Luxury For ALL The Family at The Four Seasons Hampshire

Sixteen years ago in a “previous life”, I found myself “living the dream” spending a 3 night business trip at the stunning Four Seasons Hotel on the beautiful island of Nevis in the West Indies.

Nevis

That was my first introduction to the incredible Four Seasons experience and one I’ll never forget.

Fast forward to today and I am now very fortunate to have the Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire as one of my top clients! Not quite the same tropical sandy setting but equally as stunning and possibly even more beautiful, set in spectacular English countryside in a quiet village called Dogmersfield just off the M3 near Fleet.

The hotel is a majestic 300 year old Georgian Manor Estate set in 500 acres that boasts visits by both Henry VI and Henry VIII.  Providing the ultimate in luxury it is, as you would expect, a popular destination for those seeking a special few days away from the rat race.

Four Seasons General

The hotel particularly stands out for me as I have rarely found a venue of this stature that welcomes families with small children so warmly. As a parent who likes to treat myself to the finer things in life every so often, I have become very frustrated over the last 10 years trying to find pubs, restaurants and hotels that offer luxury and opulence whilst still welcoming families with open arms. The Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire has quite simply nailed it!

Allow me to introduce you to “Kids for All Seasons”.

The hotel offers this exclusive “club” for their shorter guests!  On arrival, each child receives a personal invitation to participate in the fun packed Kids For All Seasons activity schedule, the hotel’s meticulously organised children’s programme.

“It’s definitely true that happy children make happy parents, so we aim to please the whole family by keeping the children entertained with a full range of activities to suit even the most discerning little guests!” Sam Kirby, Concierge.

The Kids for All Seasons Cottage is a wonderfully vibrant play zone set in it’s own charming building in the grounds, a short stroll from the main hotel. KFAS Inside

It is complimentary and available to all little guests aged 3 to 10 years. Under 3s are also welcomed when accompanied by a parent/guardian. Over 10s have their own games room upstairs with pool table, table tennis and wii station!

It is an Aladdin’s cave for the little ones. Run by the very lovely Nicole and a team of brilliant helpers (who the children all adore) the facility offers a wealth of toys; never-ending arts and crafts as well as films and video games.

Nicole Arts and Crafts

Even the children’s toilet is totally cool!!!

Taps

We have been providing our professional team of top class face painters to the hotel for 3 years now and love every booking.   As well as enjoying working with Nicole in the cottage we have also joined the wider team for family days, Halloween Parties; Christmas and New Year celebrations and of course their annual Terry Fox Fun Run raising funds for Cancer Research.

“Fascinating Faces is always a hit with our Kids for All Seasons and the school holidays wouldn’t be the same without Claire’s team’s colourful creations”

Sam Kirby, Concierge

Last Spring they also opened a brand new equestrian centre on site that offers “own a pony days” and riding lessons for children as well as a petting zoo during peak periods. The hotel also boasts a magical outdoor playground beside the cottage with a climbing wall, a rope bridge, covered slide and swings.

Outdoor Fun

Also recently opened, is the Highwire Adventure experience – check out this awesome video.

In summary, the Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire is a quintessentially English Utopia for families – there is so much more on offer than what I have managed to cover today – you can read more in this lovely review by a recent guest

http://familyholidays.fourseasons.com/family-holidays-hampshire-uk/

or better still book your family in now!!

http://www.fourseasons.com/hampshire/

(February half term, the Easter break and May Bank Holiday weekends are key dates coming up on the calendar so book soon if you’d like to experience this wonderful hotel and all it has to offer.)

The next dates you can find Fascinating Faces there working our magic with our paint and glitter are Saturday 14th and Saturday 21st February from 1.30pm – 4.30pm.

Fascinating Faces

And it’s not just for little kids either … big kids can have fun too!

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Inspiration, Inspiration, Inspiration

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I hugely admire the rare artists out there who can conjour up the most incredible, unique pieces of art totally from their minds – be it on canvas, skin, walls, fabric, paper …

Sadly that is not where my strength lies personally and I have to draw inspiration from many sources and resources. I am never comfortable “winging it” especially with larger projects like bump art and body art – I spend endless, frustrating, often fruitless, hours researching images, testing out ideas and practicing my designs on canvas before transferring them to my models.

