When she was five years old, Courtney Kelly saw her very first fairy, but at the tender age of ten, after the crushing loss of her mother, fairies disappeared from view. No matter how hard she tried, Courtney couldn’t see another. In college, she grew quite serious and turned her attention to chemistry and earth sciences. After graduation, she joined her father’s thriving landscaping outfit in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, and dedicated herself to working the land: dig, plant, don’t have fun, repeat.
...until last year, when Courtney’s concerned, spiritually-aware friend, Meaghan Brownie, encouraged her to step outside her comfort zone and attend a Renaissance Faire. There, Courtney met a whimsical fairy garden designer from out of state. She was so enraptured, she begged the woman to stay in town and teach her the art. The woman agreed to do so over a weekend. While Courtney learned to design a garden, the woman gave her tips about how to attract fairies. Courtney planted bell-shaped flowers in her cottage garden. She set up bird feeders and hung chimes and crystals from her trees.
And then, inspired to break out on her own, Courtney gave up her landscaping job, and using a fund left to her by her grandmother, created Open Your Imagination, a fairy garden store. Her father wasn’t happy with her choice—he was a practical man—but he loved her and wished her well.
To Courtney’s surprise, she soon met Fiona, a fairy-in-training. Fiona explained that although the sorrow over the loss of Courtney’s mother had squelched her ability as a girl to see fairies, it was her nose-to-the-grindstone attitude toward life that had continued to suppress her. When she made the decision at the ripe old age of twenty-nine to spread her wings and start a fairy garden business, voilà. Her heart opened, and Fiona swooped in.
Along the way, Fiona revealed that to get her adult wings she needed Courtney’s help. You see, Fiona was a rare breed of fairy. She was a righteous fairy. And she had a mission. She needed to bring resolution to embattled souls. Soon, however, Courtney realized that Fiona’s decision–making skills weren’t fully honed.
Open Your Imagination is a beautiful garden-style store located in the Cypress and Ivy Courtyard in Carmel. Courtney builds fairy gardens for clients and offers classes. The shop sells products for amateur fairy garden builders, like fairy and gnome figurines, pots for planting and plants themselves, as well as gift items like tea sets, wind chimes, bells, and greeting cards. To honor her mother, Courtney arranged for a food license and now serves weekend fairy teas on the magical patio she designed.
The shop is designed in a horseshoe fashion. All the French doors open onto a slate tile patio. Lovely trees and trailing vines decorated with twinkling lights border the patio. In the center stands an ornate waterfall featuring carvings of fairies and gnomes. Pots spilling over with strawberries and flowers cluster in the corners. Customers enjoy sitting on the wrought-iron tables to drink in the environment. Courtney teaches the craft in the learning-the-craft corner, which she has set with a rectangular table and benches.
Carmel-by-the-Sea, also known simply as Carmel, California, is the perfect place for a fairy garden store. Situated on the Monterey Peninsula, Carmel is known for its incredible scenery, artistic history, and spiritual energy. Artists dominated early city councils. The city's general plan describes Carmel as "a village in a forest overlooking a white sand beach". Mission Carmel was established by Junipero Serra and boasts the state’s first library. In 1905, the Carmel Arts and Crafts Club was formed to support and produce artistic works. After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the village was inundated with musicians, writers, painters and other artists who turned to the growing artist colony. In quirky fashion, the businesses and cottages in Carmel have no street numbers. Residents must go to the post office to collect their mail. Carmel boasts a mild climate. It is an exceptionally dog-friendly city. Dogs are invited to sit on the outdoor areas of most restaurants. Carmel Pine Cone is the main newspaper, available online.
At some point this might start to sound like an online dating profile, which I have never done—I don’t begrudge anyone else doing so; it’s just not for me—but here goes. I grew up in Carmel-by-the-Sea. I adore the area and never want to leave. I love to swim in the ocean or hike or take long horse rides along the water’s edge. I have never been married, though I was engaged to Christopher, my college sweetheart. He became a lawyer, intent on becoming a judge, and the day after our co-ed engagement party, decided that he never wanted to be married. Ever. I moved on. I wasn’t bitter. I continue to hold out hope for my one true love. Silly? Maybe. I graduated UC Berkeley with a degree in earth sciences and worked for my father’s landscaping company until a year ago when I opened my own shop, Open Your Imagination, a fairy garden shop. It’s a long story, but let’s just say a visit to a Renaissance Fair changed my life. I love making fairy gardens. They fill me with hope and an openness to magic. I like to read all sorts of books—across genre. I also like to take photographs, shoot hoops, and bake. Thanks to the graciousness of Holly Hopewell, my landlord, I moved into a cottage that needed a lot of work. Her Ragdoll cat, Pixie, lives with me. She is a fan favorite at my shop. And then there’s Fiona...
I’m a righteous fairy. In addition to types of fairies, like water fairies and woodland fairies, there are four classifications of fairies: guardian, nurturer, righteous and intuitive. As a righteous fairy, I have a mission. I need to bring resolution to embattled souls. For all intents and purposes, I am a fairy-in-training. I should have been a full-fledged fairy by now, but imp that I am, I did one too many pranks in fairy school, so the queen fairy booted me out and subjected me to probation, during which I have to get serious. By helping a human, I can earn my way back into the ranks and even earn my adult wings—I need three to grow sets. I love to fly fast. I can’t wait to own my own fairy horse. I love to socialize, which the queen fairy has forbidden . . . for now. And I love to learn. Last but not least, I adore Courtney, my human. We will be bonded forever.
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Fairy Garden Resources (pdf)