Introducing S*P*A*Minars: A monthly webinar series on all things props!
We’ll be kicking things off this coming Sunday at 8pm EST with Nikki Kulas, Prop Master at First Stage in Milwaukee, WI, talking about Puppets!
Life is Hard, Puppets Aren’t: Tips and Tricks for Puppet Building.
If you’ve ever wondered what type of stitch to use on puppet seams or how to make your puppet’s eyes, then Nikki is here to help! In her webinar, she will talk puppets, and do some demonstrations of quick puppet building techniques that will help extend your puppet’s life.
If there is a specific type of prop you want to build, or a specific style or medium you want to work in, find the companies that specialize in that. Fill your portfolio with that kind of work. If you want to build sci-fi weapons for instance, but all your previous work is in constructing furniture, employers won’t necessarily make the leap that your furniture construction skills will translate into sci-fi weapon-making. Even if you have to build your own props on your own time, do it.
This is also true for skills you lack; a lot of theatres with a one-person prop shop are looking for well-rounded prop makers, which includes being able to upholster. I never learned how to upholster, so I started practicing it every chance I could get, and taking on any little upholstery project I could.
Once you are out of school, no one will be around to guide you with what you need to learn next, so you should always be experimenting with new skills, new materials and new techniques.
The Food Network gives some credit to the shows’ prop master (or design director). Wendy Waxman is responsible for decorating and accessorizing the sets of all the shows filmed at the Food Network’s studios at Chelsea Market.
Congressman Das Williams has introduced legislation to make flesh or proximity detection technology mandatory in all table saws sold in California after January 1, 2015. I have mixed feelings about this. I think safety is important, and I feel in a lot of situations, companies will put out unsafe products until forced otherwise; this is more true with chemicals and toxic substances. But this kind of feature on a table saw is expensive and unwieldy. The vast, vast majority of table saw accidents happen on untrained home hobbyists. 1 This law would make trained users pay for a safety feature that’s more needed for untrained users. Not only that, but job site saws and contractor saws are far too small and light to utilize this technology; I’m only guessing, but I would imagine these kinds of saws are more likely to be used by home hobbyists. Why stop at the table saw? Why not legislate these features on band saws, planers and circular saws? Is it just because a table saw is statistically more dangerous? Because if we’re looking at statistics, a door causes just as many finger amputations per year as a table saw; why not require flesh detection technology on all doors? Anyway, it will be interesting to see how this plays out in the coming months.
Speaking of dangerous tools, AnnMarie Thomas makes the case to let kids use real tools to build things, and not those cheap toy versions. She mentions how an engineering professor asked his class of 35 first-year students whether anyone had ever used a drill press before, and not a single hand was raised. Looks like props people are single-handedly preserving manual-arts training in higher education. Maybe if kids were taught to use tools, we wouldn’t have so many table saw accidents (the majority of which are sustained by men in their 50s; age does not make one safer, only training does).
I’ve wanted something like this for awhile, but never actually sat down to plan one out. But this adjustable sanding jig for a disc sander looks like it’s the perfect design.
Welcome to the first full work week of September! I’ve been away all weekend, so enjoy these articles and sites:
The Art of Manliness has a nifty guide on sharpening your edged tools. It deals mainly with knives and axes, but it covers a lot of the basics.
Once you’re finished sharpening your tools, you can find out why your teenager can’t use a hammer. The decline of shop and industrial arts classes are leaving even the most basic of manual jobs with a dearth of skilled young workers.
I recently came across The Clubhouse, an online community for model-builders, sculptors, and collectors. It seems to be a good resource for help and information on working with plastics and resins, as well as painting and weathering.
Does this book have anything to do with props people? Sure. Though it is geared towards the theatrical designers, both prop masters and artisans working in the freelance world need the advice and information presented within. Further, the job title of “properties designer” is becoming more prevalent in today’s theatrical world.
The first six chapters are on the technical aspects of running a business: accounting, staffing, offices, etc. A lot of this seems out of the realm of the average freelance props person. On the other hand, you will probably need some of the information at least once in your career. Even if you never have a full-time staff (very few freelance prop masters do), you will on occasion have an assistant or need to hire some outside help for some jobs. You may think you do not need an office, but if you have a shop, it might serve the same purpose. The information presented in these chapters is dense, and not meant to be read all at once in one sitting. Rather, it is a great reference to keep close by and refer to as needed.
Perhaps the only main deviation between the business of a theatrical designer and a props artisan is that theatrical design is mostly a service industry (according to Moody) while a props artisan mixes elements of manufacturing and service.
The next few chapters feel more directly applicable to the props freelancer. It deals with marketing yourself, networking, job interviews and dressing for success. Sure, you can find this kind of information elsewhere, but most of it seems geared towards bankers and mid-level managers applying for cattle calls at large corporations. This book deals with all the quirks and idiosyncrasies of getting jobs in the world of theatre and entertainment design. It also devotes some time to dealing with the aspects of the job not typically covered in other books about theatre work, such as conflict resolution and group dynamics.
This book does have a few flaws. It is fairly US-centric when dealing with specifics about legal topics, business culture, contracts and unions. Though only written in 2002, it is a touch outdated when it comes to technology and the internet; I don’t think I would suggest to anyone to carry around a CD of your work, especially when thumb drives and jump drives can hold so much more information in a much smaller space and work on nearly every computer (some newer laptops and tablets don’t even come with a CD drive). I also think an internet presence is more of a necessity these days. Employers are incredibly likely to run an internet search on you when you are applying for a job or a gig; even if you do not have a website, you should run an internet search on yourself to see what they would see.
This book fills the gaps in theatre education for the all important considerations of the business side of show business. Maybe your education did not give you the chance to take business classes while enrolled, or maybe you did not find yourself working as a professional freelancer until well after your formal education ended. In any case, The Business of Theatrical Design covers such a broad range of information not found elsewhere that makes this a must-have for anyone wanting to make a living in theatre.
Making and finding props for theatre, film, and hobbies