A Prop Factory Christmas Production

by Carys - Stylist for The Prop Factory

Friday 1st November 2019 10:43:25


This year our Christmas collection has grown enormously with more than 15 new festive props built and added to our inventory ready to decorate all your seasonal events.

I've watched with growing excitement as new props have evolved from designs sketched on paper, to workshop projects, to finished props sitting on warehouse shelves ready to be hired. Enquiries are increasing daily, with customers eager to see what new goodies we have to offer this year. I knew that what we needed was a photo that would capture our full range - a cornucopia of all things Christmas with sparkles, snowmen and stars all together in one place. 

But what location for the shoot? I went through a lot of ideas, from a rustic wooden log cabin backdrop to an empty barn as a blank canvas but, even though this photoshoot needed to be a catalogue of all our props, I still wanted to create a lush photoshoot with all the joy of a magical Christmas. Then came the lightbulb moment - all of the props up on stage and framed by some very festive red velvet curtains - the stars of their very own production. Once I'd had the idea, I couldn't get it out of my head and the search was on to find the perfect stage. 

For the past couple of years we have supplied props and furniture for Heart Radio's Christmas market at Launceston Town Hall, in Cornwall.The market would normally see the gorgeous Gothic hall set up with farmhouse tables topped with vintage market stall hoods ready for local craft makers to come and sell their creations.The hall also has a large stage with just the type of rich velvet theatre curtains - complete with gold tasselled fringing - that I had in mind. The team at Launceston Town Hall were more than helpful in agreeing for us to use the space.The morning of the shoot and a few last minute props were still being finished. The icing on the gingerbread house concertina panels was only just dry and our new giant elf on a shelf had just had his swirly slippers stitched on. I had sketched out my vision for what I wanted to create but it was hard to remember the scale of the stage and I hoped that the props would fill it.Although it was the props I really wanted to capture, I had also organised a model to pose as a toy ballerina and dance around the stage, bringing it all to life. A life-sized toy dancer, Lauren, was dressed by Days of Grace Vintage with a very sparkly tiara from The Lucky Sixpence and white tights and ballerina pumps that were an ebay find and did the job perfectly.As a stylist, you always need a few little tricks to make things picture perfect. On this shoot we had to nip out for some double-sided sticky tape to secure the pink silk ribbons of Lauren's pumps. We found some in a carpet shop just across the road - sometimes that's the reality behind the glamour you see in the finished photos!Sticky tape in place, Lauren could create gorgeous poses without her ribbons falling loose with every step. With her hair scraped into an oversized bun and pinned by the lovely Natalie Nichols Hair and her makeup emphasised for the stage, she looked like an elegant ballerina - but also slightly theatrical, like a toy that had come to life.Katy Short created this look perfectly - even drawing on her lips in a doll-like fashion. I finished the look with a giant wind up key prop on Lauren's back. This proved super effective as she moved around the stage like a toy that had escaped from a musical box.There's always a moment at the start of a styled shoot when the space seems huge and I wonder if we've brought enough stock with us. When we first arrived the stage seemed so bare, but we soon dressed it in layers using Christmas Present concertina panels at the very back and new, completely scrumptious-looking, gingerbread house panels in front of them.Either side of these we added black Victorian lamp posts and new traditional fabric Christmas trees. The set at this point looked like an adorable Christmas village.I then created a centre point for the ballerina to dance around using our North Pole Signpost and worked outwards.Wooden nutcrackers and drumming soldiers stood to attention in front of the houses.Gingerbread men framed the edges and wooden vintage style sledges stacked up with a light up vintage snowman and giant penguin chalkboard sat to one side.I also piled up a number of present boxes. These are usually used with the NOEL and JOY Christmas tree letters but fit the brief beautifully on their own.The final touch was to sit the Elf on a Shelf with his feet dangling over the front of the stage.The stage was so vast that, although our tallest present panels are 240cm tall, we still needed a bit more height. I'd brought along some wooden bunting boxes and stacked them one on top of each other, using the bunting poles to hang some giant baubles.Suspending the baubles slightly over the top of the panels created a frame for the top of the set and emphasised the amazing large size of the baubles. (Be careful not to stack the boxes higher than two as they can topple over with any tension on the poles.) The bottom edge of the stage was framed with a selection of gold wooden hanging stars and hanging Christmas biscuits.

Whilst we arranged the props Gary, the Town Hall's lighting technician, was on hand to set the stage lights perfectly, working alongside what Ellie from Confetti Rose could see through her camera lens. Ellie captured the set beautifully! Once the lighting hit the stage the props almost came to life and it was like watching the most lovely Christmas play. Traditional, cosy and fun - all perfect Christmas party decor!

Carys x

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