Tag Archives: research

Welcome Weekend Props Links

Meet Douriean Fletcher, Special Costume Manufacturer on Black Panther – If you haven’t seen Black Panther yet, you are missing out on a visual feast. Yes, the story and characters are very compelling, but just the props and costumes are worth the price of admission. Douriean Fletcher is a metalsmith with the Motion Picture Costumers union (IATSE 705) who created a lot of special costume pieces for the film, from jewelry pieces up to the full-metal armor of the Dora Milaje.

Let’s Talk About Sewing Machine Needles – Infographic – An oldie but a goodie. Sewing Parts Online has made a nifty little infographic to help guide you as you choose a needle for your sewing machine depending on what materials you are stitching. Of course, for it to be fully useful for a props person, you would also need to know which needle is good for sewing neoprene to lauan, but hey, it’s a start.

Inside Tony Winner Clint Ramos’s Creative Process – I promise this hasn’t turned into a costume blog while you weren’t looking. Clint Ramos is also a set designer and a friend of props shops all over, and it is fascinating to learn about his creative process. We should always celebrate when a backstage theatre worker is featured in such a fancy magazine as Town & Country.

How to Rivet Furniture Parts Together – In this riveting article, Christopher Schwartz guides us through how to use copper rivets to make pivoting furniture joints. Many of us are familiar with the pop rivet guns you can get at the hardware store, but here we learn how easy it is to use traditional riveting techniques.

Waldorf Astoria Archives – Buried behind the walls of this landmark NY hotel is a treasure trove of artifacts dating back to the hotel’s opening in the 1890’s. Some unknown person hoarded items like vintage postcards, menus, cocktail lists, ledgers, photographs, and bellhop uniforms. You have to visit the archives in person, but hopefully it will make its way online soon so we can use it in our research.


WWII Provisions

In 1942, Life Magazine published an article on the logistics of supplying the US Army. This is a good glimpse at the items one would find on Army bases and with soldiers during World War II. Many of these items are still easy to find or make, so it makes a short task of adding props and set dressing to your wartime play or musical. Photographs by Myron H. Davis.

World War II Supplies
World War II Supplies
World War II Supplies
World War II Supplies

“Logistics: It Is the Science of Supplying an Army.” Life 22 June 1942: 65-75. Google Books. Web. 27 June 2017. <https://books.google.com/books?id=KFAEAAAAMBAJ>.

To the Weekend and Beyond

Bill Doran shows us how to mold and cast tiny parts, which often have their own set of challenges distinct from molding larger pieces. One word: bubbles.

Modern-Day Gepettos Keep Marionette Making Alive – Make Magazine introduces us to Mirek Trejtnar, a puppet-maker who not only carefully researches traditional methods of building marionettes, but shares his techniques on his blog.

Most explosive squibs used on film sets contain lead, which spreads lead all over the film crew. A new report highlights the potential dangers and asks if your film crew is being poisoned. It came to no surprise to me that Monona Rossol was behind this report; she often appears to be solely responsible for pointing out the toxic dangers hidden in the entertainment industry. Many of us have learned safer practices either from one of her classes or from her essential book, The Health and Safety Guide for Film, TV, and Theater.

Propnomicon points out that the New York Public Library has a great collection on old apartment buildings. They have detailed floor plans from the early Twentieth Century, as well as common plumbing and bathroom fixtures. It’s great research for any play from this time period.

Bossing the World part 3, 1921

The following is the conclusion of an article which came from the 1921 collected edition of “Our Paper,” put out by the Massachusetts Reformatory. The first part and second part were previously posted:

Bossing the World

by John B. Wallace

This is only a sample of the painstaking care with which pictures in the larger studios are filmed. It explains why so many persons who have been abroad have been fooled into exclaiming, “Why, I know that was taken in France, because I have been on that very spot,” when in reality, the “scene was shot” in California. The pictures are made with such careful attention to detail that directors and property men who know every trick of the trade are often imposed upon.

The research department is the prop that Wells leans upon in times of doubt. Three persons are employed who do nothing but look up the proper costuming and settings for scenes laid in times other than the present. In addition to a large library maintained by the studio they have the Public Library of Los Angeles to fall back upon, as well as several splendid private collections of millionaire book fanciers.

Other departments that come under Mr. Wells’ supervision are the large repair shops. In the drapery department curtains and draperies are constantly being altered, cut and repaired. Furniture is revarnished, repaired and reupholstered. In the pottery department antique vases are duplicated in cheaper materials and the bric-a-brac that is to be smashed in comedy and battle scenes is made out of plaster of paris. Costumes require a large force of seamstresses to make and alter. The electrical department requires a large force of electricians and expert mechanics are employed in the upkeep of the motor trucks and automobiles.

Wallace, John B. “Bossing the World.” Our Paper. Vol. 38. N.p.: Massachusetts Refomatory, 1921. 153. Google Books. Web. 24 Nov. 2015

Bossing the World part 2, 1921

The following article comes from the 1921 collected edition of “Our Paper,” put out by the Massachusetts Reformatory. The first part was posted previously:

Bossing the World

by John B. Wallace

The property men of the various studios about Los Angeles, where two-thirds of the motion pictures are made, work harmoniously and borrow and rent various properties from one another.

The advent of the motion picture has created a number of new businesses in Los Angeles. Not only are there several establishments that rent exclusively to the studios but some of the large retail furniture houses and department stores have rental departments devoted to supplying the needs of the film colony. The visitor may also see the unusual spectacle of antique shops refusing to sell their curios to collectors, because they prefer to rent them to the studios. This is easily explained, however, when the rental price of certain rare antiques is learned.

While expense is the bugbear of the property man it is the least of the worries of the directors and some of them will go to any extreme to get just what they want for a certain scene.

But even with the dozens of antique dealers scouring the remote spots of the earth the property man often runs against what seems like a hopeless impasse. It is then he must bring ingenuity into play.

For instance, Mr. [Howard] Wells told me of a particular scene that was supposed to be laid in Scotland. In a city like Los Angeles, where the architecture embraces every variety known to civilized man, it was easy to find a house that would pass for a Scotch manor house.

But the rub came when Wells learned that he must supply a lawnmower for the principal character of the scene, to operate on the lawn. An English lawnmower differs in several particulars from an American machine. There was not time to send abroad for one, and as far as Wells knew there was none in the country.

To make it worse, Wells had never seen one of the foreign grass cutters. With the aid of the research department Wells finally found a book containing a picture of an English lawnmower. He studied it carefully, then took an American lawnmower and made it over so that an expert could not distinguish the difference in appearance when it was shown on the screen.

Wallace, John B. “Bossing the World.” Our Paper. Vol. 38. N.p.: Massachusetts Refomatory, 1921. 153. Google Books. Web. 24 Nov. 2015