Tag Archives: set decoration

Links for a Long Weekend

Do you need a feather quill pen for a show? Lexey Jost has an Instructable showing how to make one that actually writes. Now you can keep your production of 1776 under budget.

Buzzfeed(?) has a collection of diagrams to help you decorate your home. They have everything from antique chair back styles, to common furniture sizes, to the names of lampshade fittings. Most of us prop masters have a collection of diagrams like this to help in decorating a set, so here’s a chance to grab a few more.

Many of us already saw this last week, but in case you missed it, that insane Mad Max flame-throwing guitar was no CGI trick. Find out how and why they constructed such a crazy practical effect.

Volpin Props has another great build log up. This time he made the Cael Hammer from the video game, BastionIt’s a mix of EVA foam, vacuum formed plastic and PVC. He’s got a lot of great little tips and tricks for shaping and painting these various materials.

“Do not let artisans discourage you from learning this or that trade because they have not made a success of it. They may tell you that a certain trade is overcrowded. Investigate a little and you will find that only the botch workman and chronic kickers are out of work. The cheerful, enthusiastic workman is idle only when misfortune overtakes the whole country.” Read more from this 1888 article on workmen over at the Lost Art Press Blog.

What’s a Set Decorator?

In theatre, the props master is responsible for all furniture and movable items on stage, whether the actor uses it or not. In TV and film, those duties are actually separated. The props master is responsible for the items the actors use, but the set decorators are in charge of supplying the furniture and dressing.

“The Crew” has a great video showing what the set decorators do, and introduces the different members of the department.

How to be a Great, Not Just Good, Set Decorator

I don’t have the author of the following piece, nor could I locate the original source. In fact, it doesn’t seem to appear anywhere on the internet. So if anyone knows the originator of the following essay, I would love to hear about it. And for the rest of you, it’s too entertaining not to share.

How to be a Great, Not Just Good, Set Decorator

Set decorator is a euphemism for set dresser. Often effeminate stagehands, dressers are really outside prop men, and all they do for a living is shop. Occasionally, a few great set decorators will go down in the anals of this business, but most set decorators just shop and steal.

Stealing is required in set decorating, and if you aspire to this vocation you must learn several forms of stealing. The most common forms of stealing are lying, kickbacks and false billing. Lying is simple; put in for cabs and, in reality, walk everywhere you go. Bill six hours for looking for just-the-right wicker basket, when you really took five minutes to order it blind by telephone. Kickbacks are almost automatic; do your shopping at the most over-priced prop house in your area, and make sure you get yours regularly. For false billing, either get your own forms and bills, or walk into a store and say, “See that $25 item? I’ll give you 50 bucks for it if you’ll give me a receipt for $100.”

Let us say you follow my advice so far, and you land yourself a job as an outside prop man. So big deal, you are shopping, stealing and swishing—that does not make you a great; no one is looking up to you. You have got to be better.

To be a great, not just good, set decorator you must develop your sources. See if you can go an entire year without buying or renting a single item from anyone you did not set up in business. Develop companies of your relatives and friends. Buy an item on Monday, use it on a one-time-only basis on a show on Tuesday, and return it for full credit early Wednesday. (If anyone asks where it went, say the star’s lover asked for it.)

Now start using terms like rococo, art deco and chiaroscuro. Use the word “period” constantly. “It just isn’t the right period. I won’t do it, period. I have my period.” As soon as anybody threatens your territory shout at him, saying he wouldn’t know the difference between Corinthian and Doric. Get close to the star of the show and use your best baloney. Tell her she would look great against an Etruscan escutcheon, and you will be the envy of the entire studio.