I keep my eyes peeled constantly when I’m out and about – ideas are out there everywhere – in nature, on wallpaper, wrapping paper, fabric, advertising, flooring etc etc. I often get rather odd looks from strangers when I stop in the middle of a shop to photograph some obscure piece of objet d’art or an intricate pattern hidden in the swathes of gift wrap draped on display in a corner.

Other artists that I admire are an obvious constant source of stimulus. I have a “muse” file set up on my computer full of designs that amaze me and encourage me to stretch myself.   Take a look at some amazing face and body painters from the UK and all over the world at earlier blogs here. Inspirational Artists from Overseas and Home Grown Talent

My phone memory is bursting at the seams with reference photos for the more unusual requests we get at busy jobs and wherever possible I check wifi access at bookings before I start so, if time permits, I can look up anything I’m asked for that I’m not familiar with.

Thought I’d share some examples with you of images that have inspired some of my more recent designs.

Tiger

Clown

 

Purple

Excepting an occasional “light bulb” moment, I have recently hit a bit of a brick wall with my own work – a sort of plateau where I feel stuck in an artistic rut – churning out variations of the same designs over and over; not having time to experiment with really new fresh options. I am regularly reassured by the whoops of delight from the children and parents during their mirror moments that I am still managing to deliver what I need to for my customers but I feel the need to challenge myself and have a monstrous, fat, hairy, audacious action point on my to do list (some of my old Prudential colleagues will recognise that reference!) to come up with a whole new portfolio of designs! I want a new tiger, a new fairy, a new princess, a new pirate … a new EVERYTHING. Not an easy task but I would LOVE to come up with a profusion of fresh, original designs that are fast but effective!

I thought by putting this in my blog it’ll commit me to delivering on this goal and whilst I’m not going to give myself a finite deadline, it will be a continuing work in progress and I’ll keep you all posted as things develop!

So enough blogging for now – I’m off to lose myself on my iPad in the deepest darkest artistic corners of Pinterest,   Google images Getty Images  and anywhere else they may lead me!

See you on the other side!

 

 

 

 

Friday Favourites – TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE … OR IS IT?

I have to admit to occasionally being a little cynical of grandiose declarations on websites and marketing material claiming to be  “the best in town”; “can’t be beaten on price”; “market leading provider”; “match any price” etc etc.

What I look for when engaging a supplier of any variety are personal references, referrals and testimonials.

In turn, this is also hugely important to me when promoting my own company.  I take tremendous pride in the service we offer; exceeding our customers’ expectations is our aim and it is so rewarding to receive wonderful feedback.

This week I wanted to share with you some of our most heart-warming comments and what I believe was behind the generous and kind words.

Everyone had a wonderful time, and I must say your contribution to the day was a highlight for most of the children. They all said it was really good because they could choose what they wanted to have done themselves! 

d23242bbd44a84ba6b26522c821f8a61In the words of the children, “you were great!”

Thanks again”

Sandra Wells, Send

This is one of the reasons we choose not to use photo boards when we work; we encourage children to use their imaginations and tell us how they want to be painted and we love the challenge and variety this gives us with our art.

“I just wanted to say what a fantastic job you made of my twins’ faces thank you! They looked amazing! They also loved the photographs and I wondered whether you could possibly email copies to me please as I would like to get them made up into mini canvasses for their bedrooms?”

Alison Tysoe, West Byfleet

Montage

Whenever possible I try to take photos of all the children I paint at parties and then put together a montage  for the birthday child as a memento of their special day!  It’s a lovely way of capturing the freshly painted artwork for the parents before smudges, chocolate and sometimes a few tears wipe it away!

“Just a little note to say a HUGE BIG thank you for making our daughter’s party so special. We all had such a brilliant time and it was down to you getting the adults involved and interacting with kids in such a wonderful way. I never thought a face painting party could be so much fun. I really appreciate the time you gave us and for staying on longer so that my husband could join in the fun.”

Alison, Blackwater

The children LOVE it when the adults muck in with the party shenanigans too.  Whenever time permits, we will always encourage and entice the parents to get involved too even if it’s just a sprinkling of glitter!

