Many have asked “Where does the ‘Nina-fairy’ nickname come from?”. I was given the nickname when I was working in a fairy house named ‘The Continent of Sulina’ in a little town in the Cape, South Africa. Not many people know this about me, but yes, I worked in a fairy sanctuary owned and run by friends Ian and Minky Sulin. I’m very sad to have learnt that Minky has passed away. But have heard that Ian still continues the good work and is keeping the sanctuary going. If you are ever traveling in South Africa along the Garden Route, I strongly advise a stop over to the Continent of Sulina. It’s a magical place, where time and technology do not exist. Somewhere if you closed your eyes too long, you’d never leave.
I moved down to the Cape at a young 19 years old with my family. The fairy house was not far from where we lived and I fell in love with the fairies. Entranced by the magic, Minky’s work and the hand made treasures, I ended up helping out in the shop, but which by no means was a shop you’d ever imagined… filled with beautiful and magical creations (fairies made by Minky and bespoke pottery designs by Ian) I was ‘working’ (or as Minky used to say ‘playing’) in heaven, everyday and of course got involved in making things myself. While Minky and Ian had their specialities I was trying to find mine. I designed posters of fairy pictures and sold them with coloured pens, I did a LOT of fabric painting: fairies peeping out from behind leaves on fabrics which were dyed with leaf patterns using sun dyes, I learnt about herbal teas (fresh herbs from the garden not tea bag varieties) and served tea to our visitors under giant mushrooms. I painted hundreds of porcelain fairies which were fired in Ian’s kiln. There was so much to do.
When I said ‘I helped out’… this is perhaps not entirely true… I believe, in hind sight, Minky and Ian actually helped me. A lot. I lacked the confidence and experience to understand the world and at that time of my life I was hurt by some bad life experiences. I was angry and confused, lost and I suppose I just wanted to hide away from the harsh realities. The fairies allowed me to do this and Minky and Ian helped unlock something in me – a tiny spark was lit… I was welcomed into their lives and made part of the family. Minky, Ian, the children Fern, Sarah, Jevon and the sweet little dog, Cloud were now my family too. Minky and Ian tried hard to teach me a new way of thinking. But I was still lost and struggled to let the hurt go and unfortunately life became a whole lot more confusing as I tried to find my place and so landed up stomping the spark out and saying farewell, leaving the fairies in their garden and sadly headed off the creative trail altogether. I will always remember my time with the fairies and be ever grateful for the lessons learnt. I have no doubt had I stayed, I’d have found my Happy a lot sooner. I try not having any regrets, but looking back at young me then, I’m sad for her that she left. I miss my friends and think of them often, forever in my heart.
I don’t have photos of everything I made back then. Those days, it would’ve been a very strange sight to see a me taking photos of my works and ‘put it on a blog’ (what’s a blog? 😂) especially from a fairy house! I’ve moved often and travelled far so I’m not entirely sure how I managed to keep these few reminders with me all this time!