Strictly fairy business

Strictly fairy business

A2’s ‘Fairy Doors’ open enchantment throughout the city

QUINN DAVIS

Editor

A fairy door appears at Sweetwaters in downtown Ann Arbor.

MEGHAN CARPENTER THE WASHTENAW VOICE

A fairy door appears at Sweetwaters in downtown Ann Arbor.

A dozen little girls from a local Daisy troupe tiptoed to Ann Arbor’s Peaceable Kingdom, their eyes wide. There, they crowded around the tiny door, only six inches tall, with a small doorsill to match. The girls — some able to read, some not — could all recognize their names on the miniature flowerpots placed on the doorsill. Each flowerpot held one dainty daisy. Who lived behind this small door? And who could make such magical, petite gifts? Why, fairies, of course. “Our door has little baby teeth inside, so we’re pretty sure that’s where the tooth fairy is, don’t you think?” asked Carol Lopez, owner of the Peaceable Kingdom. Lopez’s business is a harbor for one of the many Ann Arbor Urban Fairy doors located downtown. They’ve been popping up for the last six years, but no one has ever seen the fairies “move in.” “Most of them haven’t had witnesses that I know of, so I suspect that it’s mostly done at night,” said Jonathan B. Wright, a 51-year-old graphic designer and illustrator from Ann Arbor — and the city’s resident fairyologist.
A fairy door is built into the people door at the Ark.

MEGHAN CARPENTER THE WASHTENAW VOICE

A fairy door is built into the people door at the Ark.

The fairies in Ann Arbor were first spotted in Wright’s Old West Side home. It was 1993, and Wright and his wife were expecting their first child. He was doing a bit of construction on their home, adding a small three-foot door for his future children and his wife’s preschool students to the closet under their stairs. Next to the three-foot door, he constructed a tiny, six-inch one for fairies. “I guess I have that kind of sentimental history in my own life,” explained Wright. “My wife is Irish, so she was raised on fairies and leprechauns and that sort of thing, so I guess that was fertile ground.”
A fairy door is found outside the Selo/Shevel Gallery, 301 South Main St., Ann Arbor.

MEGHAN CARPENTER THE WASHTENAW VOICE

A fairy door is found outside the Selo/Shevel Gallery, 301 South Main St., Ann Arbor.

Since then, Wright has added two more doors and some windows to his home, including a balcony and a door in the fireplace that leads to a spiral staircase. His two children, now 16 and 18, are too familiar with the fairies now to be surprised by them. “Now they’re a little bit bemused by the whole thing,” said Wright. “Their friends often think it’s cooler than they do.”
Children — and adults — all over the country think the fairies are cool, too. Wright started adding fairy doors in public places in 2005, and people come from places as far as Florida to see them.
A fairy door appears in the kids’ section of the downtown Ann Arbor District Library.

MEGHAN CARPENTER THE WASHTENAW VOICE

A fairy door appears in the kids’ section of the downtown Ann Arbor District Library.

Some leave the fairies notes, and other leave gifts like pennies or beads. All of the gifts are later moved to the inside of the door at the Peaceable Kingdom location. Wright and Lopez think of it as a fairy store. “It’s not a true store — I don’t think they hold regular business hours,” said Wright with a knowing tone. Lisa Bee, one of the founders of Sweetwaters Coffee and Tea, originally had a fairy door on the outside of her shop. She had no idea where it came from, and when the building owner found out about it, it was taken down. “I don’t think he really understood what it was,” said Bee. Once Bee heard about the fairy doors, she contacted the building owner, asked for the door back and met with Wright to give it back to him. Instead, they talked for more than hour and she asked him to put the door on the inside of the shop. Neither Bee’s employees nor the patrons saw Wright put up the door, which was a feat considering that he must have done it during business hours. At each fairy door location, Wright leaves a book that visitors can sign, draw in and ask questions. “They will ask the fairies questions. ‘Where are you? Where do you live? What do you do?’” said Bee. Once, when one of Bee’s sons was young, he wrote in the Sweetwaters fairy book asking for a dragon fairy drawing. Bee forgot about it, but her son didn’t; the next time he came in, he looked, and Wright had drawn a detailed picture of a dragon fairy. “I was so blown away,” said Bee. “We actually had the page framed.” Both Bee and Lopez said that the doors have given their stores more traffic. There are even maps at some of the door locations so that patrons can go on their own “fairy door tours.” As far as the Daisy troupe goes, Lopez had to tell the girls’ parents that these small flowerpots were unique, and that Wright had never made them before. Wright’s ideas, however, continue to show up all over town. “That’s Jonathan,” said Lopez. “That’s just what he does.” For more information, visit urban-fairies.com.

1 comment to Strictly fairy business

  • Malorie

    Jonathan Wright is a great guy and my daughter and I have went on several fairy-door “hunts” over the years. You can find Ann Arbor Fairy Doors on Facebook as well. Thanks for the idea also – my daughter is a Daisy now and I’m sure her troop would love to go.

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