Wednesday, April 20, 2011

behind the scenes...martha's eggcellent easter!

So as I mentioned, I had the wonderful opportunity to work with the super talented team this year that put together Martha's Easter special, Martha's Eggcellent Easter.  As a prop stylist and set decorator working in television for over 10 years, people often have the same question for me "What exactly do you do"?  The simplest way to answer this question I have found is to say..."I make everything look pretty"!  But is much, much, more involved, detailed, exciting, and complicated than that!  Yes, essentially, I do make everything "look pretty", but how I, and actually "we" get there, is a very organized, involved, and creative process.  One of the main things I love about working at Martha Stewart is the team work that goes into everything you work on.  Each project, no matter how big or small,  has so many great, creative minds working together towards the same, final goal.  As a full time employee, and now as a freelancer for the company, I always feel everyone is working and pulling together to create "magic"....there really is no other company like it.

When I first started this freelance project back in March, the Art Director, Aaron Caramanis and Supervising Production Designer of Broadcasting, Anduin Havens, had specific assignments for me to get started on.  The special was broken down into 3 different location shoots, so everything had to be super organized...not a problem for Martha Stewart employees!  Our first location was at The New York Botanical Gardens, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory where the Orchid Show had just opened!

First order of business was to unpack the truck (we never travel "light") and organize the staging area.  It was actually flurrying when we first got there...but quickly warmed up and turned out to be a beautiful day!

One of my assignments as Lead Set Decorator was to help design and prop the dessert and sweets tables at the NYBG.  These photos show how a table comes to "life".  It takes many days of propping, trial and error, working and reworking, and collaboration of hands and minds to create a beautiful table like the sweet one above.

Here you can see the dessert "tables" were made from real tree stumps!  Our Art Director, Aaron, came up with a wonderful painting technique and created a faux bois, meaning "fake wood", grain top and edged them with real birch bark!  This sweets table also featured one of my favorite cookies made by Sweet Dani B!  She makes those beautifully flooded Easter bunnies and eggs!

One of my favorite tables...filled with all sorts of yummy candies...and yes...those are real chocolate bunnies!

Our second "location" was actually taped at Martha's television studio in NYC.  Anduin is a whiz on the computer when it comes to designing sets like this! Once the "shell" is designed, built and painted (Peony - a Martha Stewart color of course!), it was then ready to be filled with furniture, wall art, and props!

I loved propping out this hutch!  We decided to paint the interior of the hutch a few shades darker than the wall color which really helped the white china pop.  Aaron wanted to emphasise the "egg" shape by suggesting to turn the oval platters on their ends...after all, it is an Eggcellent Easter Special!  It was also important to keep stepping away from the hutch and inspect it from all angles when propping since the camera would see it from many different directions.

Another sweet moment on the set.  One cloche had an assortment of blown eggs.  The other, a few porcelain birds nesting on fresh moss.

Our last location was at the Ukrainian Museum and Library in Stamford, Ct.  This is where the ladies who run and work at the museum showed Martha (and us) some of their Ukrainian traditions.
We actually taped in two separate locations at the museum and library.  Of course we brought our trusty box truck with plenty of things to add to the rooms!  Out front of the museum the staff had just brought out these enormous Pysanky eggs, a traditionally decorated Easter egg.

In the kitchen "set", amazing Martha TV Chef Thomas Joseph was busy working with Elizabeth Gardasz making the swap outs and finals of the paska and babka breads for our segments.

Always smiling Martha TV Chef Nora Singley was prepping in another part of the kitchen for the Easter frittata...yum!

This is how we prep our carts for a segment...just like in the studio!  Each bowl has a post-it of what food item is going in it and after it is filled; we sometimes use a p-touch label for a quick reference on camera. 

 Beautiful paska dough getting ready to rise!

Anduin holding a basket lined with a traditional Ukrainian cloth and filled with all symbolic foods of Easter is then ready to be blessed.

Baked paskas...ready to go on the buffet table.  Don't they look beautiful?

All of the food (and people eventually) made its way to the buffet table in the museum.  

We created our own epergne to use for the centerpiece by stacking a glass cakestand, compote, and celery glass together.  The compote in the middle was filled with blown natural eggs and traditionally decorated Pysanky eggs.  We added smaller juice glasses around the base cakestand and filled them with small spring flower arrangements.  Aaron wears many "hats", but one of my favorites is the florist one!  He even did the flower arrangements for my wedding, including my bridal bouquets!

I know this post was kind of long...but I hope you enjoyed looking at some of my behind-the-scenes photos, as much as I enjoyed taking them while working on the project!  If you are looking for more sure to check out SweetDaniB's blog!  She has a great post about her cookies coming to life and her work as a hand model...2 other parts of the special not scene here.  I hope after you get a glimpse of all the pieces of the puzzle, you can see what a wonderful payoff it is to view the entire show put together!

truck packed & on our way...
Brad, Paul, myself & Aaron!
That's a Wrap!


  1. Great photos and juicy post! I love it! Amazing work on the blog and on the special- totally egg-cellent! xoxo

  2. What a great post! And, awesome pics to use as reference, years down the road!! xxoo


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