my (visual) story building process…
Posted in behind the scenes, stylists August 30th, 2013 by pia

PJB_piasoffice_IMG_2388the chaos of my working space – there is no room for neatness in my creative world…

It occurred to me while composing the behind-the-scenes blog post for Country Style this week (the post just went live, you can read it here), that you guys might be interested in my story & styling process… as a writer/stylist, perhaps it’s interesting to know how I start with the topic for my monthly column with the magazine, the writing process along with the story concept, styling and the shoot. It’s a different method to styling on its own, or writing on its own – it’s all intertwined and it’s a practice of creating that I really enjoy.

First of all some of you who live outside of Australia might not be aware that I currently write a monthly column for a magazine here called Country Style. It’s a beautifully edited and popular publication that features gorgeous homes from coast to coast, country artisans, recipes by country chefs, as well as craft and decorating features.

I’ve been writing for them for about a year now and was given the simple direction by editor-in-chief Victoria Carey to write what I’m inspired by, in line with my  ‘enhance the everyday’ aphorism.

Composing my column is quite a long process from start to finish, and begins 6 months prior to the story release.

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First, I present the story outlines for 6 month’s worth of stories. Fran and I brainstorm these with the seasonal theme guidelines given to me by art director Giota Letsios. To come up with the story summaries Fran and I talk about our current interests and inspirations, as well as aspirations for things we’d like to make, artisans we’d like to meet, things we’ve made, or seen, or done. If something grabs me as we talk – if I start to be able to visualise an idea as a styled story, drawing together props in my mind while creating colour palettes, we stop and work through that idea. If the story continues to unfold visually in my mind as we talk it through – if I get a stronger feel for it – then I write it down as we talk, do some quick sketches and move on to the next theme idea. If the idea doesn’t develop visually in my mind as we talk, we leave it be and move on as well, coming back later to see if I can further sketch it out. Coming up with 6 stories in one go is quite a challenge for me, and often one or two ideas can be knocked back by the creative team so then we need to start again. This initial process can take about 4 weeks. By that time we have 6 clear story ideas that we all agree upon.

In the lead up to the scheduled shoot day (with the aim to photograph all six stories in one day) I then present six storyboards to Giota so that she gets an idea of what is in my head. Here is an example of one of my past storyboards…

PJB_storyboard_IMG_3918

It’s very simple and loose as although the idea of the layout is strong in my mind, I’m not certain which props I will use on the day. But it’s a good exercise to decide on colour backdrops, whether it will be a horizon shot (an image with a horizon line) or an OTT (over-the-top camera shot), along with a rough idea of the materials I plan to use.

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Then I start collecting. In the weeks leading up to the shoot I keep each story idea in my mind as I walk through my home, around the neighbourhood, and while gazing into windows of beautiful boutiques as I walk with my baby girl. I spend less and less time surfing the web for my shoot ideas these days. Because even though there are more and more visual aids like pinterest for creatives, I find it hinders my creative progress as it tends to suck up the short time I have available to prep.  I find that when I need fresh, new material, I need to look within rather than without. So, I pick up bits of bark, string, and flower petals as I wander. I collect things I have in my home and make little samples of ideas along the way. If I really like something I snap an image of what I’ve created or collected and build a mood board of images to send to the art director so that she gets a clearer visual impression. Just before the shoot date I brief my assistant Julia on the stories we will be shooting. She then collects props at her home that she thinks I’ll be inspired by on set, and she sources the flowers I’ve requested from the flower markets and Grandiflora. I source extra props as well as backdrops from some of my favourite places like Major + Tom.

PJB_onset_CS_IMG_3948
setting up the prop tables on set

Next comes the shoot. Julia and I, with our cars full to the brim with props, meet with photographer Craig Wall at the magazine studios. We discuss the storyboards and props and sets needed.

As a stylist, I’ve slowly evolved my style over the years to seeking a looser, less-styled approach. I like to infuse each story with a spark that comes to me ‘in the moment’ – I set up the shot while Craig sets up the lighting, then I relax into it and ‘let loose’. For this issue’s paper love story, Julia and I made the paper pieces there on the spot, only using what we had. We fashioned a crown from a piece of bark and string, making little flags and feather-like sticks to adorn it. I love the rawness of  this style of working, it’s a process I am adapting and enjoying more and more.

