Magazine

Whimsical wonders: Retired preschool teacher builds fairy houses

Fairy House
Andrew Yee/Special to the Town Crier
Handcrafted fairy houses populate the front yard of Mountain View resident Sarah Azzopardi’s home, above. Azzopardi, below, used materials like soda can tabs to create the shingles of her fairy houses.

When Sarah Azzopardi was young, her grandmother told her a story of magical fairies – small creatures that slept through the day and danced through the gardens at night. Retelling the story to her 2-year-old grandson decades later not only rekindled Azzopardi’s love of magic, but also sparked what has turned into one of her greatest hobbies: making fairy houses.

“We were walking outside and he reached down and picked up a little leaf and said, ‘Oh, Grammy, can we go home and make the fairies a little jacket?’” the Mountain View resident said of her grandson. “We went home and not only did we make a jacket, but we made our first fairy house. Now, he just turned 9 years old and I’m still making them, putting them out and giving them away as gifts.”

When making the houses, Azzopardi said she does her best to conserve resources and help the environment whenever possible. Her creations, inspired by fairy houses she finds on the website Pinterest, are built solely from recycled materials.

Sarah Azzopardi
Andrew Yee/Special to the Town Crier
Sarah Azzopardi displays one of her fairy house creations.

“It’s just fun to take things that might be thrown away and give them another oomph of life,” she said. “For me, I like them more just knowing there’s things inside there that are getting repurposed.”

Azzopardi has run into only one major problem: A lot of reusable material includes cardboard, which does not hold up well in heavy rain.

“My only complaint about these fairy houses is that they’re not really waterproof,” she said. “My daughter – I gave her a bunch to put in her yard and after really heavy rain, they looked like they’d aged over 10 years. I wish I could come up with a way to leave them out in the yard year-round.”

Still, as a former preschool teacher, Azzopardi isn’t worried about the final product as much as she is with the steps it takes to complete it.

“When I was teaching preschool, I’d frequently tell the parents it’s the process, not the product that the child brings home,” she said. “Even if it’s just a lump of clay, it’s a lump of clay they had hours of fun making. And even if you’re not an artist, there’s no right or wrong way to make a fairy house.”

Building community

Beyond just being ornaments on her lawn, Azzopardi’s fairy houses have become a way to build community.

“Once people started to realize I was making them out of these (recycled materials), I’d come out in the morning and I’d get a bunch of gifts,” she said.

“There’d be an endless supply of things that can be repurposed and turned into something different.”

They’ve become a staple of her neighborhood, too. Recently, a Springer School scavenger hunt included her fairy houses as one of the stops, resulting in dozens of children stopping by. Azzopardi was elated to find them coming, happy that her fairy houses were helping spread delight.

“Kids were on their bikes coming by, taking pictures, and just being happy,” she said. “It was really fun.”

Now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Azzopardi uses the same houses as a replacement for the everyday social interactions lost due to safety regulations. She will sit out at a big table in her front yard, starting in the early morning and working until evening. Sometimes people will stop by and watch, a “magical joy” that the houses bring, she said – letting her connect from 6 feet apart.

“For me, it’s just been a beautiful hobby, a time-filler,” Azzopardi said. “This has just been a little bandage for the sadness. It’s a fun pastime to add a little bit of joy.”

Azzopardi hopes that after the pandemic, she can begin to teach all of her interested neighbors how to make the houses themselves, sharing her passion with her community.

“I think what makes life enjoyable is that if you have passions, you can follow them,” she said. “If you have something that makes you happy, like the fairy houses do for me, and you can do it, just follow your passion and your life will be grand; it’ll be delightful.”

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