Getting to know Maddy, Prop Maker

by Karen - Copy Writer for The Prop Factory

Wednesday 13th November 2019 13:45:38


This week we continue our occasional blog series where you get a chance to sneak behind-the-scenes at Prop Factory HQ and meet some of the lovely folk who create all of the original handmade props that we have available in our inventory to hire. Our team of skilled specialists are a couple of months into our grand six month plan to design, create, build and expand our stock of unique props and are each finding their own place in our busy workshop. This week I'm chatting with Maddy.I often see Maddy deep in concentration with a paintbrush in her hand and when I see things already on our inventory that she has painted - such as the Moon and Stars Wonky Cupboard - I can see her meticulous attention to detail. So how did she come to be building props at the Prop Factory?What made you want to work for the Prop Factory?

I wasn't particularly looking for a job actually. I had my heart set on working for myself running a business as an illustrator. I was just idly browsing a job site when I found the Prop Factory advertisement and it seemed perfect. I have a wide skills base and I've had jobs where I've been able to use one or maybe two of these, but I've never worked anywhere that so closely matches my skills set and I get to use all of them all of the time!

Which prop are you looking forward to making and why?

I really like working on the larger props that we build from scratch where everyone gets involved and has a hand in the making. I'm more used to working on my own, so it's great to see the different skills that everyone brings. One of the big projects we've all got involved in has been the giant elf on a shelf - although I'm afraid I did some of the less glamorous bits that you can't necessarily see. I'm looking forward to building some art deco props - there's a cabinet to work on and a very, very large star that will be art deco style and will need a lot of gold decoration.What would you say is your strongest skill in terms of prop making?

Definitely painting. I pride myself on painting to a really high standard and like to challenge myself to achieve the level of quality that I've set for myself. I'm also really keen on problem solving. At the beginning of a project, when we're thinking about how to make something work, I like to get the cogs in my head turning and figure out a solution.What do you hope to achieve over the next six months?

I want to be able to stand back and look with pride at the props I've made and contributed to. I'm also enjoying expanding my skills and learning new techniques. I teach myself a lot of things at home and am always learning, but there are some skills I just don't have the equipment to try by myself. Take woodwork, for example, I've wanted to learn since I was tiny, but haven't had the tools available to me that we have here. Everyone here has so many different and varied skills that there is a lot of opportunity to learn from each other. You watch when someone starts a new prop and try to imagine how it's going to end up, then you get to see it come together into a fully formed prop.Do you have a favourite prop yet? Anything caught your eye in the warehouse?

I love the larger pieces of furniture. I think Carmen [Prop Factory director] and I must have similar taste! I walk around the warehouse thinking 'that's the exact velvet sofa I need for my house - and that table to go with it, please!' Also, I've been drawing mushrooms and toadstools since I was small, so the giant ones are a real treat.Describe an average day at work?

There is no average. It's creative chaos and I love it! Over the course of a day I could be moving from painting to woodwork to something quite different, depending on what needs making and what I want to work on. There's a lot of scope to choose what to do next, and when to do something intricate that needs a lot of concentration, and I get to manage my own day. You'd think that would be usual in creative jobs, but it isn't always, and I think a lot of creative people prefer to work that way.What's your creative background?

I have a very creative family. My mother is an illustrator and my father worked on Grade I listed buildings. My brother is a tattoo artist. We were very fortunate that my mum sat us down and taught us the techniques for painting and drawing. I've done a lot of freelance illustration and graphic design but, before that, I moved into fashion design for a while and then fashion illustration.I worked for a while on illustration for a large vintage fashion faire where I also ran my own stall selling vintage accessories that I had upcycled. It's not hard to see why the Prop Factory is such a good fit for me.What's your dream prop to make?

I've always wanted to make a folding screen. Japanese silk painting would be a dream, or art nouveau - an Alphonse Mucha-inspired screen with plenty of gold highlighting. It might have to remain a dream, though, as the amount of detail needed would make it incredibly time consuming.

Do you have any pets?

I have a Golden Chain King snake who I have had since I was 16 - when I thought it would be a great idea to name him 'Bling'! He's surprisingly easy to care for - he only eats once a week.How do you have your tea?

Strong builders - and copious amounts of it! All of us here seem to drink a lot of very strong tea. Actually, I usually start with several cups of coffee in the morning and move on to tea later in the day.What's your favourite day of the week?

Thursdays are good. You know where you are and everything is starting to come together - it's past that early part of the week panic, plus there's only one more day to the weekend.

Do you have a favourite party theme?

It's all about the glitter and gold - I love anything shiny - I may have been a magpie in a past life. The 1920s is a great party theme - we've got some amazing props in gold and black to style it - a speakeasy sign with very 1920s cocktail glasses, gold framed chalkboards, gramophone props, a gold floor lamp and drinks globe - and not forgetting those glamorous velvet sofas again.See all the props Maddy talks about in one place here.

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