Meet the Shropshire-based father and daughter team sharing their passion for crafts
Father and daughter team Roger Newton and Kate Elwell are passionate about sharing their love of traditional crafts.
Together they run a teaching studio offering intensive courses in the art of gilding and paint finishes.
Students travel from far and wide to learn from master gilder Roger, who began his training at the famous studio of Colefax and Fowler.
The school opened at Leighton Lodge, near Shrewsbury, in August 2021 and since then has expanded to also include a range of craft courses taught by guest tutors.
They have more than 40 scheduled for 2024, covering everything from cushion making and block printing to willow weaving and making paper flowers.
“It started as my father and I, and that’s still the heart of what we do, but we’ve become a massive creative hub for all these other crafts too. People come here to teach from all over the country,” says Kate.
“The studio is always full of laughter and creativity, which is lovely and more than I could ever have dreamed of.”
Roger started his training in 1955 and, under expert guidance, he learned the art of furniture decoration and had the opportunity to work on pieces from the finest houses, for both private clients and The National Trust.
In 1961, Roger, now aged 85, opened his own workshop on London’s iconic Kings Road specialising in furniture painting, gilding and lacquering.
Over the last 40 years he has taught in both London and Guernsey before finally settling in Shropshire and opening the teaching studio with Kate. The youngest of Roger’s five children, She was brought up in his studio and started helping her father with paint effects as soon as she could hold a paintbrush.
They help students to become knowledgeable in the techniques of decorating furniture and frames through finishes such as malachite, marbling, tortoiseshell and graining, or in the gilding course, be fully competent at preparing gesso, and laying and burnishing gold leaf.
Students then have the skills they need to create whatever they wish and some have even been motivated to begin a lucrative hobby or a new career.
Kate says there has recently been a resurgence in the popularity of traditional paint finishes, especially malachite.
“I’m seeing a massive surge in interest in these paint finishes that were very popular 40 years ago in the interior design world. They’re coming back into fashion. These are great crafts to learn, they’re crafts not art, so everybody can do it. You can spend a few days learning how to do these finishes yourself and it’s a cost-effective way of revamping your home,” she tells Weekend.
The courses can be either ‘live out’ or residential and a locally sourced, homemade lunch and tea is served every day.
No prior experience is necessary, simply a willingness to learn.
“We have people coming from all over the world but very few locals so it would be lovely to like to see more people from Shropshire.” who may not know they have such a fun thing to do on their doorstep.
“Although we have accommodation, people don’t have to stay with us. We start the courses at 10am as we’re mindful that mums may need to drop their children off at school,” says Kate.
The mother of two has also opened an online shop selling hand-painted accessories for the home and also offers a free colour match to go with any interior.
“The ‘blanks’ I paint are all handmade in England by a mental health charity supported by the Princes Trust, which I adore being able to support in a small way,” she explains.
Both father and daughter find teaching their enthusiastic students new skills incredibly rewarding and have been delighted to receive many handwritten thank you letters and cards.
“I love meeting people and all of the fun and laughter we have together. I love the joy it brings to people when they do something they didn’t think they could do and they leave with a smile on their face. Dad loves teaching and having a captive audience listening to his every world. There are very few master gilders so to have someone with his experience who is still happy to share that knowledge is very rare.”
“Teaching is a real passion of his and he can answer any question he is asked,” says Kate.
For more information about the Roger Newton & Daughter School of Decorative Finishes, the courses and the syllabus, see mastertheart.uk or follow them on Instagram @master_theart
Use the discount code Shropshire5 to get five per cent off all courses for bookings until the end of the year.