‘The Sign Fairy’ Pairs Positive Message with Original Collage

Three years ago, Jill Harding put up a sign at the end of her winding driveway on Garrett Bay Road. In white letters on a rustic red background, she painted two words whose simple but profound message would become the catalyst for many positive things in Ellison Bay, Door County and beyond, one of which was the recent publication of a children’s book.

That message?

Think good thoughts.

Each day since she planted the posts in the ground, Harding has made her way to the end of her driveway with a companion piece to the sign – one word to help guide the passersby on their good thoughts.

It all begins with the word be.

Be grateful.

Be bold.

Be amazed.

Be mindful.

Be yourself.

“Always a good thought,” Jill said. “It’s got to be a good thought. It’s good energy.”

She has become known as “The Sign Fairy” – a woman whose challenges in her own life inspired her to put up a sign that would spread good energy to those near and far.

the sign fairy cover“I felt like we need that in our lives,” she said. “It’s really easy to get scared and be angry with each other. I think that’s happening in our state and in our country. I think it happens all over and if we focus instead on good thoughts, it’s amazing what we’re able to accomplish … If you can focus in on the beauty that’s around you, it opens up a part of your life that makes you very grateful for what you have.”

Not long after, Jill began to notice people leaving talismans, flowers and notes for her next to the sign. One of Jill’s neighbors at the time, Cari Lewis, asked Jill if she could photograph the sign and share it on Facebook.

The good energy spread like wildfire.

“I started to realize it meant a lot to people,” Jill said. “They were slowing down, they were looking at the words, they were thinking about the words.

“What I’ve recognized about the sign is that there are people who are spreading that good energy,” she continued. “They might see a word that inspires them and then they go do something good for somebody else. There are a lot of people who are spreading good energy and that’s the whole purpose of the sign; it’s not about one person, it’s more about a collective energy.”

The good energy continued to build, leading Jill to a writing workshop with children’s book author and illustrator Nancy Carlson at Write On, Door County. Jill, who as a teacher for 20 years had used Nancy’s books to educate her students, jumped at the opportunity. At Jill’s side was her lifelong friend, Dee Paulson.

“I pictured in my mind that Dee and I would do this book together,” Jill said. “It would be an A-B-C book based on the words on the sign. I took the class and Nancy said to me, ‘No, not an A-B-C book. You’ve got to tell the story of the sign!’”

Over the summer of 2014, Jill wrote The Sign Fairy, a story of a character named Petra who puts up a sign along a beautiful road on a peninsula, hoping to inspire people to notice the beauty around them and in each other.

page 4Jill created all of the illustrations in the book out of textured and multi-layered collages of photos, cards and paper (some handmade by Jill at Sievers School of Fiber Arts on Washington Island). Many of the images are enhanced with colored pencil, ink and acrylic paint, and all feature words to a good thought.

Noticeably missing from all but one page of the book? An illustration of the main character, Petra.

“I wanted people to feel like Petra could be anybody,” Jill said. “People can figure out what they want to do. It doesn’t have to be a sign. Their heart will tell them what to do, just as my heart told me to put up the sign.”

The Sign Fairy is available for purchase at Turtle Ridge Gallery, Gills Rock Stoneware, Clay Bay Potter and The Clearing in Ellison Bay, Al Johnson’s and Pipka’s in Sister Bay, Child’s Play in Sturgeon Bay,The  Reader’s Loft in Green Bay, and on  

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