“Thank you so much for all your hard work on Friday. Your face painting was truly amazing and I would not hesitate to recommend you or ask you to come and work at another of our functions. I had no idea we were going to be quite that busy. By the end of it we had had the busiest day since we opened 18 months ago – beating even Christmas eve!

John Taylor, The Richard Onslow, Cranleigh

This was some lovely feedback following a booking at the fabulous Richard Onslow pub in the beautiful village of Cranleigh.

With a background in corporate marketing and event management we pride ourselves in helping companies promote their events wherever possible and hope we manage to increase their exposure and footfall.

On this occasion, we were booked for a special Royal Wedding celebration – the sun shone down; the pub was heaving and my queue was endless!  FANTASTIC!

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“You are a terrific artist and everyone was asking where I had found you.

Thank you Claire for your patience and understanding with the guests and when I heard you had not worked with special needs before, I found this absolutely amazing and I cannot thank you enough. I know family and friends loved having the painting done as well.

A thousand thanks would never be enough.”

Val, Ron, Claire-Marie, Daniel and Ben, Hindhead

This particular party will always be in my heart.  It was a special lady’s 30th birthday celebrations and was my first booking working with special needs children and adults.  Most of my beautiful models that day were unable to talk but the wonderment in their eyes when they looked in the mirror melted my heart.  I am so grateful to Val and Ron for inviting me to be party of Claire-Marie’s special celebration.

And just one more to finish on …

“Your painting is more awesome than awesome!!!!”

Bella (aged7), East Horsley

Awesome Pic

Thank you Bella for warming my soul and melting my heart with that comment.

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Please remember to take the time to say thank you to people and companies who have delighted you with their service.  So many people are swift to complain at the slightest error but slow to show their appreciation.  It means the world to any customer-facing business and is worth more than any bottom line figure any day.  

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You can read more of our treasured testimonials on our website here.

Friday Favourites – HOME GROWN TALENT

A couple of weeks ago I did a feature on my favourite artists from around the world.  This week I’m going to bring things closer to home and want to share with you the work of some amazing artists here in the UK.

Our little island is brimming with incredible artistic talent and here’s an insight into just a few of my favourites.

BRIERLEY THORPE  Brierley Thorpe Face and Body Art 

I first became aware of Brierley at the FACE Conference in Hertfordshire in 2011 when she won the FACE Award and the Best Kept Kit award.  I’d not had a chance to speak to her during the conference nor see her working but I quickly became much more familiar with her artistic talent.   To say her designs are instantly recognizable is an understatement!  Her strong and dynamic style stands out immediately and the vibrancy takes your breath away.

Her body painting is equally awe inspiring each one set off brilliantly with exquisite hand-made headpieces; hairpieces and jewels adorning the beautiful models.

BRIERLEY

Each design is the result of extensive research and inspiration from a profusion of sources.   Brierley explains here in her blog  how her recent design painted at the 2014 Paradise Jam came about.

You can see more of her resplendent work on her Facebook page here.

Brierley also offers training workshops in her studio in Walthamstow.

KJ (KELLY-JANE ERKIN)  KJ Entertainments

The 2011 FACE Conference also resulted in my first meeting with Kelly-Jane – known fondly to most as KJ.  I’ll never forget setting up my kit beside her for my first attempt at the Face Painter of the Year competition (and my first ever live competition) trembling with nerves.  On striking up a conversation, I was relieved to hear that she was as anxious as me and we both egged each other on to avoid bottling it all together!

KJ and her partner (in love and business) Dan run KJ Entertainments in Cambridgeshire offering everything you could need for a party from KJ’s painting to Dan’s awesome balloon modelling with a little bit of fabulous singing thrown in too!

KJ’s painting designs are quite simply the epitome of prettiness!   Her style is uncomplicated and seemingly effortless.  She has a natural ability for one stroke painting – producing such delicate work with flamboyant brush strokes.

KJ

What I love most about KJ’s work is that she is a fabulous example of an extremely talented “jobbing” face painter – someone who can turn out endless, original, rapid designs with a bit of an edge keeping impatient children and parents happy whilst still turning heads with the results.   I often look to KJ’s photos for inspiration when my creative genes are waning!

