Crafts inspired by David Parr

by Jenny Barnish, House Guide.

When I first read about David Parr House (in bed on my smartphone!), in disbelief, I passed it over to my husband and said, “Please tell me this is a real place and that I can go and see it?” “It looks that way” he replied.  From the very first moment that I stepped into David Parr House; I fell in love with it.  I make no secret of the fact that I am head over heels in love with David Parr himself.  As a very creative person, I often say, “I could have ten lifetimes and never complete everything that he inspires me to do” Since becoming a volunteer I am so grateful that I can have my ‘fix’ every now then, even during lockdown! Along with my fellow volunteers, I was trained to give online, virtual tours which was fascinating and a great way to continue to tell the story about my hero.  Plus, I could have an online ‘fix’ any time of day!

My hero, David Parr

One of the first things I made inspired by David Parr were paterae. I first saw them on the website and was struck by how beautiful these little ornaments were, but I had no idea what they were or where they were used. Paterae are gilded ornaments that David would have used to add to the interior decoration of churches, especially on the ceilings, and in grand country houses.   I was struck even more to think that David would have seen thousands of them yet chose to keep some in a Highland Toffee tin in the kitchen cupboard!  I simply had to have a set of my own, but the house was closed for restoration at this time so I couldn’t see the originals. So, I printed off this picture from the website and set to work:

David’s lead and plaster paterae in a Highland Toffee tin

I had absolutely no idea how these were made originally but I started making mine out of air-dry clay and polymer clay, which is a medium that can be baked in the oven to make it set hard.  I began with the sunflower as this one was my favourite, I love sunflowers, especially as they are depicted by so many of my favourite artists.  Each petal looks so perfect, so I made one petal, baked it, and then made a mould of it.  Some of the petals overlapped so I found the best way to approach it was to think of it as a clock.  The placement of them wasn’t as simple as a clockwise process starting at 12 o’clock, so here is how I placed them one-by-one:

The original gold paterae, my polymer clay model and plaster models and moulds

I used a ring of polymer clay underneath the petals to give them depth. Once I was satisfied with the placement of them I had only to roll up some little, tiny balls for the ‘seeds’.  After the whole sunflower was baked and cool, I made a mould of it with some silicone which takes 12 hours to set.  It’s always quite exciting and a little bit scary making a mould as air bubbles can get caught in the nooks and crannies, thankfully mine came out perfectly.  I used plaster of Paris to make more paterae, drilled a hole in them and added some ribbon so they could hang in my craft room.  They also made a TV appearance, on Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas programme in 2018!  I applied for the programme and used David Parr as my inspiration to make Christmas tree ornaments. I had to use an angel on the programme, but at home, I have David Parr on the top of my tree. I was very proud of my 15 minutes of fame, but even prouder that my paterae are now being sold in the David Parr House shop!

David Parr on top of my tree
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