By Ginna Parsons
NEW ALBANY – As long as Janet Burress can remember, she’s been a crafter. She went through the wallpaper stage and then moved on to cross-stitch. She’s painted flower pots and made stained-glass windows.
So when the New Albany Home and Garden Show co-chairman needed to come up with a fourth idea for the annual show’s “Wings into Spring” theme, it’s not surprising she chose fairy houses.
“We had butterflies, birds and bees and I was looking for one more thing because we have four buildings,” said Janet, who works at the Union County Heritage Museum. “And it came to me. Fairies.”
She Googled ‘fairy houses’ and came upon some tiny houses made from gourds.
“There were lots of them, and I got lots of good ideas,” Janet said.
You’ll be able to see her intricate fairy houses and lots of other arts and crafts at the New Albany show, which is Friday, April 4, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday, April 5, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Union County Fairgrounds.
The event will offer seminars on everything from biblical plants, controlling garden pests and superfoods to raising chickens and wine-making. Two of Janet’s fairy houses will be given as door prizes when Denise Pugh of Tippah County gives a presentation on fairy houses Saturday at the show.
There will also be food and plant vendors, demonstrations presented by Master Gardeners, exhibits and children’s activities. An educational luncheon on Friday with author and floral designer Catherine Strange and floral designer Diane Tate has already sold out.
“This show has grown by leaps and bounds,” said Janet’s husband, Tim, who is the chairman of the show, which is in its sixth year.
“The first year we were hoping for 100 and we had 500,” he said. “The second year, we had between 800 and 1,000. The third year, it was near 1,300. The fourth year it was 1,800. Last year it was 3,600 and this year we’re shooting for 5,000.”
The first year, the one-day show had $800 in the bank and no sponsors. This year, the two-day show has a budget of $11,500, 14 sponsors and more than 20 speakers.
“The show is free,” Tim said. “But we are asking for a donation of non-perishable food for the Good Samaritan Food Pantry in New Albany. We’ll have a pick-up at the gate when you come in and we’re going to try to fill up the pick-up bed with food donations.”
Janet, 55, gets her gourds from Luther Moorman in Booneville, who makes martin houses out of them. In some of the larger gourds, Tim cuts holes out and Janet makes little houses inside of them. For the smaller gourds, she simply paints and decorates the outsides.
She’s gotten creative with her houses. She’s used pinecone pieces, gourd seeds and potpourri for roofing and shingles. She’s made doorknobs out of small snail shells and grandkids’ Lego pieces. Popsicle sticks become picket fences. Twigs make nice door facings. Lichen resembles ivy when it’s glued above a painted window.
“I look at it for a while and then go to it, and if it doesn’t go to my liking, I put it down and go on to something else,” she said. “The first thing I’ve learned is to find a way to make a base so you have a floor. I use foamboard cut in a circle and cover it with moss. Then I go from there.”
One cut-out fairy house is filled with polymer clay mushrooms she’s painted, dried coneflowers and moss. Another has a chest and chair made from popsicle sticks and a miniature bowl with fruit and a vase. And, of course, fairies.
Janet gets her supplies from craft stores, the Salvation Army, junk stores and plant nurseries.
“Most of the stuff I make,” she said. “I had rather use stuff I can pick up in the yard and repurpose than to go out and buy something. It’s all just pure imagination.”
Janet said it can take as little as two days to make a fairy house or up to a week and, as expected, she gets attached to the whimsical homes.
“But I become attached to everything I do,” she said.