"Once upon a time, I thought faeries lived only in books, old folktales, and the past. That was before they burst upon my life as vibrant,
luminous beings, permeating my art and my everyday existence, causing glorious havoc." - Brian Froud
Although I've loved fairy tales since I was a child, the majority of those tales don't actually contain specific beings called fairies (or faeries*) at all. It wasn't until I studied myth and folklore at university that I discovered the old faery stories of the British Isles: strange, sensual, earthy tales about creatures far removed from the sweet little sprites popularized by children's books. This piqued my curiosity, and led me to search out other faery traditions around the world, ranging from the wood-wives of Sweden to the fox faeries of Japan to the Little People of the Cherokee tribe.
It was also during my student years that a hugely influential book came into my hands: Faeries, full of gorgeous paintings and drawings by British artists Brian Froud and Alan Lee. I spent hours and hours pouring over that volume, for it pictured the faeries properly: as spirits of nature rooted in the landscape, alluring yet dangerous.
Much of the art in Faeries was inspired by the landscape of Devon, a corner of England's West Country deeply steeped in myth and legend. What I didn't know then, when I first read Faeries, was that one day I'd live in Devon myself. And that Brian and Alan would be my neighbors here. And that my background in folklore studies would lead to working with Brian & Wendy Froud on faery books for children and adults.
In the years since, I've married and settled down in Devon. My husband, Howard, appears in Brian & Wendy's Pressed Fairy Journal of Madeline Cottington (as mad Quentin Cottington, fairy hunter), and in the book trailer video (with Virginia Lee as Angelica Cottington). I've turned up in Brian's work too: as a "Faerie Woman" and a thorny woodland creature in Brian Froud's World of Faerie. (I was much younger then, of course...but I still have that silver faery dress.)
It has been a great privilege working with Brian and Wendy, who know more about faery myths and lore than any other two people alive; and whose passion for the subject is twined with their love of the Devon landscape, expressing its numinous spirit through their art.
* Folklorists and others have argued for years about whether "fairy" or "faery" is the correct spelling. As there's no consensus on the subject, it's really a matter of personal preference. I tend to go back and forth, annoying purists on both sides of the argument, no doubt.
Art above: A page spread from Faeries, with Alan Lee's art; Dartmoor piskie drawings from Faeries by Brian Froud; and a cheeky faery fellow by Brian.