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Unravelling Nymans


Unravelling Nymans

Unravelling Nymans. Nymans House and Gardens, Handcross, Haywards Heath. Sussex. UK

4th May  -  31st October 2012.

Nymans is a National Trust property situated in the picturesque High Weald landscape of Sussex. The site is known primarily for its exquisite English garden, which has been designed and developed by three generations of the Messel family.


Unravelling the National Trust is a unique project offering artists and makers exhibition opportunities in National Trust properties. Conceived by arts organisation Unravelled, artists are invited to evoke histories, stories and a sense of place in a designated National Trust property. The project launched in May 2012 at Nymans House and Gardens in Sussex, continued at the Vyne in Hampshire in 2013 and will culminate with the third and final exhibition at Uppark House and Gardens in West Sussex, launching in spring 2014.

The Unravelled artists are commissioned to create site-specific works referencing Nymans intriguing history, reflecting on the architecture and echoing elements from the significant collections housed in the property. Encouraged to tell tales through their work about Nymans evolution and the historical characters connected to the property. On show, are a series of works designed to provoke and surprise visitors, whilst also providing unique insights into the history of the house and gardens.


Steven was one of twelve artists commissioned to produce new work for the Unravelled Project. Artists working within craft practice were asked to propose site-specific work in response to the history and environment of the National Trust property. Aswell as responding to the site and producing a creative intervention into a specific space, the project offered Steven an opportunity to expand his knowledge and skills in digital manufacturing processes.



Exhibition Catalogue Statement

Nymans is full of stories and snippets of information. Like the house, disparate components come together to build a picture of what once was and no longer is. 

I visited Nymans several times, getting a feel of the place, listening to the stories told by the staff. I learnt about the Pinetum and the Monkey Puzzle Tree, and was drawn into the forms and geometric patterns in the plants. I was intrigued by the witch’s marks at the entrances to the house*, the beautiful panels of embroidered floral designs produced by the Sewing Group. I learnt about the Messel collection of fans, now in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.


Many of the stories grew from the family's love of plants and I wanted to make something inspired by these. Light caught my attention; I was aware of visual layers, being able to look through to different spaces. I liked the way in which archways, entrance-ways and empty windows framed the view to other parts of the house or the grounds beyond. 


The porch in the forecourt garden had a special atmosphere. A place to shelter, or to meet, it linked the inside of the house to the garden, a bridge between the two parts of the site that were important to the Messels. The curves of its arches echo around the gardens in the natural and manmade structures. A light had once existed but was no longer there. It seemed appropriate to design a new one for this space, inspired by the curves of the urn, the patterns and forms of the plants and the shapes of the fans, making use of components to form a larger whole. At night a light could make the place feel safer. It offers an opportunity to re-tell some of the stories of the house and family and for a new tale to begin.


Nymans was built from parts of many older houses, some of the elements of these older houses are said to contain examples of witches or Apotropaic marks. In some houses built in the 16th -18th centuries, ritual marks such as a cross, circles, a ‘daisy wheel’, P, W or the initials V and M were incorporated into the fabric of a building. They were placed at entrances to the house (windows, doorways, fire places) as a ritual act, for good luck or protection against ill fortune from entering the house.


Reviews & Articles

Unravelling Nymans was reviewed in AN Magazine June 2012

Unravelling Nymans - Article

 'Unravelling Nymans' website: Unravelling Nymans


The Messel collection of fans in The Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge:  Fitzwilliam Museum


Unravelling Nymans is part of the National Trusts 'New Art and Craft' programme. New Art & Craft

Nymans article in The Argus:

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