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Props, Past To Present

By Ian McPherson

Prop making has evolved like many things in the new age of industry and manufacturing but are we evolving away from the true artisans with machines taking over this creative outlet? 

When I began in the industry of manufacturing for thematic companies, it was an amazing and eye-opening experience to be able to work with so many talented artists and craftsmen to create one-of-a-kind decorative features. We would bring artists from different parts of the world to capture the true feeling of each piece, using their sculpture techniques and applications, and we would all grow from the experience and gain new knowledge of a past time from that area of the world.

This supported the arts in general and was a collective of minds to influence the final result of our creations. We would all work together from a simple drawing and move that into a sculpture and then into a model so that we could make a mold. Eventually, we were able to cast many parts from that and share the creation, using a vast amount of people’s talents to create such pieces of art.

It was not a singular project and it passed through many hands to make that final product, which in turn supported all the trades and employed many.

Now, in this day and age, so many things have changed and many jobs and skills are being lost faster than we can fathom. The age of the machines is upon us and I am not sure how I really feel about it. I am mesmerized by the speed and ability with which machines can produce products that take months to make by hand, that now only take hours using 3D scanners and CNC machines.

In the world of manufacturing we need to be as efficient and cost-effective as possible otherwise you will not win the bids and eventually have to close the doors. So we all have to keep progressing forward and bring in these machines to do the work.

I totally understand that the industry is working off of the bottom dollar and efficiency is the name of the game. But is it really worth the true cost? To me, the cost of losing the artists and craftsmen from the industry is a higher cost in the long run because the trade will eventually fade away and we will only have images of the past times.

I think there has to be a happy medium and a combination of the two ages so that the prop making arts stay alive and thriving and with that, continue to encourage people to still look at the arts as a path in their career.

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