Eccleston Yards in Victoria used to be a dark & gloomy place, but recent redevelopment turned it into a magnet of creativity for different generations – there is food, fitness, pottery & so much more, as the place evolves. Take your pick, its all catered for! In September MasterPeace London, a first mindful art studio, opened its doors for business and this December I got to not only peak behind the scenes, but to create a masterpiece of my own.
Dreamed up by Zena El Farra, a petit dark-haired beauty with soulful eyes, who has a business mind and creative inner world. The drop-in boutique studio offers a very unique painting & drawing experience to anyone who is looking for a creative outlet or a peaceful space to challenge him or herself to create its own painting using acrylic paints. Using a simple projector, children and adults alike can ‘trace’ the favourite image from the phone and turn it into a personal picture they will love hanging up on the wall or in the office (or gifting to a special someone). MasterPeace studio is spread over two floors and while it feels homely & intimate, modern glass-fronted facade lets plenty of natural light in even on a grey day & blurs the line between inside and outside. A naturally calm, yet buzzy creative hub in the midst of a busy city.
Painting by yourself or as part of a group, you will be guided through a mindful meditation, challenged by a few fun, creative games (try drawing with the hand that isn’t your ‘main’ one, for example) and then helped to create a painting mindfully by a professional art instructor. The studio employees 20 local artists, who guide the class, as well as exhibit their work in the boutique studio.
“This boutique artistic studio fuses together creativity, mental-health & wellbeing under one roof, connecting painting & calm physiological state induced by meditation”
If you are relatively new to painting, you will start ‘projecting’ a photograph of your choice from your smartphones onto the canvas. By painting directly onto the light, I kidd you not when I say that you will leave with a fairly accomplished artwork in just 90 minutes. I marvelled at what I achieved, as I carried my framed canvas back home and I am still in a state of wonder about the whole process .)
MasterPeace is founded by Zena El Farra, 27, whose professional background lies in retail innovation. “MasterPeace is on a mission to make the arts accessible to all” said Zena. “Whilst MasterPeace is a luxe experience, we offer a weekly ‘Karma Class’, on a donation-only basis, to ensure everyone can afford to be part of our community.’ On this meditatively artful venture Zena partnered with Creative Director, Georgie Mason, 27, an award-winning abstract artist, who has exhibited at the Royal Academy and the Museum of Goa, with ten years’ teaching experience. “Research is increasingly backing up what I have seen first-hand,” said Georgie, “creativity can have a hugely positive impact on our wellbeing. Plus, by creating new ways for creative and professional communities to connect through a truly unique experience, we hope to breathe fresh life into the highstreet”.
While working in corporate finance, Zena was also caring for a mother with advanced cancer. This left no or little time for her to focus on herself & so Zena fast approached her own personal burnout. What brought the wind of change was Zena’s husband, who, noticing his wife’s internal struggle, bought a canvas for her, hoping it will reignite her love of art, that dates back to Zena’s childhood.
“It was the first thing I did that totally tuned me out of my own busy head and made it effortless to focus on just being.” Zena El Farra
Interestingly enough, the timing of Zena’s re-discovering her own love of painting, coincided with the publication of UCL research, showing that even a small amount of creativity can help you cope with stress, anxiety, and even the management of depression. The research found that the greatest opportunity comes from the exploration of the new creative pursuit done through regular face to face interaction, rather than via online tutorials. What Zena wanted was to make routine creative-restoration as easy, accessible and mainstream to Londoners, as booking a yoga class.
“I wanted a place that I could book into as effortlessly as I
book a Yoga or Spin class: a regular weekly drop-in schedule, pay-as-you-go, a beautiful clean inspiring place full of inspiring people.”
“In order to truly let go, you need to feel safe, comfortable, watered & fed. We designed the space to feel like someone’s front room. A huge bespoke banquet table, where ten people can come together and feel like they do having a Sunday lunch with family. You’re met at the door
by one of our friendly hosts by your first name, and are welcomed in by the smell of gentle lavender.”
