The following first appeared in a 1948 issue of Players Magazine:
By Joe Zimmerman. Temple University. Philadelphia, Penna.
For most educational theatres, borrowing properties is the most expedient method of securing properties, and the one by which the greatest number and variety of items are made available. Most non-commercial theatres rely primarily on borrowing for their properties. But a good many designers find that borrowing is a good deal of work, and at least in their experience, seems to require a lack of dignity and “professional manner” that is no great argument in its favor.
Borrowing, however, may also be handled as a self-respecting manner of securing properties, with dignity and some pride, if it is done properly. The “art of borrowing” is both a concept and a fairly specific technique. Continue reading Beg, Borrow, Buy, or… (1948)
Okay, you can’t read my whole book online. But I do haveÂ two whole chaptersÂ you can check out on The Prop Building Guidebook’s companion website.
What are these chapters, you may ask? Well, as you can imagine, prop making covers a vast amount of information, and choosing what to put in and what to leave out was one of my biggest challenges. We could have made the book longer, but that would have pushed the price up, which we didn’t want to do. We could have made the pictures smaller, but that would not be good either. In the end, we decided to take the last two chapters and put them up on the website for free. This way, the book can remain affordable, the pictures can remain a decent size, and you get a sneak peek at some of the book. These chapters have been edited and proofed just like everything else in the book, they just appear online rather than in print.
The two chapters are called “Formal Training” and “Maintaining a Portfolio”. The first digs through the tricky question of what kind of training or schooling you may wish to pursue to become a better prop maker. Vocational classes, colleges and universities, graduate schools and more are talked about here. I also look at the various types of jobs and work one can get. I present information useful whether you wish to be a prop maker for film, television, theatre or any of the related industries, and whether you wish to pursue a full-time job or work as a freelancer on different gigs. It can be a tricky field to navigate, so I try to present as much information as I’ve gleaned along the way.
The second chapter gives an introduction on creating and maintaining a portfolio of all the work you do. I discuss both online sites and paper portfolios; though paper portfolios have become far less prevalent these days, I’ve still used them in the last couple of years, both in applying for work and in hiring people. This chapter also discusses photography and how to take better pictures of your work. A bad picture of a good prop can make it look like a bad prop.
So check out the bonus chapters of The Prop Building Guidebook when you can. And don’t forget to pre-order your copy if you haven’t already!
I came across this interesting website:
101 Free Open Course Classes to Learn How to Build ANYTHING
What are open course classes? Basically, they are all the materials of a college class made freely available to anyone online: the syllabus, handouts, lecture notes, assignments, etc. If you were so inclined, you can use this to take the class on your own. Obviously, you lack the feedback and interaction with a professor, and it does not count toward any certification or degree, it can be a great resource for self-education in a more structured way.
Most of these classes come from MIT, which pioneered the open course class idea, but more universities seem to be jumping in on the bandwagon. This list has some fairly high-tech classes (holographic imaging, bioengineering, and space propulsion), but there are some others that seem interesting for a props artisan or other theatre practitioner, such as intro to stagecraft, scenic and costume design, and furniture making.