An enchanted tea party in the woods!

by Carys - Stylist for The Prop Factory

Friday 2nd August 2019 12:46:50


'A photoshoot that had me jumping for joy'

Can you imagine happening upon a fairy tea party in the woods? Who might they have invited? Woodland elves, some enchanted trees, a friendly dragon and a pixie acrobat maybe? Picture them making merry around a gigantic table beneath foliage draped lampshades, vividly coloured carnival stars and giant colourful dreamcatchers. This vision came to life at a recent photoshoot that had me jumping for joy inside and now I get to share the photos. 

This photoshoot had the fantasy feeling of the Lord of the Rings or a magical scene set in Harry Potter's forbidden forest. Just watching the characters bring our enchanted set to life I could see so much opportunity for film and photos that I couldn't put my phone down. Luckily I had Ellie Cruse from Confetti Rose Photo & Film taking the photographs so I knew that all of the 'wow' I was seeing was being captured!

Following our recent circus shoot with Valerian Entertainment, we couldn't miss the opportunity to collaborate with them again and grab a peek at the exciting costumes they had been creating. Gemma from Valerian had mentioned flower fairies, dragons and elves and I was excited to make a set that would really show these off - it's right up our street as so many of our creative props and furniture fall into the enchanted theme. A few months back, Mark from Deer Park Country House Hotel had offered us the use of their Chauffeurs Hideaway. It's an outside dining area situated a little way away from the main house, right amongst the trees where deer roam but, most excitingly, it boasts a truly massive table and benches made from a humongous tree with the bark still attached. I could already envision the flower fairies all standing on the giant table which would make them look tiny - like real fairies.

This idea led naturally to my decisions for table decor. I chose not to dress the table with plates and cutlery as I wanted the fairies dancing and prancing without the risk of china in the way. I also wanted to maintain the illusion of scale and regular sized crockery could spoil that image. Our floor standing cream and gold candelabra stand at 152cm - about 5ft - tall, so placing them on the tabletop as you would with regular-sized candelabra on a regular-sized table was perfect to make the fairies look tiny. I didn't take candles along but our bare woodland lampshades with foliage and bare woodland lampshades - kind of 'bare bones' lampshades without the fabric - looked amazing sat on top of a candelabra like a forest lamp. This is a really lovely alternative to a floor lamp and the shades fit snugly so why not recreate this at your party for something a little different? You can also add your own decoration to the lampshades to suit your theme - we love discovering a new styling idea.

We added ivy and forest flowers running all the way along the table, adding to the pots of succulents that were already in place. The tiny wooden toadstools that seem to pop up all over our enchanted themed props were buried amongst the undergrowth - we love using these as styling decor.

We were well on the way to creating our overgrown, bewitching hangout for our fantasy characters. We have quite a selection of oversized props in our warehouse to pick from. Our new hanging carnival stars with tassel details in bright primary colours and a gold sheen hung from a couple of the candelabras. They were tall enough to show off their multicoloured ribbon trains floating gently in the light breeze. I placed our giant ornate key and giant old key on the table top as a fun prop for the fairies to play around with - this scale thing was really getting interesting. Our large rustic heart lanterns sat at each end of the table adding to the scale I wanted to create. I had forgotten how big they actually were. Back in the regular sized world they are great for positioning either side of a venue entrance with a large fake flickering candle inside or fill them with flowers and foliage spilling out - almost as though a little rabbit may have nested in them - definitely the look I was aiming for on this shoot.

Our collection of oversized flowers and toadstools couldn't have been any more appropriate if we'd made them especially for this photoshoot. I dotted our giant green and red toadstools - both of which have recently had a revamp - amongst the large wooden benches as if they had just sprung up from the soil wildly wherever they felt like it.

Our smaller, but still oversized, toadstool stools were settled around the forest floor, overlooked by giant gerberas in vibrant colours. Hot pink enchanted flowers and clusters of purple flowers like bluebells lined the area creating a wall of colour from all angles. Styling this set felt so easy as it's a wild garden.

The immense table is sheltered by towering trees and shrubbery, creating a perfect dappled glade fit for fairies. We wanted to give it a canopy with our colourful giant dream catchers, bare lampshades, and new carnival stars hung above. The challenge was getting them directly above the table as the trees weren't quite in the right place to hang twine from, plus they needed to be visible from the photographer's point of view. After many attempts at aiming the twine ball over branches and seeing how it sat, we had success. 

We decided it would be easier to arrange our canopy first and then hoist it into position, so we laid out the twine on the woodland floor and attached all of our gorgeous hangings. We secured them with double knots - so we didn't have any sliding out of place once the string was pulled tight - and spaced them cleverly. 

