The Fairy Queen

Liza Gardner Walsh assembles the fairy kits for gardens, houses, and potions using natural items she’s collected herself: mosses, flower petals, seashells, seaglass, acorn caps, and feathers. 📷 Chris Pinchbeck

Liza Gardner Walsh uses a little magic to spark children’s imagination and love for the outdoors.

Liza Gardner Walsh isn’t 100 percent sure fairies are real, but as the fairy lady of Maine, she has seen firsthand how the magic of fairies encourages children to connect with the outdoors through imaginative play. Six years ago, after watching her two young daughters collect rocks, acorns, feathers, and moss around their Camden home, she wrote the Fairy House Handbook, a richly illustrated guide to fairy house construction. Now, she’s the creative force behind Moss and Grove, a collection of outdoor-activity books and kits for building fairy houses and brewing fairy potions. Liza’s husband, woodworker Jeff Walsh, designed the slim, compartmentalized wooden boxes, which Liza fills with natural baubles, such as dried flowers and mussel shells, but children are encouraged to reuse them as storage for their own backyard treasures. We talked to Liza about nurturing a child’s sense of wonder and appreciation for the natural world. — Jillian Bedell

Liza Gardner Walsh's fairy houses

Photograph by Andy Dumas

I’m a huge fan of your books and fairy crafts! How did you begin putting the kits together?

I wanted to produce an engaging activity that was open-ended and child-led. I’ve been a preschool teacher and school librarian, and I believe children should spend time with nature in every season. Every child will approach the kits differently. They’re the spark where creativity begins. There are no instructions, but I do like to include little stories and character cards in each box.

How does Maine inform your work?

Maine’s wild beauty provides space for our imaginations — even in winter. That’s when we can ask, “Do fairies bring the spring?”

Why are fairies your focus?

Fairies are a vehicle, a way to talk about nature, fragility, and conservation. I studied literature and writing, and that’s how I found my way to storytelling, authoring books, and working with children to find their own creative voice.

What do you hope children take away from building fairy houses?

I want to foster imaginative, self-guided play. I want kids to go outside and busy themselves! They’ll learn to care for the Earth by tending to things seen and unseen. Fairy house building is a grounding, meditative activity. It slows down breathing and encourages young people — all people! — to focus.

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Jillian Bedell

Jillian Bedell is a marketing strategist at Rockland’s Dream Local Digital and co-author of Eating in Maine.