The original Iron Fairies in Bangkok was an unexpected success according to its creator Ashely Sutton. It was originally built to be a beautiful workspace for his employees but it became such a hit that almost 6 years down the line, Ashley has now opened his third Iron Fairies here in Hong Kong. The mesmerizing venue recently opened its doors, much to the anticipation of Hong Kong foodies. What's uniquely different about it is the 10,000 real butterflies hanging from the ceiling. The light breeze creates a magical shimmering affect as they shift around seemingly lifelike in their preserved forms. Prepare to be amazed by the casting rooms which can each host a small private party of around 4 to 6 people and are interconnected like a secret underground maze.
The Iron Fairies was originally inspired by a garden in Ashley's hometown in Fremantle, Australia. The Hong Kong venue has 12 fairy characters; all are named after people he knows. Pick an iron fairy that resonates with you the most then discover its identity in a poem and find out her story written in the fairy books!
At Iron Fairies Hong Kong, Head Chef Todd Williams serves up a fun, innovative and laidback menu focusing on an Aussie selection of special hand-crafted burgers, hot fries and craft beers, perfect for a casual and fun gathering with a group of friends or a unique place to impress a date. The menu is reflective of Ashley's Aussie background and his relaxed personality. We speak to Ashley about his past, how he discovered his passion and how he got to where he is today as one of Asian's most intriguing and sought-after designers.
How did it all start?
I use to draw when I was very young, I drew on my walls. I liked to designed things such as submarines, a big cruise liner that didn't make you get seasick and a spaceship that would take you to another planet. Years later, I started getting hired to design treehouses for my friends and I was known as the best treehouse and underground cubby house builder – A cubby is an underground place where you can hide out. Since I was very young I've always been unable to sleep, even now. My mind is my worst and best enemy I think. So I love to take my mind somewhere else.
Who were you inspired by?
My father was an engineer and my grandfather was a carpenter so they taught me a lot when I was young. I was fortunate to have a creative mind. When I think of something, I know exactly how to build it. I have a building background, that's maybe why I can convert my dreams into reality.
What made you leave school when you were so young?
I left school when I was fourteen because I didn't have much of a choice; I didn't really fit in there. I've never read a book in my life and I failed every subject but I got A+ in technical drawing, in wood work and metal work. I only went to three years of high school and back then I wanted to become a graphic artist but I could not get into any art school because I needed at least a B+ in maths and a B in English even though I had an amazing portfolio of drawings.
When I left school, I started working in Mc Donald's because it was the only job that would accept a 14 year old. At the same time I went around knocking at factories with my drawing portfolio and I got a job offer to build staircases and to weld - I excelled at that. That lead on to studying an apprenticeship in stain glass, I studied at Louis Tiffany in New York and did my apprenticeship in medieval stain glass. It's a beautiful trade with so much beauty; unfortunately it's a very lost art now.
I soon acquired my crane license that was one of the best in the world because of the apprenticeship. There was a mining boom at the time so I took the opportunity to go underground and work at a mine, and I had this license that enabled me to drive the biggest cranes in the world. Unfortunately I lost part of my hand in an accident and with a crane you need all five digits to press buttons so I couldn't do that anymore; I therefore decided to go back to my trade in stain glass where I started a business painstakingly making these beautiful windows – I would work 18 hours a day.
How did you come up with the Iron Fairies concept?
I designed a little factory in Bangkok and a beautiful space for my staff. They called me when I was in the U.S. and said, we can't make any more fairies, there are too many people watching us. I flew back and saw that all they wanted is to have fun, enjoy the space and eat and drink there so I started stocking it up with drinks from 7 eleven.
How did you create the fairies?
I make all my products, draw them and make them myself. Every one of them is handmade using wax. Originally I started with eleven fairies all named after people like my grandmother and family. The fairies' personalities are based on flowers and different parts of the garden. I wrote their poems 23 years ago. Chloe is the fairy of love – she's looking into her reflection in the water. Lily is the bestseller.
Which fairy is your favourite?
Erin – the fairy of the pond.
Still yet to come I think. I'm doing a beautiful project right now which is not another night life venue, so I'm excited to see that come. I'm branding it to take all over the world – it'll be in every shopping mall in the world.
Which countries are next?
Right now I'm based in Bangkok but I'd like to get out of Asia. I'd like go to London and back to New York but I'm not known there. I need someone to give me an opportunity and show me a space - within two hours I can capture every detail and create an idea. For me it's actually more frustrating seeing it being built for so long.
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