Estella Castle

2021 QEST Pilgrim Trust Scholar - Straw work

Estella is an artist who practices the endangered crafts of corn dolly making and straw working. Her training began in New Zealand, where she did a degree and a post graduate diploma in Visual Arts, before she moved to the UK and gained an MA in Fine Art at City & Guilds of London Art School. Estella has subsequently worked as a freelance artist for clients and partners including The National Trust, Alexander McQueen, The Wallace Collection, The Victoria and Albert Collection, and she recently completed a residency at Egham Museum.

A QEST Scholarship will fund studies with Master Thatcher, Ben Rance, to give her an introduction to UK straw thatching styles, preparing long straw thatching, the laying and preparation of straw thatch, and the construction of rick ornaments. Estella will also study with QEST Scholar Veronica Main MBE covering work in split straw and flattened straw; the history of UK and Swiss heritage straw work; dyeing and bleaching natural straw; and straw thread preparation. Finally, she will do a course with Elaine Lindsay, focusing on straw marquetry; reverse straw work; construction of new designs; and Scottish & English straw working methods.

Trained further in straw working, history and skills, Estella’s goal is to become an expert in the field, which would allow her to connect and mentor potential young and future makers as well as create a sustainable, long term artistic career, promoting the use of straw work in her art practice.

Images courtesy of the Egham Museum.

My long term goal is to work with this endangered heritage craft of straw work as a means to connect with academics and indigenous craft leaders that work in the social and economic histories of traditional fibre and textiles in the UK and New Zealand. I will use straw working as a way to visually explore and make connections between the landscapes and histories of my country of birth and my chosen home of Surrey in the UK.