Malcolm Seal - Gardener, Basket Maker and Sheep Owner
It is often the case, within the gardening world at least that one generous word directs you towards another humble being, someone else who has trodden familiar ground and has shared sensibilities.
In her infamous garden in Kent Matt took great pleasure in talking to Charlotte Molesworth. On explaining the imminent move to Dorset one person Charlotte reeled about was British basket maker, gardener and "owner of sheep" Malcolm Seal.
Essex born Malcolm settled in Dorset some 25 years ago and set up his workshop within a stones throw of his picture perfect estate cottage near to the ancient iron age hill fort at Eggardon. It is evident in his own garden that Charlotte's flair as a topiary artist must have worn off on Malcolm. Standing at the entrance to the cottage is a large topiary teapot and many other forms have established from cuttings taken with him from his former time spent in Kent and Sussex.
Perhaps best known for his Basket making Malcolm has been working with willow since 1988. His approach is inspired by the British agricultural tradition as well as elements from other European styles. An increasing amount of willow that Malcolm works with today comes from his own willow beds at 'Thunderbolt' farm, a small clearing where his beautiful sheep are kept also.
Malcolm keeps a small flock of exquisite rare breed Gotlands.
'I first came across Gotlands whilst visiting a workshop in Jutland, Denmark and was not only struck by their amazing fleece but also by the character of the sheep.'
Gotlands are inquisitive and friendly sheep and are relatively easy to handle without a dog. I loved seeing how they worked alongside an existing craft workshop and the idea was born. Sometime later the flock arrived and has grown over time. We have produced hogget over two summers (ie they are killed at 19-20 months as opposed to 5 which is commercial). This slow grown pasture fed meat is popular locally. We also produce a small amount of yarn for knitters as well as raw fleece for spinners and of course the sheepskins are a byproduct of the meat production. Their fleece is unlike any other, muted tones of light grey to black and characteristically silky curls make for the most unique sheepskins.
Gotlands as the name implies originate from the Baltic island of the same name and are found across Scandinavia.