Prop Factory Director Carmen, who is currently five months pregnant, decided to be on the end of the string to pull it up, whilst a lovely work placement student and I watched the pretty props fly up into the trees. All was going smoothly until... the string snapped! We reinforced it with extra string and tried again, much more slowly. 'Higher, higher,' we guided Carmen until it was perfect and she could wrap the end around a tree trunk. Then it was just a matter of keeping our fingers crossed that it stayed put and that there was enough height for the performers in tree costumes - and on stilts - wandering around below.

Yes - you read correctly. First to descend from the wooden treehouse-like dressing room were two tree people - lovely ladies dressed head to toe in dark fabrics textured with branches and leaves. They looked super impressive even before they had got onto their stilts and into their slightly chilling masks.

As they walked amongst our giant flowers and stood amidst the enchanted props with glimpses of our enchanted fences in the background, our set was transformed into an immersive dreamworld - and this was just the beginning.

Next up, the woodland elves, with realistic pretty elf-like pointy ears and Robin Hood-inspired clothing. They sat proudly at the head of the giant table on our woodland chair. This is a handmade rustic chair with a solid tree trunk back that looks as though it might have sprouted organically from the earth - very fitting for a fairy tea party.

Next came the hula hooping forest pixie. She stood tall on the table and threw some amazing shapes with shimmering gold hoops.

With foliage in her hair and a dainty green velvet leotard decorated with gold petal details and frill edging, she was a merry sprite who made a great contrast against the props. Her gold hoops became frames for the flowers and the shapes she made felt like magic spells were being cast.

I was eagerly waiting for the flower fairies to appear and it seemed I wasn't the only one. Photographer Ellie's four-year-old daughter Charlotte had already that day seen things that you'd usually only find in a delicious dream. Wearing her Tinkerbell outfit to keep in with the theme of the day, she was so sweet and excited. We saw a glimpse of purple hair, then an oversized flower crown . . . were they nearly ready?

Meanwhile, I decided the garden needed an entrance. Our wonderland enchanted archway was still in the van but I knew I would love to see the fairies arriving through it to the party. The arch is covered in wild greenery and holds hidden trinkets and treasures within its foliage - a unique and very creative entrance way that fitted the design of this photoshoot beautifully. Ellie took incredible shots looking through it at the transformation of the set with all of our props. I feel so satisfied at the range we have for this particular theme.

'Fairies!' Charlotte squealed in excitement and my camera was at the ready to capture everything to post on our Instagram story. Three colourful flower fairies strutted onto the set in high heels with skirts seemingly made from giant fuchsia petals. Their wings colour coordinated with the blooms trailing down from their headdresses into flower tube tops. Even the toes of their high heels had a delicate flower detail.

And they didn't come alone, they were followed by a dragon! Lawrence had limited vision inside the suit and so was guided onto set, ensuring that his lively tail didn't knock over a purple mushroom cluster as he walked. Closeups and dancing were captured - in heels and on a giant table - the fairies did a spectacular job. Ellie guided the fairies into position and I climbed up and adjusted one of the candelabras. My outsized props had done their job - the fairies really did look tiny and oh so magical. Little Charlotte stroked the dragons nose and watched the fairies with wide eyes. The dreamiest of days for her. . . and for me.

The most challenging part of the day was the group shot and getting the perspective right with everyone involved. We tried a few shots with the woodland in the background and the fairies sat on the toadstools but the tree people got lost amongst the real trees and the dragon filled half of the screen. We needed more room. The table took centre stage again and the fairies spread themselves out, one blowing bubbles. We had to be clever with the dragon's position using a giant red toadstool head to cover the opening to the costume. He used the toadstool to rest his heavy head until we were ready to photograph. Hot and heavy work in there. The hula hooping pixies perched on a green toadstool top, the enchanted trees lurked underneath the tails of our dream catchers making mystical tree shapes and the woodland elves stood proudly in charge of the group - everyone was ready to be photographed.

And there you have it - a perfect fairy tea party in a wooded forest glade. I felt all the wonder of a child finding out that there really are fairies at the bottom of the garden. And, after seeing our beautiful photos, perhaps you will be convinced too!

To see all the props we've used in one place click here

Tags: Enchanted Enchanted Woodand Enchanted Forest Woodland Wedding Fairies Fairy Party Party Props Party Decor Event Decor Events Magical Themed Birthday Birthday Party Party Props Magical Props Giant Toadstools Toadstools Giant Dream Catchers Dream Catchers Carnival Stars Giant Flowers Flowers Giant Props Giant Key Toadstool Wonderland Alice In Wonderland Harry Potter Lord Of The Rings Pixies Dragons Elves Forbidden Forest Woodland Table Woodland Chair Forest Flowers