Five with Fox: Zena El Farra, Masterpeace
Five short questions with the current movers and shakers of food, drink and design. We spoke to Zena El Farra, the founder of MasterPeace - London’s first dedicated mindful art experience. We have partnered with Masterpeace to offer a class (book here) in which you will learn to paint beautiful floral watercolours whilst sipping on a glass of Pale Fox.
Before becoming an entrepreneur, Zena worked a classic city job as a banker. Her role was designing and launching new mobile banking app concepts, a creative job within a very corporate industry. She founded MasterPeace almost two years ago, which is an art school and boutique art gallery, located in the heart of Belgravia. They offer in-studio, at work and online creative experiences to all ages and all artistic levels. For them, painting is a form of meditation, or mindfulness. Their focus is not on what our pieces end up looking like, they’re more passionate about helping create an environment where painting can be enjoyed as a way to relax and unwind.
In April 2021, Zena appeared on the first episode of Series 18 of Dragons’ Den on the BBC. This was such a surreal experience, full of highs and lows, but ultimately a very happy ending. Her pitch won over Deborah Meaden, who invested in Masterpeace and who’s support has been an invaluable part of their business ever since.
1. What sparked the initial concept of MasterPeace?
My idea for MasterPeace came about at a time when I felt like a lot of different things were catching up with me and I was on the edge of personal burnout. Leading a very busy city life in my corporate job, and looking after my mum who was suffering from advanced cancer left little time for me to look after my own wellbeing and mental health.
The defining moment for me was when my husband bought me a canvas to try and reignite my childhood love of art, something that could distract me from everything else that was going on in my life at that time, which was so fast paced and overwhelming. I was leading a busy corporate life and caring for my mum who was suffering with advanced cancer, and without realising it, I had reached complete personal burnout.
Having not picked up a paintbrush since school, I had forgotten that profound sense of calm and presence that painting can make you feel. It was the first thing I did that allowed me to completely unwind and refocus my mind.
This very personal discovery of the power of creative restoration coincided with the publication of a UCL study, giving evidence that creativity can tangibly boost the mood and be used as a mindful practice to improve one’s mental health. The collision of these events revealed to me that there was a gap in the market for art schools in the capital which focused on the psychological benefits of creativity rather than simply skill and output. And it was from here that the MasterPeace concept was born.
2. Has art always been a passion of yours?
When I was younger, art was a huge part of my life, but as I got older I ended up focusing my time on ‘core’ school subjects which would ultimately help me on way to securing a ‘classic city’ job.
I’m not a professional artist, art to me is more of a route to a place, like yoga and meditation is for other people. It gets me out of my busy head for a minute and helps me refocus on the beauty that’s around me. I’ve learnt to not get attached to what I’ve actually painted and instead, to just enjoy the restorative benefits of finding that creative ‘flow’. That is the feeling that I wanted other people to experience in the same way, which is why I created MasterPeace.
3. What have you found most difficult about starting a business?
Compared to my banker job, starting your own business doesn’t have the same financial security that comes from working with a big corporate company. The pressure of being personally responsible for paying my 30-person team each month, especially during the pandemic we’ve had, has been anxiety-inducing to say the least. But it’s only because I care so much about each individual person in my team that I never want to let them down – they are what makes MasterPeace the beautiful company that it is.
4. What do you enjoy most day to day running MasterPeace?
The thing that keeps me going and reminds me why I started all of this in the first place, is the stories I hear from our guests. Hearing about the impact our classes and kits have had on their emotional, mental and physical wellbeing keeps me motivated and makes me strive to reach and help more people to tap into their creativity every day.
5. What do you love about the Pale Fox brand and why?
We love working with brands whose ethos is in line with our values. Pale Fox endeavours to be as sustainable as possible in their manufacturing process by using 100% renewable energy. Sustainability is a big factor for us, as we have recently revamped our Art Kits to make them completely reusable or recyclable.
Every Pale Fox Prosecco bottle is made from quality ingredients and is 100% plant-based (it’s scary that so many wines are filtered using animal products these days). Alcohol is a big part of society… so it’s important we make it good!
With Prosecco, the experience starts at the box. Pale Fox has the most beautiful packaging - we had a big photo shoot with their products the other day and you just can’t take a bad photo of them… their branding is sophisticated, floral and… pink! We’re incredibly excited to be working with them.
Click here to check out Masterpeace's classes featuring Pale Fox