The Covers are off at Parham

Parham House
Parham House Opens for the 2013 Season

I am always delighted to return to Parham House, which reopens this Easter Sunday. For me, Parham is one of the most beautiful homes in all England. I admire this special and hopeful place and its current custodian, Lady Emma Barnard, who lives here with her husband James, a successful London Barrister, and their two boys.

Attention has been diverted from the recent fire and all is shipshape for the Easter opening. “I love it when the visitor season and first opening approaches,” Lady Emma declares. “It’s always exciting as the house’s treasures emerge from their winter covers – but there’s always so much to do.” This delight in sharing the joys of Parham is something Lady Emma has in common with her great-grandparents, Clive and Alicia Pearson. They opened Parham to the public from 1948, not out of need but out of a genuine desire to share their home with others, a tradition which was continued by Emma’s great-aunt, Veronica Tritton.

Clive Pearson came from one of the great entrepreneurial families of the turn of the 20th Century. He worked with his father and brother in the family civil engineering firm. Each generation has a collecting and aesthetic bias and for the Pearsons it was an admiration for the older English manor house, in sympathy with the antiquarianism of the 18th Century, rather than the reinterpretation and imitation of styles of the Victorians.

It should be unsurprising that, once discovered, Clive and Alicia Pearson fell in love with Parham. Undeterred by the poor state of the house, they purchased it together with the estate for £200,000, a large sum of money in 1922. During the 1920s and ‘30s they carefully restored this fine Elizabethan house, installing electricity, plumbing and heating.

There can be no question about the care they took to return Parham to its Elizabethan grandeur. The Pearsons furnished it with the wonderful collections of fine portraits, furniture and textiles, often searching out pieces formerly from the house or relating to its history. And yet, with its limed oak panelling and large windows, there is an airy, light feeling to the Great Hall, Long Gallery and many other rooms, which seems almost modern to our contemporary eye. Canadian forces were billeted there during the Second World War as the Battle of Britain was fought overhead. The family stayed on at the house throughout the war and a great rapport built up between them and the troops.

In the grounds to the south of the house, beyond the ha-ha, is St Peter’s Church. The family’s pew still has its own fireplace and, who knows, perhaps they’ll be lighting it this Easter if this chilly spring continues. The Georgian interior reflects the light and openness of the house. There is an atmosphere of stillness and prayer, layered up over centuries. The Easter Sunday Holy Communion starts at 10am and will be led this year by Revd. David Farrant. The church remains open all day. So you might decide to attend the service or perhaps just take time to be, to rest and to reflect as part of your visit to Parham.

Lady Emma Barnard
Lady Emma Barnard in the Great Hall

Lady Emma’s family are only the third family to live at Parham since 1577. A house and garden like Parham carry with them a weight of history and tradition; it demands a particularly keen sense of duty and service from its custodians. Lady Emma applies her own undoubted professional skills to the task. She is keenly supported by her husband and the directors of the charitable trust which has the responsibility to preserve this wonderful place for generations to come. But it is Emma’s love for Parham and her family which breathes real life into the house and gardens. “It’s wonderful for the boys to grow up in this place – we’re so lucky to live here,” she says. I think that it is actually Parham which is lucky. This really is a home, alive and welcoming. Parham is at once timeless and contemporary, intimate and grand and is matched by the generous enthusiasm and passion of Lady Emma.

This optimistic place provides a window onto our past and our future, an historical narrative from the first to the second Elizabethan Age. It speaks to us of our own place in the extraordinary procession of human history. Whether you are visiting for the first time or returning, Parham never fails to captivate and delight anew.

The covers are off! Parham House and Gardens open on Easter Sunday 31st March 2013 at 2pm and 12pm respectively, closing at 5pm. For more information go to www.parhaminsussex.co.uk or telephone 01903 742021.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 27th March 2013 in the West Sussex Gazette.

