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Meet the Maker: Tess Newall

Tess Newall is a set designer and decorative artist. She paints murals in private homes and decorates furniture and lampshades to commission from her studio in East Sussex. As part of our series of Creative Workshops at Firmdale Hotels, we’re welcoming Tess to Haymarket Hotel on March 17th. During her special workshop you will be given your own handmade card lampshade to paint and take home. We’d love you to join us! We caught up with Tess to learn more about what inspires her creations. Join us as we ‘Meet the Maker’…

What have you been busy creating recently? 

I have recently launched my own collection of hand painted homewares. Our wallpapers and lampshades show every brushstroke and texture of an original piece and our mirrors, lamps and children’s chairs are all hand-painted in our studio.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by antique patterns, textiles and decorative interiors from across the world. I always visit the decorative arts museum of any city I visit. I also love artists whose work creates scenes and conjures other worlds, such as Oliver Messel and Natalia Goncharova.

Where did you first find your creative inspiration?

My mother is an artist and my childhood was spent painting and making from as early as I can remember. Back then, my inspiration always came from nature. Mum taught me to look at things carefully. Over the years I have built up a reference library of books and antique fabrics which I love delving into. The V&A archive is also a great place to search for inspiration.

Where do you like to work and why?

We live in East Sussex at the foot of the South Downs. I have a workshop where my team is based and I love the hustle and bustle and camaraderie there. It is next to my husband Alfred Newall’s furniture making workshop and we work a lot together. My most focussed work takes place in my studio which is in our garden. It is silent and surrounded by plants and flowers. I am probably the happiest when on-site, up a ladder or painting a mural. There is something very magical about seeing your vision come to life, as you never know quite how it’s going to turn out! 

What is your favourite colour combination and why?

I love earthy tones sitting alongside blues and greens. I also often use pops of red in my work – Diana Vreeland called red ‘the great clarifier’ which I completely agree with.

Where are you dreaming of visiting this year?

I would love to go to Lisbon. I would spend hours looking at azulejo tiles!

How has your style as an artist developed?

I think artists’ styles are always evolving. As a student, my art was very precise and representational, more like a fine artist. Then I worked in film, where I had to learn to adopt any style of painting and where research became key before starting on a project. It also usually involved painting a scene or decorating a room very quickly, under pressure and often in an awkward and cold location – that was very good training for a life on building sites and working to deadlines! I think that now, my style is becoming more recognisable as my own and I am fortunate that people place confidence in me to design what I feel is right for their space.

Do you have any tips for people wanting to discover their creativity?

I would say to try not to be self-critical. Paint or make something just for you and you will usually be amazed by how well it turns out. Everyone has creativity inside of them.

What made you choose to collaborate with Firmdale Hotels for your Creative Workshop?

I love Kit Kemp and her Design Studio’s use of colour and pattern. I have been lucky to paint murals and decorate furniture for many of their projects. Their room schemes bring joy to everyone who experiences them and they make you really want to look at the details. Our approaches feel very aligned!

The Lampshade painting workshop with Tess Newall will take place at the Haymarket Hotel 17th March.

During this special workshop you will be given your own handmade card lampshade to paint and take home. You will draw inspiration from the shapes, colours and patterns found in our hotel interiors and in Tess’s own collections. The workshop includes all materials including the choice of a large (39cm diameter) or small (28cm diameter) card lampshade, a practice panel for design work and a wide selection of specialist paints. If you’d like to join us, click here for tickets.

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