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After the shoot, we cart all the props back to our homes and to stores if we’ve borrowed some. My props usually stay in baskets in my office for months before I get to unpack them these days.

PJB_piasoffice_IMG_2384

I don’t write the piece until a few months before the issue is released. That way I’ve allowed some time and breathing space between stages which I find important for the way I work. I use the photograph created to guide my thoughts and reflections. I write the piece in about a day though I’ve spent a few months thinking about it and making mental notes about the direction I want to take the piece. I’m a slow writer. And yes, from this detailed blog post you might gather I’m a slow creator! But I think that’s because everything today has to be faster and faster (that’s what I tell myself!).

So that’s it! I send my finished written article to the creative team at the magazine, they make very minimal changes, if any, which I’m very thankful for. And a month before the issue goes to print they send me a proof to read over and check.

xx

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amy merrick’s fairy tale flowers…
Posted in artists, creative ventures, nature, stylists December 9th, 2011 by pia

all images featured in this post are courtesy of Amy Merrick.

I wanted to write this post in time for Thanksgiving since that is when I first met sweet Amy last year. Shall we pretend I did  actually manage to write this in time for the occasion? okay yes, well then this is what I wanted to say:

“This time last year, I received an email from Brooklyn-dweller Amy Merrick, informing me of her upcoming trip to Amsterdam and how she’d like to meet up if I had the time. I’d admired Amy’s work, blog, and ‘living in’ posts (where she puts together a collection of homewares and furniture inspired by the sets of favourite movies) on design*sponge for some time, and was rapt to know that I’d have the opportunity to meet her in person. Amy was traveling with her dear sister Micha and they happened to be in Amsterdam on Thanksgiving day. So I decided to surprise them and book a table at the only place in the city that serves a fabulous Thanksgiving dinner – lovefood. Perhaps it was going to be more of a treat for French Boy and I as the last time I’d had a real Thanksgiving meal was 15 years prior when I lived in Pennsylvania, while French Boy had never had a Thanksgiving feast. French Boy, my dear friend Heidi and myself rode our bikes to the restaurant on the prinsengracht to meet the girls. It was a gorgeous, crisp Amsterdam evening, and we rode side by side, chatting and catching up on the week’s happenings.

In we all went, took our seats, and didn’t stop chatting for the whole evening, dining on turkey, homemade cranberry sauce and all the Thanksgiving trimmings that could fit on the table. It was such a memorable evening, I was captivated by Amy’s stories of recent travels and life in New York, and hearing about Micha and Amy’s childhood memories and ambitions. I’m so thankful for that evening, it meant a lot to me to enjoy that special meal with such beautiful people.

In the conversation, Amy mentioned her transition into a solo career in floral design.  She had ideas to start a website and work from her Brooklyn apartment. In August of this year, I was delighted to find out she’d done just that, and has created such a delightful online showcase of her work as a prop stylist and floral designer, take a look at some of her work in the following images…

Stunning, non?  Take a moment to read her post on how it all came about, and how she was inspired by her visit to Amsterdam. And while you’re visiting her blog, an apple a day, take a moment to read her most recent post about her visit to Florida with Micha, which tells of how their parents met (it’s the ultimate “Most Romantic Meeting Story of All Time”)…

Amy is not only a beautiful genuine soul, but incredibly talented as you can see. I’m excited to continue to follow her journey to see what she creates in the years to come, and how her creations will evolve over time.

“Happy Thanksgiving mes amis.”

So that is my very belated thanksgiving post featuring dear Amy. I figure, better to give thanks late than never, right?

xx

………………………………………….

+All images courtesy of Amy Merrick.
+To peruse Amy’s new website, click here.
+To read her blog “An Apple a Day”, click here.
+And to view her awesome ‘living in’ posts on design*sponge, click here.

