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MOUNT VERNON — “Albert Einstein was very big into fairies,” said Kim Wolfe, who’s very big into fairies herself. “He wrote all sorts of little things about imagination, and reading your kids fairy tales.
“There’s all kinds of quotes from very famous authors about fairies because fairies have been around forever.”
A Mount Vernon native, Wolfe started constructing fairy gardens for her granddaughter.
“We had a fairy garden out on the north side of the house,” she recalled one recent morning in her kitchen. “We had all kinds of fairy stuff and the kids played out there and she said, ‘I would like to have a fairy.’ So I bought a book.
“That was nine years ago, and there are 100,000 fairies since then. She outgrew the fairies. I did not.”
Building rustic habitats for miniature figures from English and Scottish folklore became Wolfe’s hobby, then a gradual transition from the antiques businesses she and Glenn Wolfe operated for about 30 years.
“My husband and I have been self-employed almost our entire married life,” she said.
In addition to Wolfe’s Antiques, they sold furniture through a large antique mall in Wisconsin until fibromyalgia began to limit her mobility.
“For antiques you can’t order from the catalog, you have to go hunting,” she said. “Which is great fun. We used to do shows.”
The couple closed their antique store in 2012, as Wolfe began devising whimsical miniature environments from stones, twigs and re-purposed items.
From a small workshop off her kitchen, she weaves natural materials and everyday household throwaways into miniature houses and other features.
“This was a cracker box,” she said, holding up a structure that appears to be made of stucco.
“It’s papier-mâché. I’ve used an ice cream container or the tub that cottage cheese comes in. I don’t put much out in the recycle bin because I use those.”
Wolfe began selling her creations at a shop, Kindred Spirits, she operated with friends in First Street Community Center, Mount Vernon’s former high school building.
The shop, which also featured her husband’s antiques, fell victim to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We weren’t a strong enough shop to weather COVID,” Wolfe said. “How much do you want to fight?
“There’s a fabric store and a florist in the building, too, and they worked really, really hard and they survived COVID.”
Wolfe shifted her business, now Fairy Under a Full Moon, to fully online, selling through Etsy, the e-commerce site specializing in handmade or vintage items and craft supplies.
She also maintains a Facebook page, and her fairy furnishings and accessories are sold at Right Frame of Mind gallery and gift shop in downtown Mount Vernon.
Wolfe also builds and maintains a fairy garden on and around a shade tree in her front yard, an attraction for neighbors and students at Washington Elementary School next door.
“I’ve always had fairies up at that tree,” she said.
“When COVID hit and we closed the shop, I really embellished the fairy tree. I put a mailbox out there, which I do every year. It was still an activity that parents could take their kids to because the playground was closed.
“The kids walk by it every day, but it’s an activity parents could bring their kids to because it was COVID-safe. The mailbox would have pieces of paper and a pencil in it, and the kids could ask a question of the fairies. They could leave a wish.”
Owner: Kim Wolfe
Business: Fairy Under A Full Moon
Address: 511 Fifth Ave. SW, Mount Vernon
Phone: (319) 560-6352
Those who leave a wish may take a small gift — often a sea shell or a handmade blank-page book.
“It was very popular, especially that COVID year,” Wolfe said. “I’ve had people walking by with their kids saying, ‘Is it going to open again?’”
For this year’s garden, “what I’d like to do is leave them fairy messages,” Wolfe said. “Have a little envelope they can open and have some sort of fairy message,” including some of those Albert Einstein quotes.
Wolfe has bigger ideas in mind for her miniatures.
“Mount Vernon has a lot of walking trails,” she said. “I’ll get with the city and say, ‘Can I put out an occasional fairy house?’ I have a group of girlfriends, and I thought maybe each one can be responsible” for one.
And fairy fanciers in Ann Arbor, Mich., have installed miniature portals along downtown storefronts that became Urban Fairy Doors, a popular attraction.
“They’re at the ground (level), which is something I’m working through because in Ann Arbor it snows just like in Mount Vernon and at some point those ferry doors are going to be under snow,” she said.
“They have a map of all the ferry doors, so that’s been a lifelong goal, and I swear that I’m going to do it.”
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