Prop Design Defined:
The definition of a theatrical prop is very precise: ‘A prop is anything that appears on stage and is not scenery, and not a costume or a hat. Props are things moved on and off stage.’
Prop-makers build, source, or find props for theatre, TV and film productions. Prop-makers require a multitude of skills: carving, sculpting, basket-weaving, plastic moulding, cabinet-making, metalwork, soldering, embroidery, upholstery making, casting, to name just a few.
Careers in Props:
Career in the Prop Design can be amateur or based on qualifications in one of the specialist area a particular prop department requires. Most of the prop designers have learned their skills on the job.
There are also some specialised courses in prop making.
For the Props team in the theatre, the key qualities for prospective employees are enthusiasm, creativity, attention to detail and a willingness to learn. Plus prop designers must be confident going on stage during the scene changes, appearing in front of the public and staying calm in a crisis.
A typical day starts by checking last night’s show report. This report is written by the Stage Manager to give a detailed analysis of the previous evening’s performance. It details any problems with props that occurred during the show.
Throughout the day, in addition to meeting designers, sourcing items, researching and actually making the props, the phone rings constantly. Every week, the team meet designers about future shows, attend regular health and safety meetings and travel for production meetings.
Prop Making Jobs
Model making jobs requires real attention to detail. A model is often smaller than the object it represents. Many people like to collect model figures so many businesses, film companies or gaming companies like to make models of popular characters. Models are also often used within architecture, product and theatrical design.
Set, production or stage designers are in charge of creating the overall look of a theatre, television or film production. Set design jobs are such an important part of telling a story, the set needs to fit the story and aid the actors in their roles.
A prop maker may work over a variety of different industries or become a designer within a workshop – creating props for a variety of different customers such as film, theatre, business, retail and many others.
Prop makers need to be adaptable and have a really wide set of skills in order to fulfil clients prop requests. Clients or workplace may provide a rough idea of the type of prop they’re looking for but designers then need to go away and decide on the best method and materials to use.
The great thing about being a prop maker is that it can offer many roles. There are always new and exciting designs to create. These skills are also very transferable across many different artistic and creative sectors so there are many options. No day is ever the same as a prop maker.