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 ….

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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!

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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?

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FROM SMALL ACORNS …

I recently felt the “OCD” need to clear out some of my 24,000 photos on my hard drive and came across a load of images of when I first discovered the magical world of face painting.  So, after some onerous pontificating and as we approach the end of my 6th year in business, I thought I’d be brave and share them with you!

Allow me to take you back to the spring of 2007 – a visit with friends to a local bird sanctuary, Birdworld in Farnham, and my daughter and her best buddy had their first experience of facepainting!

We queued rather tentatively for some time, as is the norm at these places; the children totally mesmerised and hardly uttering a word as they watched the lady at work.

We finally reached the front of the queue and my beautiful, pretty, girly, “pink in every way” daughter asked to be … “a COW”!   All my coercing towards the butterfly and princess photos on display fell on deaf ears and a cow she was going to be!

I gulped, as a lump lodged in my throat, watching the intense concentration on her face as she tried so hard to keep still for the face painter.

And as for the expression on her face when she took her first glance in the mirror?!  My heart totally melted and from that moment on I was set on the idea of recreating that reaction for her again.   The two of them spent the rest of the afternoon admiring each other’s faces with delight!  (If anyone has any idea who the face painter was then I’d love to know – I’ve never managed to track her down since – and I’d love to thank her for being one of my inspirations to start painting!)

First Time

The idea for Fascinating Faces was created just a few months after!  It was a beginning that many professional face painters will relate to – I picked up a cheap set of paints and decided to just “have a go”.  I got hold of the usual beginners books and set to work on both daughter and husband; my very first attempt being a CLOWN.

Early3

That face was to prove rather significant in the months and years to follow!

During the summer I decided to organise two summer parties for all of my daughter’s friends!  Fairies and pirates were the theme and, as a wannabe make-up artist since my teens, I was in my element with brush in one hand and sponge in the other!  (oh … and wings attached of course!)

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By then I was hooked and as they say, the rest is history!

My first “official” party had a circus theme and was held 120 miles away in Somerset by my daughter’s Godmother, Sophie, and good friend of mine since the age of 4.  The nerves kicked in big time and I spent hours surfing the net for clown face ideas, techniques for sponging and brushwork and attempting to buy the best paints I could for the job.  It was way back then that I discovered the virtues of Grimas cake white and I’ve never been without it since!

With shaking hands and my heart pounding I set to work on Sophie and her daughter followed by Daddy, Granny, Granddad and the Godparents!!!  They had all gone to town with their costumes and within no time the house was filled with white faces, red noses and crazy wigs and that was before any of the guests arrived!!!  I was then joined, somewhat surreally, by the lady who is the voice of Bella in the Tweenies and between us we painted our way through 15 more mini clowns and the party was complete …. all except me …. after all the nerves and excitement I ran out of time to paint myself!

At the party two photos were taken of Sophie and Ellie Mae that have remained as a constant in my portfolio ever since!  They were just so smiley and cute and summed up the atmosphere of the party and my initiation into the facepainting industry as a professional!!!

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Five years on I had an opportunity to recreate that magical day and painted Sophie and Ellie once again!

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Clowns have been an underlying (and unrealised) influence since my childhood love of Pierrot and they now represent a very important part of my life – my business – something I’m extremely proud of.

It has given me an opportunity to combine my two passions, art and children within an industry that has allowed me to use my business and creative skills to the max without compromising my most important role in life – being a mum!  It has also introduced me to some incredibly talented people who I am now proud to call my friends.

I’m now going to brave sharing with you some photos that illustrate my journey in the early days and would invite you to check out my current website gallery to see the progress that is possible as a result of an investment in training; hours of practice and the support and guidance of some amazing people in this industry.

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Early 5

In 2008 I plucked up the courage to enter a competition!  Ended up being put in the “Intermediate” category by mistake after applying as a “Beginner”!  Didn’t get placed but was proud to see my work on display!

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And just a few years later something happened that in 2007 I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams ….. the theme was “Heaven and Hell” and the live competition was “Face Painter of the Year”.

FPOTY

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream”  

C.S Lewis

TOP TIPS FOR BOOKING A PROFESSIONAL FACEPAINTER

Face painting is always a popular activity choice for parties, fetes, corporate events and fund raisers. The face painters’ “tent” frequently has the longest queue and is a fantastic attraction to encourage families to attend.

Budgets are often tight for everyone but this is one area where I would highly recommend that corners are not cut.

An experienced professional facepainter will be comfortable with painting at speed; dealing with children of all ages; placating tired parents and generally managing a busy queue.

There are a number of pointers a client can use to ensure they are booking a professional:

• Ensure they are fully insured with a public liability policy in place. Any individual painting professionally will have this set up as a minimum requirement. Many facepainters also have CRB certificates in place as a result of working in other child related environments, however, whilst this is a nice to have, this should not technically be necessary as a facepainter would always request that children are supervised at all times by their parent/guardian.

• Check their health and safety/hygiene policy. Most professional facepainters will use one sponge per child. Many will have a minimum age for facepainting. We only paint children aged 3 and over as their skin is starting to mature by this age; also many of the paint manufacturers do not recommend use of their products on children under 36 months. Brush water should be changed regularly and all equipment should be thoroughly cleaned between jobs. Children with skin conditions such as eczema, dermatitis, impetigo, chicken pox, cold sores etc should never be painted or those with streaming colds, conjunctivitis etc.

• Ask to see examples of their previous work or view their website gallery. This will give you an idea of the breadth of their portfolio. Look for a variety of detail in designs as this can illustrate the artist’s ability to paint more straightforward designs if needing to work at speed at busier events. http://www.fascinatingfaces.co.uk/galleries

• Take out references from previous clients. Most of our bookings come through word of mouth recommendations but we are always happy to provide references if a new client requests this. http://www.fascinatingfaces.co.uk/testimonials

• Ask what products they use. Popular brands are Snazaroo, Mehron, Diamond FX, Wolfe, Cameleon, Superstar. Acrylic paints or metallic/craft glitter should never be used on the skin.

• If a face painter is a member of FACE (The Face Painting Association) this will give you the assurance that they have been tested against strict criteria and should adhere to a strict code of conduct. This is not to say that non-members don’t (!) it’s just one more pointer to help guide you. http://www.facepaint.co.uk/