What might you call someone who fashions miniature worlds out of travertine, cement and colorful tiles? "Fairy House Lady," which is how one child described the creator, seems right.
The child's gratitude came from stumbling upon a magical home on Datura Street in Sarasota, where little mythical villages sprawl among the succulents, keeping darting lizards company and spreading happiness to passersby.
Jennifer Sault started creating these wonderlands in her yard around 2000 as a hobby. Inspired by the birth of her granddaughter, the first mini-enclave was a home for fairies. That soon mushroomed into many other small structures.
“I made it up and it just kind of grew by itself," says Sault, a former mental health counselor. "I get totally lost in it. It's a spiritual exercise for me."
Since she retired in 2007, she spends roughly three to four hours a day on the structures. Now, the little towers, castles and homes, roughly 10 to 25 inches high, circle her home from front to back. The roofs are made from grout applied with a palette knife.
"All of my buildings are my own impressions and memories," says Sault. "Nothing is an accurate copy and nothing is to scale."
Originally from Leeds and Hull in Yorkshire, England, Sault lived in Italy for eight years and in Costa Rica for five years. She reads Russian and speaks Italian and Spanish. She also authored a book titled Arthur of Britain: Universal Archetype for Healthy Chakra Development. Published in 2018, it's about the connection between the chakras and the myths of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
But instead of a spotlight on her many accomplishments, she prefers the sunlight, where she rebuilds renderings of her homeland, her travels, her love of archaeology and history and her life experiences.
There’s a slice of the village where the Brontë sisters lived, Dr. Seuss' Lorax and a glass tile sign she made that says, “Unless,” a reference to Seuss' quote, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.” The crumbling shoreline of Yorkshire is spurred by global warming, and a caved-in abbey shows when King Henry approved the destruction of Catholic houses of worship. You’ll also find a Harry Potter world and a replica of her favorite pub in Yorkshire, the Lion Inn.
If you happen upon Sault’s handmade wonderland, remember to greet her spirited dog Zeuseleh (Yiddish for “Little Zeus”), and take time to revel in her whimsical worlds.