Getting to know David, Prop Maker

by Karen - Copy Writer for The Prop Factory

Wednesday 23rd October 2019 10:37:55


Seven weeks in and it's getting hard to remember a time before our fabulous team of new prop makers joined us. If you're a regular follower of our blog you'll know that we have a grand six month plan to massively increase our stock with a collection of unique props designed and built in our workshop.

Our prop makers work to a series of briefs designed and drawn by our director, Carmen - you can see a sneak peak of some of these on our instagram - but everyone comes with their own expertise and knowledge and adds a touch of their own personality to whatever they're working on. That's why it's so nice to catch up with them and introduce them to you, via our blog. We've already had a chat with Heidi and Kimberley - you can read their blogs here. Now it's time for a chinwag with David.David comes to The Prop Factory with masses of experience in and around the prop business. Jack-of-all-trades is most definitely not the right phrase to describe him though, as he is quite obviously the master of many specialist skills. I prise him away from a particularly complicated bit of woodworking for our chat, but more of that later...

What made you want to work for the Prop Factory?

I knew a little about the Prop Factory as my last family business was in a vaguely related area - we made animatronic models for Christmas - the type of displays you often see in shopping centres. I've always been involved in building things, so this seemed like a natural fit. Two of my nieces saw the role advertised and let me know as they thought it was my kind of thing. Just looking around the warehouse I knew they were right.

Which prop are you looking forward to making and why?

The one I'm working on right now is interesting - and somewhat of a challenge. We've been building the wooden skeleton for our giant elf on a shelf which is now for sale by the way! Check out our ebay shop here.It's certainly a case of trial and error, because we need to get it just right. He has movable limbs that need to work smoothly when he's all dressed up - and they need to keep working every time he's hired out.Once it's perfect we'll pass him over to Heidi [our textiles prop maker] to dress.What would you say is your strongest skill in terms of prop making?

I've done all kinds of things in my time - from the design and planning stages right through to the making. Here, it's so far mostly carpentry work that comes my way, which is fine by me.What do you hope to achieve over the next six months?

Just to make as much as possible that is as varied as possible! It's perhaps not exactly my remit here, but when I'm done with the elf, I'd love to design and make a few little 'sillies'. I don't like to make anything 'sensible'.

Do you have a favourite prop yet? Anything caught your eye in the warehouse?

The giant toadstools are really bright and colourful - I've made something similar in the past and I think you've got it just right with these ones.The moon and stars wonky cupboard reminds me of one I made before. We had a mechanical figure sat on it. He was a little fellow who made a sawing action - his tiny saw was safely encased in a metal groove. We installed him in a display but, unbeknown to us, the mechanism slipped and he'd actually sawed quite a long way though the cupboard before anyone noticed! It turned out that his saw was more effective that we'd realised.Describe an average day at work?

There's not much average in my day. I like to get in and get going as quickly as possible. There's a great atmosphere here - lots of really good people to work with and, in my opinion, that's the thing that really makes a difference to your day.What's your creative background?

I learned a lot of my practical skills from my dad. He could literally turn his hand to anything and I still do a lot of things the way he showed me. I've worked for myself practically my whole life - we've had a variety of family businesses - but always around building or making things. My very first paid employment was making props for the Northcott Theatre, here in Exeter. Since then, among other ventures, I've made sets for TV, theatre and film and we now have a film production company that has made two films, so I've done full sets for both of those. I've also made lots and lots of individual figures for model villages around the country - my total is about 23,000.

Dream prop to make?

I once drew up the plans for a giant dragon that reared up and had wings that opened. I drew the plans and worked out the mechanism, but sadly it never got made - that's one that 'got away'. I've just used a lot of pairs of front legs from dining chairs to make ottomans, so I've got the back legs and seats left in the workshop - I'm mulling over what they might become.

Do you have any pets?

Just a cat and a dog at the moment. We've had all sorts from parrots to horses. Our dog - Poppy - is still a puppy, she's about 10 months old. She's a poodle/golden retriever cross and is so gentle. She just has the nicest temperament of any dog I've ever met.

How do you have your tea?

Milk, no sugar. Just normal tea - I've tried all the types and always come back to the same. I have my own Mug with 'David' on but I find it can easily get lost amongst the workshop tools so excuse this pink spotty one! What's your favourite day of the week?

Tough question. Probably Saturday as it's, supposedly, the day I can do my own thing. It's not necessarily a 'day off', but I get to choose what I do!

Do you have a favourite party theme?

I've been involved in a lot of old time music hall - in fact my brother-in-law specialised as a music hall compere. It can be fabulous if it's done right. Music hall happened in saloons, where audience could eat and drink whilst they watched the show, so you could use our vintage pub stools and herringbone round tables to recreate a bar, or go for a bit more of an 'upmarket' affair with people seated in rows at farmhouse tables.You'd definitely need a red curtained arch though. Although music hall is famous for its songs, it was a variety show, with speciality acts such as magicians, mime artists and strongmen, so you'd be sure to find something in among our circus themed props to fit the bill.

See all the props David talks about here.

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