Christmas is the busiest time of year for fairy maker Julie Haigh. Sharon Dale reports on how she helps spread the magic from her live-work home. Pictures by Bruce Rollinson.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year but for Julie Haigh it’s also the most frantic.
Surrounded by shimmering organza, tulle and sequins, she works morning till night in her one-woman “factory”, aka the spare room of her house.
The pressure is on for the woman who has one of the best job titles in the world. Julie is a fairy maker and while she creates bespoke “little people” for a variety of events and occasions throughout the year, her Christmas fairies are best-sellers. She must make sure they reach the top of the tree in time.
Lovingly handmade, they are an exquisite alternative to mass-produced decorations, whose provenance we’d rather not think about. Designing and making them is clearly hard work but the joy they bring more than makes up for it.
“They give people a lot of pleasure. I’m a great believer that everyone needs a little sprinkle of fairy dust in their lives,” says Julie, who trades as the Fabulous Fairy Factory from her home in the beautiful Magdale Valley, near Honley, Huddersfield.
Her house and “fab fairy HQ” is the perfect live-work home. It is on a small development built on the site of an old woollen mill and was brand new when she and her family moved in just days before Christmas 12 years ago. One of the first jobs was to add character and warmth to the bland interior. A big fan of Farrow and Ball, she painted the sitting room walls Smoked Trout with a feature wall of Cole and Son paper, while the kitchen got a coat of lime green and the main bedroom was treated to wallpaper by Timorous Beasties.
“I love Farrow and Ball paint it for its depth and the chalkiness of the finish,” says Julie, who has just trimmed up for Christmas using her favourite festive greenery. Fresh eucalyptus is a favourite thanks to its “beautiful smell.”
The four-bedroom property is set over three floors with a large lower ground level, that would make the perfect granny flat. The idea was to make it into an office for the graphic design business she ran with her ex-husband. However, that relocated elsewhere and so the space was turned into an enormous games room with a separate cloakroom and storage area. Julie’s change of circumstances means that her beautiful home is now up for sale.
“I will be sad to leave. The thing I love most about this house is its position. It’s close to Honley village but it has wonderful views across the Magdale Valley, which is a protected landscape. It’s a hidden gem and when I move I hope to stay in the area.”
Another must when she moves is space for the Fabulous Fairy Factory, which she hopes to grow. A gifted artist, she began her career as an illustrator for Carlton cards before becoming a graphic designer, then a florist. The fairies, which range from £25 to £95, were born 16 years ago when Julie ran a florist shop in Kirkburton.
“There was an amazing Christmas tree by Sia that needed something apart from baubles and that’s when I thought I’d have a go at making fairies,” she says.
The first ones were made from paper and wire and customers begged to buy them. She later sold them at craft fairs and events before making them a full-time job when she split with her husband.
“Working together in graphic design wasn’t an option so I had to find another job. The fairies were a hobby but I’ve managed to grow them into a business that fits around my son Jaden, and I feel very grateful for that,” says Julie.
“They have evolved over the years. At one point they had clay legs but they were too fragile but I’ve now got to a point where I’m completely happy with the design and materials. The legs are now wire covered in fabric, which means you can pose them to sit on a shelf or to look like they are dancing.”
Many of them are bespoke and made to order but she also has a number of ranges, including tooth fairies, wedding fairies, vintage teacup fairies, wishing fairies and guardian angels.
“I love coming up with ideas for new fairies and little stories explaining who they are and what they do. The latest is the dream catcher fairy for children who have bad dreams. They have extra large wings and hang over the bed. I’ve also done some Shelfies: little elfs and fairies who help Santa and tell children to be good.”
Thanks to social media, she has fans all over the world and this translates into orders from as far away as America to Japan. They are processed by her mum, while her dad makes display cases for her.
“My mum and dad are such a great help, especially at this time of year. I’m often still making until 10 at night but the messages I get from customers help keep me going. I feel very lucky to have a job that makes people so happy.”
The Fabulous Fairy Factory is at fabulousfairyfactory.co.uk. Julie also sells on Etsy.
Julie’s home at Wrigley Court, Netherton, is for sale at £500,000 with Martin Thornton, martin-thornton.com