I attended a 90-minute class and thoroughly enjoyed meeting many women that gathered around the table for the first time. Some escaped from the office, combining lunch and creativity, others came from home, wanting to satisfy their curiosity about this new concept. Zena and Sophie gave us all a warm welcome, made us coffee & tea, and started explaining what we could expect. Zena also looked at our pre-selected images and gave some tips. She explained the whole concept, made sure we ate and were comfortable and started the class with a gentle meditation & artful games that I mentioned earlier. Our class was very intuitive, rather than technically off-putting, irrespective of our art background – most of us were novices, yet none of us appeared daunted.
It was really nice to be in a carefully considered environment, intimate, yet vibrant. With fresh flowers side by side with pots filled to the brim with brushes, hearty mugs of hot drinks (you can have elegant champagne flutes, if you are so inclined by the way!), fresh croissants, pastries and sandwiches that looked almost like works of art, waiting to be painted.
Each one of us had a handy woven basket under the desk, where we could ‘hide’ our belongings from the paint drops. Zena & Sophie also gave each one of us beautiful, Japanese-inspired cotton kimonos to wear during our session, to protect our clothes. Each blue and white kimono lovingly hand-made in Jaipur by female survivors of domestic violence. Each commissioned gown helping provide for a school child at the nearby shelter. Creative business that isn’t just customer entered, but intent on giving to a wider range of society members.
Types of classes:
Fundamentals: A back-to-basics class, ideal for those who don’t know where to start when it comes to sketching and painting. Learn the essentials of sketching, mixing paint, selecting brushes, experimenting with textures and discovering the joy… of letting go.
Coached: Paint a photo from your smartphone and leave with a one of a kind MasterPeace. Connect your smartphone to a simple lightbox to project a photo directly on to your canvas, making it effortless to trace & paint.
Masters: A more technical class for those ready to broaden their artistic skills. Learn techniques, tips and tricks from the masters, with new themes revealed each month, including Landscapes, Seascapes, Portraits, Pet portraits and more. With the help of a professional artist, learn the traditional methods of drawing and painting, to take your
skills even further forward.
Freestyle – A non-supervised session, where you can use the studio space and materials to work on your own art piece. Take an easel and find your own flow.
Zena is as softly-spoken, as she is encouraging with each student. We worked individually, with Zena keeping an eye on us and offering advice or suggestions on things like mixing different paints, brush sizes or even the image selection. I came in with an overly ambitious image of three people – if you are new to painting choose a simple image to start with & build up your skills and confidence along the way. Yet thanks to artistic skills, advice, careful observation & positive attitude and respect towards each person in the studio, Zena made sure each one succeeded. At the end of the session we all walked around the table observing each other canvasses, feeling even more inspired by what others managed to achieve during the same amount of time. Each canvas so unique and so beautiful in its own right. I managed to surprise myself and actually did justice to two out of three people in the image – the third being me, I was least worried about .)
You can leave your masterpiece to dry after you finish the session (acrylic paint dries up fairly quickly, it has to be said) or have it framed there & then at MasterPeace studio. I carried mine proudly close to my chest & plan to give it to someone special during the festive season. And less than a week after my own induction session, I am already dreaming of going back to MasterPeace studio and painting there again, surrounded by strangers & under the watchful eyes of Zena or other artists who work in the studio, sharing their own knowledge, skills and sense of charming calm. I am also thinking of taking my own children to paint to their heart’s content at MasterPeace studio too!
Open 10am-10pm 6 days per week, Tuesday-Sunday (closed on Monday). Sessions cost £49 for 90 minutes (includes bottomless Prosecco & grazing board). Mini MasterPeace (age 6-12) is £40 for 90 minutes. MasterPeace can also be booked for private events, hen parties, date nights. For more information go to MasterPeace London website here