The Cottingham Fairies

The Cottingham Fairies

When I was commissioned to create a carved tree with a fairy theme, I was venturing into unknown territory ~  although my partner is a fan of the Fey, I hadn’t been taken under their spell. Luckily our bookshelves include work by Arthur Rackham, Richard Doyle, John Atkinson Grimshaw and of course Brian Froud ~ all masters of the art of myth, fantasy and wonder.

Finding inspiration in these illustrations and the photos of the Cottingley fairies, I set to work producing several sketches as a basis for the carving.


A sketch based on a “Cottingley Fairy”

Once these had been approved by the client, I began the carving. With the 10ft beech stump needing a design all the way around and from top to bottom, I thought it best to work intuitively and plan the design as I went along. With odd lumps, bumps and chopped branches here and there I decided to incorpate them into the design where possible.

tree sprite

The head of this  “Tree Sprite” was a raised mound…..


… was the snail…..


….and this peeping elf started life as a docked branch.

With the prominent position of the tree (just a few feet away from a public footpath and busy road), there has been no shortage of attention. It has been a real perk to the job to have regular visitors checking the progress of the carving or just passing the time of day. Pupils from Cottingham High School wander past in their hundreds and ask questions or shout favourable comments, which has been appreciated (even more so now we know that “sick!!” is a compliment!).  Other visitors have included a friendly robin ~ who briefly perched on my ladder to have a closer look~  a thrush, a sparrowhawk (who unfortunately ~ or fortunately for the sparrowhawk ~ carried away an unsuspecting blackbird), and a fox. All curious to see the elementals and nature spirits appearing on the tree no doubt.

The final stretch in the carving is the ivy leaves and vine which will fill the gaps and give a sense of fluidity to the piece.


Four ivy leaves: two complete, two in progress.

Weather permitting, the sculpture should be finished in around a week ~ just some vine and three coats of Danish Oil to apply. Pictures of the finished piece will appear on the woodcarving gallery in due course!