What We’re Doing!

In Robert McFarlane’s book, Landmarks, the author plumbed the depths of Irish, Scottish, and British colloquial language to uncover a lexicon of ridiculously specific words common to specific areas. For example, “blinter” in Northern Scotland means “a cold dazzle of light”, often referring to light reflected from ice or stars on a clear winter night. 

What struck us so much about those words is their intimate relationship with nature and their fun, often irreverent sounds and origins. Did you know a kestrel is called a “wind-fucker” in certain parts of Scotland?

The Subverted Fairy Project has little interest in fairies as they’ve evolved in popular Western imagination over the last 200 years. Fairies also have a deeper history as elemental forces, capturing the brutal innocence of nature. Their dark, delicious folk mythology is a rich tradition. However, our Project is not directly concerned with with the historical roles of fairies, either. Instead, we abandon both those traditions of the fairy concept and forge ahead into contemporary territory.

To create our fairies, The Subverted Fairy project pairs artists and writers together around uncommon, naturalistic words. The first phase of the Project centers around words from Mr. McFarlane’s lexicons. The artist illustrates (in any media) a fairy in response to a specific word (like blinter, or feorrain, or cairrag). The illustration is informed by the word and its meaning. That word becomes the fairy’s name. The artist is encouraged to pull from their own personal background as much as from the word. That’s the crucial part of the project. The intersection of the personal drawing, the uncommon word, and the fairy cliche. Once the drawing is done, a writer creates a one-page poem or short story in response to the word, its meaning, and the artwork. Taken together, the word, art, and writing define a new kind of fairy born through collaboration and naturalist language. We have built dozens of fairies like this, each a unique creature. Our first book is out now and you can order it here. Look for more coming in 2019 as we expand our horizons to words from SE Asia, the US state of Kansas, and scientific jargon.