Monday, September 14, 2015

Fairy post #12 Wonderwings Fairy reunion 2015

News Report - Wonderwings History: Part I

Wonderwings Fairy Shop revisited 
& reunion held April 2015 
at Myths & Legends Fairy Shop in Gisborne, Victoria, Australia.

What stays yet vanishes when you stand up? Your lap. So there we were, sitting in a circle in a new century: pioneering fairies of the world's first fairy shop, Wonderwings, brainchild of entrepreneur and Fairy Queen, Anne Atkins.

Faery, faery, quite contrary, 
How do your stories grow?

With silver wands and singing swans
And wild wings all in a row...
Original Wonderwings Fairy Shop flier

Anne Atkins: Wonderwings Fairy Picnic 1990s

The Captive Robin by John Anster Fitzgerald
A Rehearsal in Fairy Land by Richard Doyle
First in the world? Yes, for Wonderwings was no ordinary gift shop. This haven hosted storytelling. Tucked in the back room of a two-storey cream Victorian terrace on Bridge St, Richmond, Melbourne, Australia, we settled into a throne within an indoor faerie forest, with mushroom cushions and spindly trees, bush-heritage wallpaper and real eucalyptus leaves, freshly strewn every few days. We catered for all age groups.

Anne Atkins in The Age newspaper's Good Weekend article "Wanderlust" 1990's
Guardian Fairy by Arthur Rackham
Wonderwings business card (on red cushion)

Wonderwings Fairy Shop: Anne, Nina, Marian, Libby & little fairies

Visiting faerie child Julia outside Wonderwings Fairy Shop, circa 1990-91
Julia inside Wonderwings Fairy Shop by alterinfinite
Around 1989 I had visited an exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, entitled "Alterinfinite" (altering the altar): cabinets of curiosities full of dried sea urchins, miniature skulls and other quirks. Among them were waxen watersprites with flaxen hair and petticoats. I fell in love with it all. And it haunted me. Meeting the sculptor Sheri Whitehead led me to her friend, another artist, Dee Waight. The three of us enjoyed a whimsical afternoon frolicking amidst ethereal arts, including my music of dryads, greenwitches and unicorns.

Some months later, housemate Eliza Van Dort handed me a newspaper clipping with a title like "Recession Breakers", about a fairy shop in Richmond. Soon as I entered, I found myself facing the enchanted altar with those haunting figurines. Their diaphanous gowns and floating hair were perfectly attuned to their new surroundings. An aura of quiet anticipation - tranquil yet alert - mingled with aroma of rose oil.

A photograph of the altar may well be on the way. Here (above) you can glimpse it behind visiting wild-child Julia. I'll follow up with an article on my faerie caper with Julia, who was quite a character... pictured here in my antique silk pyjamas.

To my delight, turning left, I found Dee (pictured below) behind the counter. Serendipity, anyone? Here she is with an original Wonderwings wand, handcrafted by Anne Atkins:

Dee Waight with Wonderwings wand
Dee Waight was among the fairy retailers, whirling and twirling barefoot between racks and shelves, sprinkling fairy dust on heads, blowing bubbles, swishing chimes and welcoming visitors through the bell door past a giant white pegasus.

Dee Waight, Wonderwings and Myths & Legends fairy
Part of the appeal of our fey movement is its ability to call upon eclectic faerie representation, from flower fairies to the wilder, more ghostly pre-Raphaelite or Romantic elementals.

Cicely Mary Barker's Flower Fairies
Arthur Rackham's Fairies in the Garden
It was through Wonderwings Fairy Shop that many of us took our first leap into storytelling, under mentorship of Nell Bell, founder of our state's Storytelling Guild (now Storytelling Australia Victoria). You can read more about Nell in an earlier article on this blog. Other storytellers included Barbara-Elise, Helen Walsh, Muriel Cooper, Anne E Stewart, Mary-Lou Keaney, Suzanne (Moth), Katrina, Robyn, Matteo and Anne Atkins' daughter Nina. (Please advise me of oversights, for which I apologise.) We thank all the kitchen fairies, such as the dainty Sara, and the hidden hobs.

Louisa John-Krol storytelling for Tara Kenny (fairy princess, right)
Louisa, Tara & other fairies, Wonderwings
Ah, the days before email or texting! Many fine visitors wrote us letters of thanks.

Louisa John-Krol, Wonderwings Fairy Shop 1992, photo by Geof Branton
Below: our only male storyteller, Matteo, worked at the original Wonderwings Fairy Shop as well as in Anne Atkins' spin-off carnival store in Chadstone, Wonderwings Fairground, along with many major festivals and fairs.

Below: photos of me arranged by Anne Atkins for a soundtrack entitled "Wonderwings" she commissioned by my duo Fionvarra. Our earlier recordings such as "The Faerietale Woman" also played frequently in the fairy shop. More about that in Part II.

Louisa John-Krol (above & below); photography by Geof Branton

Antique lace from my storytelling basket - Louisa

One of my first - and most constant - storytelling mascots was Belanie Blueface, a lavender fairy who lives in a dilly bag with dried lavender, sprinkled in story sessions. Her tale came with the old ditty:

Lavender's blue, dilly dilly
Lavender's green,
When I am king, dilly dilly
You shall be queen.

Belanie Blueface, Lavender Fairy
Titania Sleeping, by Richard Dadd
Helen Navarre, Dee, Barbara-Elise, Anne

Libby charms Ali, Russel & Harry, Montsalvat 1993
A later flier encompassing Wonderwings Fairy Shop & its sibling Wonderwings Fairground
Anne & Nigel - jester & fairy queen 1993
Wonderwings gave rise to a number of spin-offs and copycats, statewide, nationally and overseas. Most successful of these is Myths and Legends Fairy Shop in Gisborne, owned by original Wonderwings fairy Dee Waight, with Anne Atkin's blessing.

