Pat Hanbery’s jars of fairy light bring joy to everyone who finds them. Photo by BEN KATZ

SCOUTING AROUND: Crafter creates a little magic with fairy jars

   Once upon a time – about 10 years ago – Pat Hanbery knew a little girl who needed her spirits lifted. The child was in a car wreck and had injuries to her face. At first, Hanbery’s plan was to give her a bouquet of flowers in a jar, but a sheet of paper with fairies on it inspired her to do something different.
   She ended up placing a paper fairy and flowers in a jar to give to the child.
   The gift was a great distraction to the girl, and she imagined her fairy did things, like cause the flowers to bloom.
   That little girl is now in college, and she has asked Hanbery for fairy jars to give to her roommates and friends.
   Hanbery is not a fairy godmother, but she does create magical experiences with fairy jars she makes with mostly repurposed items.
   “It’s hard to describe the joy I get from making them, and the joy people get from getting them,” she said.
   Since Hanbery started selling the fairy jars about six years ago, she has been told stories about how the fairies have created special bonds between grandparents and grandchildren, or have even helped children sleep with the lights off.
   The stories she tells about the fairies – that she has rescued them, that they are Tinkerbell’s mountain cousins, that they will disappear if not happy – were inspired by conversations with children visiting her booth at markets and shows. This is because, as she learned when she started researching fairies, fairy tales really aren’t about fairies at all.
   Hanbery never thought she’d create fairy jars and related items, like magic wands, fairy doors and fairy cedar homes. As a child, she said she was always trying to figure out how things worked. She even dismantled her mother’s alarm clock, then dismantled her father’s in an attempt to put her mother’s clock back together.
   She studied art and interior design in college, wanting a career in advertising. She ended up doing store design/visual merchandising for about 20 years, then traveled the world as a freelance photographer for 10 years before ending up in an office job for another decade.
   In 2008, Hanbery’s job was eliminated, plus both her husband and mother died.
   “My whole world turned upside down,” she said.
   After settling all her affairs, Hanbery moved from Florida to Murphy in 2010. She always wanted to live in the mountains when she retired, and whenever she took vacations she went to the mountains.
   She made friends with many people through a downtown Murphy stamp shop, Bear Pages. After the shop closed, she started holding card-making classes at home. Her friends noticed the fairy jars she had and suggested she sell them.
   She started selling the jars at one or two shows, but now sells at the Murphy Art Walk and Murphy Farmers Market most weekends, plus various indoor area shows and markets, like Blairsville’s Mountain Fling and Mistletoe Market.
   Each time someone requests something to do with the jars, she tries to figure out a way to do it. After people repeatedly wished she’d make lamps, she figured out a way to add solar yard lights to the tops of the jars. However, she doesn’t usually do special requests. The lights, glue, and polymer clay are – for the most part – the only items she purchases new for the jars.
   “I just can’t throw anything out,” she said, adding she loves hearing a friend is cleaning out their house. “My friends found I was a very good place to get rid of their jars.”
  She enjoys making her crafts, calling it more of a pastime than work.
   “All of a sudden, I’m smiling a lot more,” she said from her porch, where she does most of her crafting and has views of horses in a pasture surrounded by mountains on the western end of the county. “This is the first job I’ve had that I smile 90 percent of the time.”

Swimming for kids
   Kids can learn how to swim for free again this summer at the Hiwassee Valley Pool & Wellness Center in Murphy.
   The Sharks Learn to Swim classes, organized by Emma and Tom Flinn, are available for children ages 8-9 who are residents of Cherokee County. Classes will be held from 8-9 a.m. every Thursday and Friday starting June 15 and will run through August.
   Class size is limited to 12 children. There will be a waiting list once the class is full. As a child graduates from the program, the next child on the waiting list will be invited to join the class.
   Classes are free thanks to funding from House Raising Volunteers. Last year was the first year of the free swimming lessons. To register a child for the class, visit the wellness center at 695 Connahetta St.
   Samantha Sinclair is the Scouting Around columnist for the Cherokee Scout. You can reach her by email, scoutingaround@cherokeescout.com; fax, 837-5832; or by leaving a message in the office at 837-5122.