WENDY HOLROYD (The Paintertainer)

Another artist with an immediately identifiable style.  Wendy, from St Albans, has been painting since 2007.

Wendy is renowned in our industry for her beautifully delicate, lifelike butterflies.  Many an artist strives to perfect a “Wendy Butterfly” much in the same way that we aspire to emulate  a “Mark Reid tiger”!

WENDY

Her talent is magical to watch – effortless brush strokes and often unexpected colour blend choices come together to produce flawless, ethereal designs.

I’m particularly grateful to Wendy for saving me from my design nemesis – Spidey.  It is a pet hate of mine when I see beginner face painters (myself in the early days included) smother entire faces with layer upon layer of red paint followed by heavy black linework – you can see the parents shudder at the thought of removing it all at bedtime!  Wendy’s delicate interpretation of this popular boys’ request inspired me (and many others) to come up with my own version that wows the children; beats the queues and pleases the nervous parents.

WENDY 1

Thanks Wendy!

NAOMI GAYE “NAMS”  (Nam Nam’s Face Painting and Body Art)  

Bizarrely, I’ve just realized that Nams is yet another artist who I first met at what seems to be becoming a rather significant FACE Conference in 2011!!

She has won many awards during her ten year painting career including three times winner of the FACE Association” Face Painter of the Year – I managed to pinch it off her in 2012 but she stole it right back again in 2013!!!  Well deserved I hasten to add!

NAMS

Based in Brighton, Nams has been face painting for 10 years and is a fabulous all round face and body artist but is particularly known for her intricate eye designs.   She is always a massive hit at festivals and frequently shares her expertise with fellow painters touring the country offering training workshops.

A huge thank you to all of the above artists and many many more that inspire me every day.  We have so many talented people the length and breadth of the UK.

Please please please non-painty people, if you are looking for a face painter for your event please don’t compromise and pick the cheapest you can find.  There are SO many wonderful, professional artists to choose from who may not be “cheap” but you really do get what you pay for in terms of experience, quality of products; customer service and professionalism.   Fascinating Faces covers Surrey and the surrounding counties but we can always recommend people to you all over the country so please get in touch wherever you may be!  We’re always happy to help you find the best.

Notes 

FACE” The Face Painting Association was formed 20 years ago so that like-minded people could get together to share ideas and professional problems in order to improve standards and raise the profile of face painting.  You can find out more about joining or find a professional face painter local to you by visiting http://www.facepaintingassociation.com/

Credits to all the artists mentioned can be found by clicking on the pink text within the article.

Friday Favourites ….. VENUES and VIEWS!

I’ve worked in a plethora of venues over the years – from tired, damp church halls and remote corners of wet, muddy, windy fields in the middle of nowhere 542386_4174060235955_1769070261_nto plush function rooms of five-star deluxe hotels and conference suites in top executive corporate offices in the City – they all have their own individual charm!

IMG_2109My trusted kit has been dragged on trains, across car parks and fields; squeezed in and out of lifts and heaved up a myriad of staircases – and my poor back and shoulders have taken the brunt of it!

As the years go by, my back gets weaker and I get wiser; my kit gets gradually smaller and smaller but I know I can still do better!  One day I hope to start a trend in “monochrome facepainting parties” … just think “painty friends” ….  a Grimas cake white, a Wolfe black and white and a bag full of sponges, three brushes, some glitter, a mirror and I’d be all set!!!

Over the last few months I’ve started keeping a photographic diary of my painting locations!  For all the jobs I moan about, I get twice as many that are just idyllic and I find myself in settings that make me very grateful for the business I’m in.

Each photo, as always, tells a story!  So here’s a glimpse of my favourites to date.  As always, in no particular order!

The first was a set up on the edge of the River Thames in the grounds of a beautiful mansion.  The party itself was being held on a riverboat moored up beside the house and the interior of the boat itself even resembled something out of Surrey Life Magazine!    I was set up in the boathouse on the river bank overlooking this wonderful view! 