Updating a Tradition: Lisa Katzenstein

Detail of tall cone vases in 'Flowers' design by Lisa Katzenstein
Detail of tall cone vases in 'Flowers' design by Lisa Katzenstein

Ceramics continually fall under the radar as an art form. In this country ceramics struggle to shrug off the perception of it being a utilitarian craft, whilst in Europe you have whole museums dedicated to the subject. Lisa Katzenstein is a Hastings-based ceramicist who, through her art, would like to change people’s awareness of the medium. Nicholas Toovey tells us more

'Landscape' design rectangular vase by Lisa Katzenstein
'Landscape' design rectangular vase by Lisa Katzenstein
Group of leaning vases hand-painted with wild plants by Lisa Katzenstein
Group of leaning vases by Lisa Katzenstein
'Melon' design wave bowl by Lisa Katzenstein
'Melon' design wave bowl by Lisa Katzenstein
'Melons' design large square vase from the 'Grow Your Own' series by Lisa Katzenstein
'Melons' design large square vase by Lisa Katzenstein
'Honesty' and 'Physalis' design tall twist vases by Lisa Katzenstein
'Honesty' and 'Physalis' design tall twist vases by Lisa Katzenstein

Lisa was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico. At the age of 4 she moved with her family to Italy, moving again to London when she was 10. She continued to live in London and eventually shared a one bed room flat with her husband and renting a separate studio. In 2007, Lisa and her partner decided to stop spending money to live uncomfortably and moved to Hastings, halving their outgoings and trebling their space. Lisa’s mother-in-law lived in the town so they both knew the area very well. Today she would not live anywhere else, as the move took them to somewhere that they now love. She acknowledges Hastings may have had a bad reputation, but personally cannot understand the reasons behind it. In her eyes the town is not too chichi like other neighbouring towns and is a wonderful place in itself, it also is host to a thriving artistic community. Does Sussex inspire her? Definitely, it may not be immediately translated in her work but she loves the contrasts between East and West Sussex and the nearby west Kent. From the Denge sound mirrors near Dungeness and the wilder parts of the pretty marshes in East Sussex to the ‘park-like’ appearance of West Sussex. Rye, Winchelsea and Hastings have their history, she says, but it is portrayed differently to the Cotswolds which has a Disney Land appearance. Whilst these places are more an inspiration, it is perhaps the proud scruffiness of nature and wild flowers in our counties that transfers onto her work in ceramics.

Lisa studied a BA in ceramics at Central School of Art, London, followed by an MA in ceramics at the Royal College of Art. She is a professional member of the Craft Potters Association and on the Sussex Guild, she is also listed on the Craft Councils listed makers list. When she was leaving college very few of her fellow students could make a living from ceramics, with the public attitude being very much ‘Why pay that much for a vase?’. Fortunately today, people have a better understanding and appreciation for a one-off piece of art. As a nation our perception of ceramics as an art form is slowly changing, but a dedicated museum to ceramics, especially 20th Century works, still seems a long way off.

Lisa describes her work as traditional, her pieces are slip-cast or press moulded white earthenware adorned by hand-painted ‘tin-glaze’ decoration prior to firing. This technique was developed in Europe to imitate the imported and fashionable Chinese porcelain. It would be referred to as Majolica, Maiolica, Delft or Faience depending on where it was produced. She also says that her work is a half-half mix of design (as it is functional) and art (as it is individually painted). The traditional element also refers to the fact that not only is the work functional but she chooses flowers and nature as her subject. However her work is not stuck in the 18th or 19th Century, Lisa reinvents the oeuvre for a modern audience, the flowers are not painted in a botanical way, they are contextual.  Her bright, colourful and cheery palette enables her work to be eye-catching and still fit within interiors of today. Her latest series of work concentrates around the renewed interest in ‘grow your own’, decorated with vegetables and fruit.

Lisa will be showing her work on the 9th and 10th June at the fabulous ‘Sussex Guild Show’ at Parham House near Storrington, and at ‘Art in Clay’ at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire on the 6th, 7th and 8th July. Her work can also be seen at Horsham Museum & Art Gallery between the 1st June and 7th July in a group exhibition with 49 other artists in the preview exhibition of Toovey’s Contemporary Art Auction where all the works on show will be offered for sale at their Spring Gardens Salerooms on the 21st July.

For more www.lisakatzenstein.co.uk

Nicholas’ article was originally published in Sussex Life magazine in June 2012.