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Among the grass and gardens of the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, miniature houses appear almost hidden beneath trees, beside the water, and on rocks.
An infirmary to repair wings, a tea garden beside a brook, and a factory devoted to all things green are among the dwellings.
The 18 creations engineered by local artists and families depict an imaginary land of fairies for the museum's "Wee Faerie Village: In the Land of Picture Making," exhibit.
Kristen Thornton, a Lyme art instructor, is one of the creators of a tiny dwelling. Thornton became inspired to build a house for the exhibit after she visited the "Wee Faerie" exhibit in 2009.
But for Thornton, creating a miniature house is not a one-time occasion. Thornton, who teaches privately and also with Lyme Park and Recreation, crafts fairy houses with the children she instructs. She even runs a summer camp, which has the theme of whimsical creatures, such as fairies, dragons and gargoyles.
For two weeks before the exhibit, she worked creating an autumnal fortress featuring a house, tower, pumpkin, and hammock. Building the foundation of the central house from chicken wire and plaster strips, she then placed a tea kettle, without a lid, to provide a window for the house.
The day before the exhibit, she began setting up the display in a tree by the water. While she said she was up the night before gluing tiny pieces, these details are her favorite part of the exhibit.
"It all of the sudden comes together," she said. "It's the details that make the difference."
The Wee Faerie Village returns this year to the museum again after its 2009 debut. This year, the Lyme-Old Lyme Chamber of Commerce won a grant from the state department of tourism and worked with 26 businesses to extend the exhibit beyond the museum. Visitors to the museum can follow a "Faerie Trail" to visit businesses and search inside for a "faerie."
Director of Education and Outreach David Rau said the exhibit has multi-generational appeal. "Everybody gets something out of it," he said. "The adults love looking at the houses, and the kids are enchanted."