River Thames

It was just me, the booze table and an amazing buffet spread!   The PA who had organised the party had so much planned and the guests were in for a fantastic event.   Unfortunately, half way through the afternoon, the Heavens opened and the pelting rain set in for the rest of the day.  The band rushed all their equipment into the boathouse in a panic and I dragged my set up further and further into a corner!  Before I knew it, the band and I were squashed up together at one end and all the sodden party guests filled the rest of the space!  It turned out to be a rather intimate afternoon!

One of my favourite bookings was a weekly Sunday carvery at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel in Guildford, sadly now ended but hoping they’ll have me back one day soon.   Every Sunday I’d rock up at their glamorous foyer and wheel my kit through to their beautiful restaurant.  The staff were so welcoming and I always felt like part of their team.  My view at this job was very decadent –

Radisson Hotel

– a stunning restaurant, with a very grown up feel but one that welcomes children!  Not bad eh?

A great place to work, however, if I turned 90 degrees to my right the view that presented itself was positively torturous ….

IMG_3095

My mouth watered and my stomach positively growled through every minute of the 2 hour booking each week!  They spoiled me on a couple of occasions and plated up a delicious roast for me to enjoy after I finished!  Yum!   Their restaurant, the Scoff and Banter, still offers a great choice for breakfasts or brunches to three course business lunches, weekend roasts and indulgent afternoon teas.   Definitely worth a visit, even without the face painting!

Jubilee weekend in 2012 brought one of my wettest, windiest but memorable jobs to date!!  I found myself set up in a vast expanse of field, surrounded by acres of more fields, under a flimsy gazebo with no sides and then the rain came down!

I found two little helpers to cart my kit across the soggy grass …

Jubilee

… but as you can see the field was rather lacking in guests as they were still quaffing champagne and canapés at their street party 500 yards away!

So I twiddled my thumbs for half an hour and admired the view ….

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… eventually everyone started to ramble up the hill to the party area and I got ready with my red, white and blue!    Once again, as is the British weather’s want, the Heavens opened and the rain was lashing into the gazebo horizontally.  Fortunately, I had my wonderful assistant with me (my Mum!) and also some family members who were camping nearby who surrounded me with golf umbrellas and the show went on!!!  As you can imagine the paint didn’t last long once exposed to the elements and there were a few bedraggled Union Jack faces wandering around all afternoon!

My fourth favourite has to be one of my old haunts in my twenties, The Black Swan  in Ockham.  A fabulous pub in a stunning setting – I highly recommend it any time of the year, but especially on a warm summer’s afternoon.

Black Swan

Take your family for a walk in the beautiful Surrey Hills followed by a lazy, leisurely Sunday lunch in their cosy, welcoming restaurant or partaking in their mouth-watering barbecue in the idyllic beer garden.  I’ve already featured this pub in another blog so you can read more about it here.

And last but by no means least … the totally fabulous Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire!

FPO_HAM_185

We are proud to be the preferred suppliers for this luxurious, glamorous hotel and have been working with them for the last couple of years.   Unlike many other elegant top class hotels in the UK, the Four Seasons welcomes families with young children with open arms.

Bank holiday weekends and special holidays are especially magical as they put on the Kids for All Seasons programme with an activity itinerary that fills a small brochure!  Parties, craft activities, pony riding, bike rides, treasure hunts, movies and of course face painting plus much more!   Rose Cottage, in the grounds of the Hotel, is a haven for small children; staffed by a wonderfully caring team, there are toys and games galore to keep the kids occupied whilst Mum and Dad enjoy a few hours peace indulging in treatments in the hotel’s opulent spa!   As I write, they have just been awarded the Real Critics Guide Award for ‘Real Outstanding Country Retreat’ 2013 and check out this fabulous review on Conde Nast Traveller!  Watch this space for an up-coming article specifically dedicated to this wonderful hotel.  And maybe one day I’ll find a weekend spare to actually book in and indulge with my own daughter!!!

So there you have it …. sure beats commuting to a stuffy office every day!

Where’s the best place you’ve ever worked?

Friday Favourites ….. INSPIRATIONAL ARTISTS

Oh my goodness, where do I start … I am inspired every day by artists from all over the globe … many close to home who I have the pleasure of working with week by week and some further afield – this week I’m going to focus on my favourite international artists.

