t take as long any more. I would say a day of walking through the woods, plus picking items up randomly during visits to the forest helps with my collection. Acorns are seasonal as are fallen leaves, so that is usually something I do each year in late August or early September. The building takes place during the week or on Saturdays when the kids are out of school. We are open M,W,F, & Sat. and the kids usually come for about an hour each day. One year we started the house while the large craft fair and book sale was going on – a real community involvement with folks dropping by the table and adding a little this or that to the house. In the past my husband has usually been the one to take the house to the trail for set up.
Why do you love building fairy houses?
The imagination can go wild. Nothing is as exciting as picturing a place for the smallest creatures imaginable to get out of the rain and get a good night’s sleep.
What advice would you give to someone building a fairy house for the first time?
Don’t overthink the idea. The more complicated it gets, the more frustrating it could be. Simplicity and originality are what makes it special. ALSO: avoid using things such as squash, cantaloupe rind, seeds, or berries as your entire house could end up missing.
Which fairy structures have you created in the past? Do you have a favorite?
For the first one I had the kids use a huge piece of bark and make it into a cozy home. There was also a library with books and nooks; an a-frame type house created with bark; and, a tall structure made from an artisan wooden tomato support that was like a skyscraper with a pond and rock garden on the roof. My favorite was the skyscraper – it was covered in bark and lichen – my favorite gifts of nature. And, the two young people that worked on this house were ever so dedicated to making it the best.
What’s the best memory you have of building a fairy house?
Observing the enthusiasm of the kids and their delight with the completed house. They often mentioned the many creature comforts that needed to be included so the fairies would be safe and content.
Have you ever seen a fairy stop by one of your fairy houses?
I haven’t seen a fairy because they are so clever; but, I have found the fairy dust left after their visit!
Fairy House by Delaney and Willem Bargfrede