Q&A: Rosemary Sault

Q&A: Rosemary Sault

Rosemary Sault is a farmer, straw craftsperson and tutor living in the heart of Staffordshire, England. Her farm in Yoxall hosts suckler cattle and sheep, variants of arable crops, and a few acres of long-stemmed wheat and rye which she supplies to straw-workers across the country.

Rosemary is also the producer of the straw used in our GATHER installation at our London Design Festival 2014 space.

How long have you been growing and supplying straw?
I have been growing this as my own business for 14 years now. My parents began it as a diversification project in the 1970s and continued until they retired from farming.

What is it about straw as a material that appeals to you?
It's a natural material with no two pieces the same, which provides a challenge.

Can you describe the growing and harvesting process?
The land is ploughed and the seed is sown in October and it's left to grow until it's ready to be cut. I cut it with a binder reaper when there is still a hint of green in the stem, which is usually around late July. The binder is driven by a tractor which cuts the straws and makes them into bundles which are then tied and dropped back on the ground. They are then collected up and taken into a shed where they are hung up to dry.

What tools, materials and machinery do you use in your work?
For stripping straws I only need to use a pair of scissors but plaiting requires scissors and thread.

How would you describe what you do - either as a producer, or as a teacher and tutor, or as a maker and straw craftsperson yourself?
My supplies of straw end up all over the country, in schools, museums, harvest festivals, shops and even into private homes, while my teachings take me to WI groups, into schools and similar. For me, all of these different roles are linked together: sowing the seed of the crop is really related to my teaching, which is also 'sowing the seed' in a different sense by helping a new craftsperson to develop their skills.

Thank you Rosemary! Take a look at GATHER participants' experiences with Rosemary's straw by watching our film and try your hand at making your own himmeli using the instructions. Rosemary's high-quality stripped long wheat straw can also now be bought in our shop.

Images courtesy of Rosemary Sault

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