Jennifer Stephens, also known as Marigold Bumbleroot, is a professional bubble-blower.
Filmed and edited by Ken Morrill of Yenra TV
Catch her any odd day at the fairy festival and she’ll be blowing goopy orbs of joy off her fingertips, spinning, smiling, dripping to the elbows with soap. Her fingernails are exquisitely clean, and her four-year-old daughter, as you can imagine, freaking loves her.
“My go-to move is something we call the fairy kiss,” said Stephens, “where you blow a bubble inside another bubble. That’s really the toughest of them.”
Officially a salesperson with Miscellaneous Oddiments, a Mount Savage company that specializes in mythical masks, crowns, and other, well, oddiments, Stephens also makes a living as a fairy. She’s performed at Artscape with Telesma, appeared at the Winter Festival of Wonders, and regularly pops up at Manifest events.
She came upon her unusual livelihood six years ago, working vending booths at the Maryland Renaissance Festival. Stephens said she thought of the gig only as a temporary way to make some money and get into the festival for free. Then, during her lunch break one day, she happened upon a group of girls in costumes and fairy wings blowing giant bubbles.
“I immediately regressed into an eight-year-old,” said Stephens, 25. “I ran up and started giggling and popping them.”
As things worked out, Stephens switched vendors (“the guy that I was working for essentially traded me,” she said) to work for Miscellaneous Oddiments, a job which entailed her demonstrating the shop’s custom-made bubble wands.
“I started working with them six years ago in the fall,” said Stephens, “and then I found out they had this spring circuit where they worked fairy festivals.” She had never been to a fairy festival before, but at her first sight she fell in love.
Most of us have probably never been to a fairy festival before, either. At these affairs, magic-lovers and inner-children will descend on a single field for days of celebration, song, dance, magic, and ridiculously bright-colored costumes. Things usually have an olde-English vibe to them, and the festivals are often drug-free, family events.
After working at fairy fests for about a season, Stephens developed the whimsical, bubbly (sorry) persona of Marigold Bumbleroot and decided to take her skills out in the world, working with musicians, doing spontaneous shows, and performing at birthday parties.
To her shows, Stephens said, “People react the same way I initially reacted. A lot of people see it and they think this is magic.” Often, Stephens tells parents at her shows they can buy some soap and make the magic themselves.
“I say, ‘You can be a fairy too, Dad… Anybody can. The thought just has to enter your mind that you don’t have to be all business all the time. You just have to get a little messy.”
The only soap Stephens will use is made by Cricket Hill Toys, a husband-and-wife chemistry team from central Florida. She simply mixes the glycerin-based powder with tap water, “though most bubble-ologists will tell you to use distilled,” and is ready to make beautiful, flowing shapes with her hands as her wand.
The results of Stephens’ work are amazing. Spinning wobbly spheres with a half-innocent half-smile on her face, she really does look like a fairy, or at least a human lava-lamp. And she’s always working on new tricks.
“There have been a couple of snapshots of [me making] a bubble inside a bubble inside a bubble,” said Stephens. Right now, she can only do that trick by accident, but, “if I could reign that in and control it, I think that would be the coolest thing. I would have Inception bubbles.”
Video by Kristin Royer with Music by Chris Flinchbaugh
The magic is not lost on the littlest Bumbleroot, Stephens’ four-year-old daughter Abigail.
“She’s always telling me to do different tricks,” said Stephens. “If I’m not feeling up for playing, she’s the one who makes me do it… I can’t tell her no. She’s got these cute little glasses.”
And playing, Stephens is quick to remind, is all she’s really doing in the end.
Additional Photos by Theresa Keil:
Sign up for the What Weekly newsletter