Tag Archives: creative

On Making Things

One of the first objects I can recall making out of wood was a letter “E” that you hang on the wall. I was about 11 or 12, and it was one of my projects in junior high shop class. I traced the shape onto a piece of pine, and cut it out on the bandsaw. My shop teacher remarked on how neatly and precisely I followed the pencil line on the saw. I should have known than that carpentry would be an integral part of my vocation. I nailed a hanging bracket on the back so it could be placed on a wall, and finished it off by coating the whole thing in epoxy (with some assistance from the teacher).

I distinctly remember the feeling of pride and astonishment I felt after the “E” was finished. Here was an item you can buy in a store, but I had made it. It was like I had unlocked a small part of the great mystery of where objects come from.

That feeling followed me as I learned new techniques and worked with new materials. Every time I was introduced to a new tool in carpentry, it was as though I was delving deeper into the mysteries of furniture. It was as if I could look at a table or chair and it would wink back at me as if to say, “you know how I was made”. When I began to learn how to work with metal and weld, it was as if a whole floodgate of knowledge was opened to me as well. Objects fell apart before my eyes into their component parts and the techniques it took to put them together.

Every new skill or technique I pick up adds to my arsenal of making things. Every project is an opportunity to apply or try out a myriad of processes and materials. Making things isn’t just a way to create objects with custom properties and parameters; it’s a way for me to be in control of objects, rather than objects being in control of me.

Feeling Creative and Design Patterns in props

I focus a lot on the “building” and “making” of props on this blog; it’s time for a bit of information about the organizational and motivational part of the job.

43 Folders is a website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work. It’s great if you’re a prop master trying to get more organized or motivated at work, or a props artisan trying to manage your time and energy better.

I found one post in particular to be interesting. The Problem with “Feeling Creative” talks about how “creative work” is still work. There are a lot of books and blogs out there which want to inspire you to feel artistic, but the only way to really get creative work done is by hard work and perserverance.

Merlin Mann, the author, writes:

The athlete got good not by reading reviews of headbands, but by waking up early, lacing shoes in the dark, and hitting the track to train hard. While the surgeon got good not by watching reruns of Trapper John, M.D., but by slogging through medical school, residencies, and hundreds of hours of face time with patients, colleagues, and mentors. “Feeling” had nothing to do with it.

He continues his post by introducing the idea of “design patterns”, commonly used in the fields of architecture, design, and software engineering. As he explains:

By documenting and categorizing the things that “tend to work” within a given context (and within a given set of constraints), individual patterns can provide the basis for a pattern language that encourages flexible problem-solving that discourages the costly and time-consuming tendency to reinvent the wheel.

It got me thinking about props, and whether there are any design patterns in our fields. The paperwork and prop plots used by propmasters have become fairly standardized throughout the industry. Prop artisans have tried-and-true techniques for building chairs, casting an actor’s head, or distressing leather. Props running crew layout their prop tables in much the same way throughout the country.

For your homework this weekend, think of any other design patterns which may exist in props. Think of some things which you wish had design patterns, or things you wished could be taught in schools to upcoming prop professionals. Write all about it in the comments below.