Introducing Atelier - the heart and soul of Parks
Interview with Carol Symons, Parks London founder.
What is Parks “Atelier”?
"In many ways, Atelier is the heart and soul of Parks. It’s where all our decades of artisan passion, craftsmanship and curiosity come together in these unique pieces.
More than that, each Atelier piece encapsulates much of what we celebrate and value - individuality, innovation, sustainability, a sense of history, the pleasure of gifting something special… I could go on…
But everything I mentioned sits beside the reason Parks exists - we’re passionate about making beautifully fragranced homes because we know how it makes our lives better.
Ultimately, everything we do begins with Atelier – and the values it grew from."
Where did the idea of “Couture” Candles come from ?
"We’ve always made one-off pieces - either prototyping a range for us or a bespoke customer. But most of what we do in the studio and labs that became Atelier is experiment - trying different shapes and sizes of glass. There’s actually a lot of work that goes into making sure any new design works well. You need a consistently strong fragrance throw, a super-clean, even burn with no sooting or tunnelling.
1955 Eastern European vase upcycled into a Parks Original
What happened was, in our spare time, we started making candles out of art and antique glass. Purely for the pleasure of making something beautiful to fragrance our own homes with.
Then we began giving pieces to friends and family. There’s something special about gifting something totally individual, a one-off piece you’ll never find anywhere else. It’s not about exclusivity, it’s about the thought you put into a gift - recognising that person’s special, what their uniqueness means to you. We nick-named them Parks Originals after our first fragrance.
Then my daughter-in-law came into the picture. Marcelle was the inspiration behind selling Atelier pieces. Her company takes antique materials and turns them into one-off dresses. Bringing sustainability to the “couture” end of the fast-fashion world. That resonated with the reason we started Parks - the environment. It made me think we could do something similar in our industry. When we discussed it, Marcelle coined the phrase “couture candles”."
So the studio started off as R&D ??
"Yes. In 1989 when we started, the industry was hooked on paraffin. We’d looked at sub-contracting as demand grew, but no-one was making, or would even try making 100% natural wax candles. So there was a lot of research and development needed to get natural wax out-performing paraffin. Again, that happened in the studio and labs of what became Atelier."
How do you choose which pieces to make?
"I think there are two things I look for in a piece.
Firstly, how the light - especially the flame - plays through the glass and what it looks like, basically the aesthetics.
Then there’s the provenance - where the glass has come from. Especially the antiques with fascinating stories behind them.
We’re just working on an 18th century glass– from the American Civil War - with the most beautiful colours. I find myself staring at the flame flicker through the glass and imagining the journey it’s been on. We’re also exploring European glass from the 1930’s and 50’s. There were amazing artisans in Czechoslovakia, Poland, and of course, Italy.”
Have you got a favourite piece ?
“That’s hard. It seems like my favourite piece is always the next one. I’m afraid that feels like I haven’t answered your question.
Part of my answer comes selling a piece being so bittersweet. Bitter because you’re saying goodbye to something you’ve been working with and learning from for months - and you know there’ll never be another like it. Sweet, because you know it’s going to a home which will love it. I imagine that’s how artists feel after spending months on a painting. Once it’s found a home, your favourite’s the next.”.