My top five change regularly depending on what I’m working on and what mood I’m in; but these guys are always at or close to the top, week in week out!

NICK AND BRIAN WOLFE – Orlando, USA I had the great pleasure of meeting Nick a couple of years ago and took part in an awesome training workshop with him.  Sadly, I never got to meet his equally amazing brother, Brian before he lost his battle with cancer last year, but was fortunate to receive messages of advice and support from both of them over the years.

Nick and Brian Wolfe

I adore watching them work; I could watch for hours – their style is unique; the speed with which the designs come together is awe-inspiring and their repertoire endless!

I feel hugely privileged to have been painted by Nick on his last visit to the UK (shouldn’t really have grinned in this shot as it ruins the mouth effect but couldn’t help myself!!)

WOLFE3

NICK WOLFE GALLERY

Check out their tutorial videos on FabaTV – as well as learning loads; you’ll laugh throughout too – the glint in their eyes is never far away!   I am very precise with my style of work and Nick and Brian both inspire and help me to “loosen up” with my painting and go with the flow a bit more.   If body painting is more your thing; then you can’t go far wrong checking out their work – many designs are like “magic eye pictures” the more you look the more you see – designs within designs within designs!

Wolfe

LYNNE JAMIESON – Werribee, Australia.  Lynne is the magical talent behind Face Magic.  LYNNE 1

I have admired Lynne’s work from my first days of face painting and whilst I’ve not yet had an opportunity to participate in face to face training; I have relished the tutorials she has filmed for FabaTV.  Her application style is highly individual and it is fascinating to watch her effortlessly work her magic in front of your eyes.   Her humble and modest persona makes you warm to her immediately and she has a wonderfully calm and relaxed style of teaching.

LYNNE'S FACE MAGIC

Whilst her manner may be gentle; her artwork is flamboyant and dynamic – each design pops off the face and exudes character and charm.

LYNNE 2

JENNY SAUNDERS – Melbourne, Australia.   Another antipodean inspiration; I have been a fan of Jenny’s work for some time; seeing photos appearing on various websites/social media sites over the years but it was an article in Illusion Magazine (Issue 18)  that really raised my interest and admiration.  Her work oozes with personality and character and is so vivid and vibrant.

JENNY

Each face instantly identifiable with its rainbow of hues and meticulous line-work and blending.   Her photographs clearly illustrate the joy and excitement in each child’s eyes and, in my mind, totally epitomise the wonder of our craft.

GENEVIEVE HOULE “JINNY” – Quebec, Canada.  An exquisite face and body painting artist whose seamless shading and decorative line work have always been a great influence on my work.    Her style of painting, particularly her blending, is more akin to make up application – beautifully smooth and totally precise.   She has produced a couple of fantastic training DVDs which are somewhat pricey and I’m not sure that they are still available in the UK – but if you can get hold of a copy – they’re fantastic.  

Alternatively, she has produced some wonderful youtube tutorials for beginner painters which can be found on her website  or directly at her youtube channel.  And, of course, you can also find her on FabaTV!

(I wasn’t able to make contact with Jinny before publishing the article to get her approval to share some photos but there are plenty to be seen on her website if you’d like to take a look!)

MARK REID – New Mexico.  How could I finish my top faves without including the inimitable “King of Cats”, Mark Reid.   Another amazeballs artist that I’ve also missed several opportunities to meet over the years!  There are very few tiger faces that I see painted that don’t scream out a hint of Mark in some form or another!  His brush technique and symmetry are exemplary and I understand from friends that he is a fabulous teacher – with, unsurprisingly, a huge emphasis in his workshops on linework, linework, linework!  He even has his own range of brushes and glitter gels!

MARK REID

Like all of the artists I’ve mentioned today, you can get access to his training through FabaTV and Mark has also produced several books and DVDs which should have pride of place on every face/body painter’s shelf!   In the UK you can purchase these from Illusion Magazine, The Face Painting Shop, Facepaint UK, Dauphines and probably others too!

MARK REID 2

So that’s my top five – I’d love to know who inspires you … please feel free to comment below!

(Links to all the artists websites can be accessed by clicking on their names!  I urge you to take a look and be inspired too!)