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This year's Wee Faerie Village is truly timeless

The sky was the limit for artists participating in this year’s Wee Faerie Village at the Florence Griswold Museum. The theme, “A Flutter in Time: Faeries Around the World and Across the Ages,” gave artists free range to explore any time and place in history from prehistoric caves to outer space.

The village, featuring 32 one-of-a-kind, handcrafted, faerie-sized constructs opened on Oct. 1 and will be displayed through Oct. 30. The tiny houses can be found on the grounds and in the gardens, along the Lieutenant River, and tucked into trees.

Ever since the village first opened in 2009, faeries have shown up in record numbers to dwell in the fantastical, magical world lovingly created by human hands, and this year is no exception.

Here are the stories behind several of the houses.

Norway (812); Dave Graybill

This is Old Lyme native Dave Graybill’s first attempt at constructing a faerie dwelling, although seeing his fleet of Viking faerie sailing ships, one would think he was an old hand at this sort of thing.

Graybill has been taking his sons Skylar, 8, and Cayden, 6, to see the faerie villages since they were very small. So when he was invited this year to design and build his own, he was thrilled, as were his sons.

A 1997 Old Lyme High School graduate, Graybill attended the Art Institute of Boston, graduating in 2001. He operates All Pro Automotive in Old Lyme with his brother Jeff.

As both an artist and technician, this project was right up his alley.

Graybill says one of the incentives for his theme of Viking faeries that have been ordered by their leader, Eerikki (“King Forever”), to build a fleet of sailing ships was that he’s one-quarter each Norwegian, German, Swedish and Hungarian and had been to all his ancestors’ countries except Norway.

Although, “Doing ships was a little different, since faeries fly,” he notes.

As an artist, Graybill primarily likes to paint, but says, “I’m always building things, sculptures, making costumes. I’m not new to doing 3-D. It’s something fun.”

For his installation, Graybill chose mostly natural materials and those that would hold up to the elements. For example, for the ships’ sails, rather than cloth, he used perforated sheets of stainless steel for the wind to pass through.

At every faerie house, visitors are asked to find an item, and Graybill asks people to discover the fairy knight’s golden sword and shield.

His automotive business came in handy when he couldn’t find the right size circles for faerie shields. And then he noticed cookies — grinding discs to sand rust off the frame of a car — scattered on the ground of the service station, and discovered they made the perfect size shields for his knights. The swords were easier; he used long nails and made the hilts with sheet metal.

Skylar and Cayden, who like to set up their easels and paint alongside their dad, also helped out in small ways on the project.

Graybill is pleased with the final result.

“The way I drew it out, it came together exactly as I imagined it, like a puzzle. I did a lot of research, layout and design. It helped to plan it out.

“I definitely want to do it again,” Graybill adds. “I’m honored to be a part of this (exhibition).”

Sierra Nevada Foothills, California (1856); Jan Sauer and Ryan Schrader

Back in the U.S., during the California Gold Rush, this team of design-builders didn’t only create a faerie house, they created an entire gold mining camp with more than half a dozen structures.

Jan Sauer of Waterford and Ryan Schrader of Ledyard, who work together at Jordon Village Barbershop & Salon in Waterford, have infused their whimsical creation with lots of tongue-and-cheek humor.

Sauer assisted on a faerie house in 2014, but had never built her own, and this is a first for Schrader.

Sauer says she “doesn’t do art,” although one could argue that after seeing her amazing work. Ryan is a watercolor artist and says he also does “a lot of digital stuff.”

The gold rush theme was Sauer’s brainchild, which she says she came up with at the bank drive-through window.

Schrader did Internet searches and watched old Western movies to research the California Gold Rush. Then they devised the storyline of an abandoned gold mining camp now occupied by the Sullivan faerie family, which has built up a own mining town.

Sauer and Schrader created their own structures within the camp.

Sauer turned a cooking pot sideways to transform it into Flo’s Cantina chuck wagon, a play on the museum’s Café Flo. Using Sculpey, she made dozens of tiny, intricately detailed dishes filled with pastries and desserts.

“I researched it. It’s what faeries eat,” she says. “Very decadent food — and alcohol.”

Which leads to Schrader’s bar, crafted from an old dynamite crate bearing the sign, “The Pyrite Dice: No Claim Jumpers.”

He also crafted “Sullivan Sundry & General Store,” including Paydirt Haircut and Shave Parlour and the Eureka! card room. Little faerie houses are scattered about. One is made out of a Guinness beer can.

“The faeries found it at the abandoned campsite,” Sauer explains.

A miniature grill is made from a corn-cob pipe and a tiny outhouse has, let’s just say, the name of a presidential candidate written on it followed by the outhouse rules.

Scattered around the area are giant gold nuggets made of rocks that are painted in gold and glitter.

There’s even an interactive feature, Schrader points out. Visitors can take a photo of themselves in a frame that says “I Struck Gold” and upload it to social media sites.

Despite these hi-tech features, Sauer and Schrader mainly used found objects and wood, and say they tried to buy as little as possible.

They both think their focus on the most minute details, drawing visitors into the magical world they’ve created, comes from their jobs, cutting and styling hair. And Sauer also attributes it to “a lot of planning and drinking of beer.”

Vienna, Austria (1980s); New London Magnet School for the Visual and Performing Arts

Moving up in time, this faerie house, well, actually, apartments for individual faeries, is inspired by Austrian Expressionist painter Friedensreich Hundertwasser, who created the Hundertwasserhaus (“Hundred House”), an apartment building with trees growing from inside rooms, very few straight lines and vibrant colors.

Kate Fioravanti, the art magnet school’s director, proposed the idea of doing a take on Hundertwasser’s work to David Rau, the museum’s director of education and Faerie Village coordinator. Enthusiastically approved, it was built by the sixth- and seventh-grade students of the new school, which just opened in September. There are 105 students in the school, and more than half worked on the apartment complex built into a tree.

“We needed amazing projects to start out the school year,” she says.

Collaborative work is very important to Fioravanti and she picked Hundertwasser’s architecture because it allowed for a lot of students to participate.

“And, also because the artist doesn’t like to follow rules,” she says.

The kids came together and brainstormed ideas, such as putting the apartments and elevators all over the tree at different levels with a main entrance/tower.

Rocks representing Vienna’s cobblestone streets have three or four layers of colorful abstract designs on them, each layer painted by a different student.

While installing their faerie apartments, several students, all sixth-graders, talked about why they like working together.

“We all have different ideas, and put together we can make a really cool exhibit,” says Emma Palagonia.

“It goes faster working with each other and everyone gets to share ideas. So it’s not just doing what that one person wants, but what everyone wants,” adds Hailey Scott.

Ava Bowles and Megan Erinakes agree that it’s fun to work together and that so many creative interpretations of the artist’s vision wouldn’t have come up had they been working individually rather than as a team.

“Everyone has neat ideas,” Bowles says.

IF YOU GO

What: A Flutter in Time: Faerie Houses Around the World & Across the Ages

Where: Florence Griswold Museum, 96 Lyme St., Old Lyme

When: Open through Oct. 30; special Faerie Village hours: Tues. – Sat., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sun., 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; open Columbus Day.

Cost: $15 adults; $14 seniors (age 62 and older); $13 students; $5 members; kids 12 and younger free. Ticket includes Wee Faerie Village; the special exhibition in the Krieble Gallery; and access to the historic Florence Griswold House and the rest of the museum’s facilities.

Info: Visit www.florencegriswoldmuseum.org or call (860) 434-5542.

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