How did you get into the set design and prop styling business?
I discovered Shona Heath during an internship when I was in my final year at university. I didn’t know that such a career existed and which let’s you be creative in many different ways, using lots of different techniques. I assisted Shona for 4 years, which gave me a great insight and induction in to the industry. She was a great mentor.
Do you come from a design background?
Not really. My Dad is quite creative. I was always fascinated with making things and craft techniques. From the age of seven, I would draw, paint and make things everyday. I loved it.
Tell us about the first shoot or project you ever styled.
My first shoots were terrifying! I think the first shoot I did was for a music band. I had to make lots of different objects out of tinfoil. The main turning point I remember was the shoot I did with Tim Walker with Monty Python for Vanity Fair. I made hats and props for them and set smoke bombs off. It was a lot of fun and was the first defining moment for me to pursue set design and prop styling as a career.
What goes into prepping for a shoot; how do you work with photographers, designers, what have you to come up with a concept?
Every job has been really different so far. Sometimes the photographer or client already have an idea of what they want me to create. More recently, I’m being approached a lot more to come up with ideas for a brief, so I present them with ideas of how I would like to do it. I normally do a lot of research, and then edit the references, which help to spark ideas.
Where do you typically source your props and materials?
Again, each job is very different, so I don’t have typical sources. It’s mainly searching the internet. I find good props on eBay – you can find the most amazing and weird things on there! I also use prop houses, but prefer to make the props myself, if I can.
What was the weirdest prop you've ever had to source: where did you find it/how did you build it?
My wasps for my Selfridge’s window were pretty weird. I made them from chicken wire and papier-mâché. They were huge and took my team and me nearly 10 days to make.
Does your job sometimes require you to be a bit of an animal wrangler?
I do have to source animals. We recently did a shoot with a Scarlet Macaw. That was quite hard to find, as there aren’t many of them around. I have a couple of animal agencies who are very good for animal sourcing, or I contact societies specifically for the type of animal I’m after, who can usually help. I don't wrangle them though, the animals have a keeper who comes with them to look after them.
I like to use colors, which are quite washed out and feel old. I try and create an atmosphere to make the image feel real. I love detail in the sets and objects I create. I think my work is imaginative, quite surreal and delicate.
Each job is always very involved. There’s always a lot to do, source and make. I have to juggle a lot of different things and be very organized as time is never on my side. Things always take a long time to make and source, so I work most hours of the day.
If you weren't working as a prop stylist, you'd probably be:
An animal conservationist. I’m fascinated with nature, tropical environments, and the animals and insects that inhabit them. I’d love to be able to be a part of wildlife conservation.