ELEGANT, delicate and mystical, fairies flutter around in the minds of many, but how many of those minds turn fantasy into reality? The two explorative minds of cousins Frances Griffith and Elsie Wright of “The Cottingley Fairies” certainly caused a flutter.
Fooling a generation, the two girls “went to see the fairies”.
Taking photos on Elsie’s father’s camera the youngsters captured their encounter on film but much disbelief surrounded them and it was discovered at a later date that the photos were faked and that the supernatural wonders were simply paper cut outs.
Flowing water and natural elements surrounded the girls in Cottingley, a fairy’s paradise, a perfectly inspirational setting for the cousins. Oakamoor, a small picturesque village in the Staffordshire Moorlands shares the same qualities and is home to fairies and artist Robin Wight.
Venture up a secluded trail surrounded by woodland and at the end lives Robin and his fascinating fairies in a small, delightful stone cottage. Although, away from the warmth of his home; in a large, cold workshop with only a quaint log burner to warm his hard working fingertips, Robin crafts and creates a special kind of magic, his very own fairies.
Having taken a photograph of the captivating natural elements which surround him, Robin noticed a faint figure, similar to that of the Cottingley cousin’s fascination.
Light trickery or fluttery friends Robin’s phenomenal creations took flight.
“The fairy photo I took is real. Let me rephrase that: It’s not a fake. I don’t believe it to be a real fairy. I can’t explain it, but it looks like a fairy. It is stretching it to say it was the inspiration behind the sculptures, but it did happen around the same time as I came up with the idea, so there is a link.” A man of many talents, Robin used to draw a lot and was amazed how his parents failed to recognise his talent. The years passed and Robin had children of his own, wanting to entertain the kids and keep the family holiday exciting Robin found himself doing the typical pastime of making sand castles, but this soon progressed into something a lot more expressive and artistic, from sand women to sand dolphins.
Moving to his house in Oakamoor, surrounded by woodland and therefore a high availability of wood the artist started to craft sculptures from the natural material but found that “wood has grain limitations and lacks emotion”.
Creating his first fairy out of fence and chicken wire nearly three years ago in July 2010 has now progressed to stainless steel and galvanised wire. Bending, twisting, layering and manipulating the materials using traditional, simple methods of a pair of pliers and his hands. “I was looking for a medium that has no limits, and delivers a permanent result. Wire is the equivalent of metal clay. It has all the advantages of clay in being unlimited in the shape you can create and support and avoids all the hang-ups of clay, firing and fragility. I love it.” It seems many others love the idea of wire being given wings and a personality, a fantasy moulded into a reality through Fantasywire. Trentham Garden Estate has given love and a home to some of Fantasywire’s fairies since October 2012.
Walk around Trentham’s fairy trail and try and spot Robin’s mischiefs of metal hiding in the trees, playing on the lake and shaking the hands of visitors. Installed during the Easter period ready for many families to admire, “Bridget” and “Poser” are the latest residents of six new fairies to be prancing in the estate and will soon be followed by more delicate darlings.
Robin believes the fairies which have the stereotypical fairy traits of being cheeky and mischievous and the creations which allow the public to interact are by far the most popular. From the latest editions, like “Poser”, who invites you to sit on the bench with her and admire the lake, to “Shaky”, an older resident of Trentham who shakes the hands of passers-by, each loveable lady at the estate has a quirky personality to be proud of.
Seeing the fairies inhabit the gardens from the very beginning Amanda Dawson, Marketing and Promotions Manager at The Trentham Estate said: “Robin’s work has very wide appeal, people are drawn to it simply for the aesthetic, they are charmed by fairies, or fascinated by their intricate construction and often gravity-defying installations.
“The fairies sit incredibly well in the natural environment of the trees and the lake and the structural elements such as the benches and bridges. By interspersing them around the lakeside we have formed a very popular trail and parents tell us that their children are now keen to walk all around the mile-long lake, whereas before the arrival of the fairies, they may have preferred to stick to the adventure playground.” The Trentham Estate has discovered it is not just young people who like to discover the fun and delight of the trail.
“Keen photographers are capturing the fairies and sharing their pictures on social networks which are a fantastically visual and viral way of promoting a visit. The new fairies that Robin is introducing this year will extend the trail and the theme of fairies in surprising and photogenic situations.” Robin is amazed at how much interest his fairies have generated and how many people are fascinated by his creations. “I am delighted that Trentham have asked for more fairies. It validates the whole product that is Fantasywire. I started off making crude wire sculptures and developed them to promote as commercial art.” As a hobby parallel to Robin’s software company, Fantasywire and its fairies have evolved from being simple, still sculptures to magical, fluttery fascinations which many wish to know more about. “I am constantly trying to perfect the design and my technique. This is not a result of feedback, but an internal desire to improve. I make them to satisfy my desire to create.” Similar to the unique, pebble hearts Robin inserts into every fairy he makes as a trademark to him and his work, it could be said that every fairy the artist creates is crafted from the heart. “I have been in business for many years and success is so hard to win, so to have something that simply works, that I can thoroughly enjoy, is very special and of far greater value than anything money can buy.
“I am living the fairy tale.” As Robin continues to make his fairies, he has noticed people have many different reactions to his work, mostly that of amazement.
“There are two dimensions to Fantasywire.
One is related to the subject of fairies.
People lead boring, hard lives and possibility that there are magical things, that we don’t understand allows them to escape their own lives for a moment. Therefore anything mythical, magical has that effect.
“The second is more academic and is the aesthetics of my sculptures. Take the wings off and they are no more than figurines like millions of other nude figures. The wings made out of mesh acts like a frame does to a picture. It brings it to life. Because of the nature of the hard industrial material, coupled with the delicate feminine subject, it’s created a dichotomy of conflict, which stops the viewer and asked them to resolve it. If I have made them pretty enough it sits nice in the viewer’s mind and they think.
“Wow, I’ve never seen anything like that before. That’s cool. An effect I am proud of.” The Cottingley cousins attempt to make people believe in fairies was faked, but noone ever said it failed. As people’s fascination in Fantasywire and Robin’s fairies continues to grow it is proof that from small beginnings come large imaginations and that fantasy truly can become a reality.