Wonderwings Fairy Shop later had a younger sibling: a far rowdier, carnivalesque store at busy Chadstone Shopping Centre: Wonderwings Fairground. Here's a glimpse of Anne's circus flair...

Anne, Nigel & joker... a sweet yet cheeky lad
A Midsummer Night's Dream by Joseph Noel Paton
More about the original Wonderwings:

"The Women's Weekly", one of Australia's most established print media magazines, showed Anne beside Pegasus (centrefold). As we entered Wonderwings Fairy Shop, the equine sentry would greet us, wings spread aloft, a symbol of imaginative flight, as the article's title implies. Of particular significance here is the focus on Anne's wand-making. Anne had a workshop near the kitchen behind the storytelling garden, and garnered respect as a consummate artist. Her gift for my wedding was a bouquet of silver and white wands spangled with glass, crystal, glitter, sequins and seed pearls.

Australian Women's Weekly 2-page feature on Anne Atkins & The Wonderwings Fairy Shop, Australia 1992
A larger version, enabling text legibility, appears at the end of this article.

Dressing the Baby Elves, by Richard Doyle
Below is one of my Wonderwings mascots, Merman the sealpup, who carries pearls of a seamerrow and a swirl of selkie blood in his veins. More pics of my faerie companions to follow in Part II...

Merman the Sealpup

On 11th April 2015 we reunited at the fairy shop of original Wonderwings fairy Dee.

Dee's Unicorn at Myths & Legends, photo by Jackie Kerin
Sharon, Mary-Lou, Anne E.S.
Dee's place, Myths and Legends, carries many of the features, approaches and spirit of its prototype Wonderwings, complete with the original woodland wallpaper, a new generation of plump mushroom cushions and, of course, fairy storytelling. Set in the country town of Gisborne, it carries an additional outdoor fairy garden.

Garden of Myths & Legends Fairy Shop in Gisborne

It was in this garden that our circle gathered to renew old ties, revisit joyful memories, share anecdotes and celebrate the longevity of fey magic.

Fairy Tree - photo by Jackie Kerin
Foliate head, Myths & Legends
Anne Atkins, Louisa John-Krol, Anne E Stewart 2015
Helen Walsh & Muriel Cooper 2015
Anne Atkins, Dee, Mary-Lou, Matteo, Anne E.S., Suzanne
Anne A., Mary-Lou, Dee
Suzanne & Anne E.S.
Muriel Cooper 2015
Stone Fairy & Flowers
The stone statue above is one of a pair, originally from Wonderwings. 
They now dwell at Captain Creek Cottages with early Wonderwings storyteller 
Anne E Stewart, who brought them to the reunion. 
Beside this fairy are flowers from Marian (Maz).

Fairies sadly missed included Libby, Barbara-Elise and Marian, 
pictured in turn below.

Libby at Wonderwings Fairy Picnic early 90's
Barbara-Elise, fairy storyteller, 1993
Marian (Maz) Lissant at wedding of Mark & Louisa in Montsalvat 1993

Nina, Anne Atkins' daughter, was also absent, but I caught up with her and her girls in full fairy regalia soon afterwards at The Monash Fairy Tale Salon's celebration of the 150th anniversary of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, with Anne herself and her consort Nigel. 2015 is a reunion year for Australian fairies!

Many Wonderwings fairies have continued their fey activities in other fields. They have graced festivals, historic parks and gardens, galleries and museums, town halls and taverns, and there'll be more to say of their antics in Part II (coming soon). Here is a glimpse of one going about her fairy capers: Fairy Moth...

Fairy Moth (Suzanne)

Anne Atkins, Mary-Lou Keaney, Dee Waight, April 2015
One revelation at the reunion was how Wonderwings influenced the birth of the Australian Fairy Tale Society, founded 2014 in another state. Memories of an interstate fairy storytelling party in Melbourne had haunted AFTS co-founder Reilly McCarron from childhood, ever since her return to Sydney. Communicating with me after I joined her society, Reilly rediscovered the name Wonderwings Fairy Shop. We'll learn more of Reilly and her co-founder Jo Henwood later.

Here's to carrying the fey candle onward. May we dwell in Faery forever, happily ever after.

Dee & Nadine, Myths & Legends Fairy Shop 2015
Dee Waight, Myths & Legends: over 2 decades!

Wood Window - photo by Jackie Kerin

Wonderwings Fairy Shop Reunion, April 2015 at Myths & Legends Fairy Shop, Gisborne, Vic, Australia
Add caption
Wonderwings Fairy Shop - feature in "The Women's Weekly" magazine 1992

1 comment:

  1. First off WOW what an awesome history & read! How enchantingly delicious & refreshing it is to see these amazing Faery Kin bringing fae folklore & magic into the world. LOVE LOVE LOVE you all! <3

    Secondly OMG I think I have in my safe keepings what I think is 3 WANDS that I think are Faery Anne wands that I scored from a lady in the Victorian Opera many years ago [Might have been around '93!] One gorgeous white one we have used on our Christmas tree every year! I would LOVE to know if they are indeed Anne Atkins wands as then they would be collectors items! <3 And I would be OVER the MOON if that was the case! :D

    Faery Dusted Blessings
    from this Bee Faery
    Bakki Boo Beeswing of Fable Workshop ;) xoxox <3