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Fairy houses enchant Sheldon Museum visitors

MIDDLEBURY — The Sheldon Museum presents “Whimsical Wonders: Fairy Houses from Nature,” May 14 through Sept. 1, featuring a selection of fairy houses created by environmental artist Sally J. Smith. Smith started making fairy houses at a young age. She went on explorations in the woods of her Shelburne home with her father, the renowned photographer Clyde H. Smith.
Smith now lives in Westport, N.Y., and works in many other formats, including watercolor, digital media and photography. She decided to reunite with her childhood passion of fairy house building about a decade ago. She now considers herself an environmental artist working to bring her viewers back to nature. Smith considers making environmental art a way to “[keep] the lines of communication open between [herself] and whatever natural forces may be present in the landscape.”
Many of her sculptures are made out of materials that she finds and gathers herself in the forests near her Westport studio, located between the Adirondacks and Lake Champlain.  Her fairy houses range from 3 ½ inches to 12 feet tall, but most fall within 12-18 inches.
They take hours to make, yet Smith says, “It’s an art form, and like any art form, you can disappear into it and spend hours at it, and you don’t realize that time has gone by.”
From a Japanese-style teahouse made with ferns and flowers to a cottage using delicate autumn twigs, grasses and milkweed pods, all of her homes are created with an equal level of precision and detail.
Smith aims to invoke “a deeper respect and love for the Earth,” stressing the need for us to “reconnect with the Earth” in order to survive. This is part of the reason that she decided to write her book, “Fairy Houses: How to Create Whimsical Homes for Fairy Folk.” While building fairy houses has become a popular crafting method, Smith hopes to help people slow down and find a “meditative state” in a culture that’s increasingly “fast-paced.”
The Sheldon Museum will offer several programs in conjunction with the Fairy House exhibit. Visit the Sheldon’s website henrysheldonmuseum.org for more information or call (802) 388-2117.

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