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would you like to join me in vancouver in september?
Posted in behind the scenes, canada, pia's photos, stylists May 26th, 2011 by pia

Oh I’ve been dying to tell you this news for so long, and the moment has finally arrived. To say I’m excited, or ecstatic, or even ‘over the moon’ would all be understatements.

As most of you already know, I love Canada – I love the land, I adore the people, culture and history. So when Angela from Ace Camps asked if I’d like to lead a workshop and if so, where in the world would I like to be while leading this workshop, I said Vancouver…

This workshop will be about finding inspiration in the everyday through styling and photography, and I’ll be sharing with you how I go about my work and life, doing just that:

“The core of the workshop will be about enhancing your everyday; finding beauty in the ordinary; learning to see your surroundings in a new light and being uplifted by the simple things in life.”

You will not need the best or latest camera gear, instead I will teach you how to get the best out of what you have. We’ll be doing some mini photo shoots around the city at some amazing locations (including some of the local boutiques of course), and we’ll learn how to create beautiful images as well as get more out of our everyday. Ace Camps are workshop-holidays, so during the days together we will get a chance to roam the surrounding land on our own, perhaps head to Whistler for the day and get some mountain air…

…Then we’ll head to Granville Island, and check out the incredible farmers markets, artisan studios and Emily Carr Institute

We’ll wander, we’ll chat, and we’ll gather some of our found treasures and learn how to create some magical images…

Oh, this is going to be so. much. fun. I do hope you can join me! The workshop will be from September 22 – 27, and all the details including itinerary and travel information are right here. These are intimate workshops and places are limited, so please make sure you follow the steps and register as soon as possible if you would like to secure your place. Boy oh boy oh boy, I can’t believe I’ll be in Vancouver in less that 4 months time…

wandering around Yaletown, care to join me?

I took these photos on my old canon AE-1 film camera about 7 years ago while wandering around granville island, I love the softness of the light and that beautiful tree
………………………………

Thank you Angela from Ace Camps for asking me to be one of your workshop instructors, it’s such a privilege to be part of an incredible bunch of creative people, all of whom I admire.

xx

Workshop details:

+click here for trip details
+click here for itinerary
+click here for travel info + payment
+click here to register

+and click here to learn more about Ace Camps.

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all about props…
Posted in homewares, stylists, sydney April 22nd, 2011 by pia

My first ever job as a stylist was assisting on a david jones catalogue, some 7 or so years back now. I was nervous, to say the very least. I had no idea about styling, or photo shoots, or anything of the sort. I remember walking into the windowless studio – a concrete room filled with hi-tech camera paraphernalia and trestle tables full of props – daunted by the bright lights and the fact that everyone in the room knew exactly what they were doing. That is when I met Jenni Booth, the stylist I was to be assisting. Jenni took me under her wing from that first moment, teaching me the ropes of styling for the many months that followed. Her generosity and genuineness never faded, and we soon became great friends.  I’ve always said that if it wasn’t for assisting Jenni, I would never have wanted to pursue a career in styling.

playing with props at Jenni’s place

A few years back, during a skype conversation while I was living in Amsterdam, Jenni let me in on an idea that she’d been nurturing for some time. We were rattling on about the frustration of never having enough time in a day as a stylist – so often we are allocated a minimal amount of hours to prep for a shoot, and those precious hours are spent rushing around from store to store, with most of it wasted in travel and trawling the internet for props. Even if we find something on the internet worth pursuing, we still have to get out there and pick the item up. During our conversation, Jenni asked me, “What if you could hire your props online, with clear photos and prices of each item. Would you use that service?” I answered, “absolutely! That would be awesome.” In the months that followed, Jenni got to work on creating just that – an online hiring store that would be super easy to navigate, with loads of great props, clear photos, and next day delivery.

Today, I’m super excited to be the first online to tell you about my dear friend Jenni’s new venture,  Prop Hire Online


What makes Prop Hire Online truly unique is that it is an ONLINE ONLY store. It has been created to make the life of a stylist, art director, photographer – really anyone in the industry who requires props  - a lot easier and much more productive. It’s open 24hrs a day, so you can hire when it suits you. There are beautiful clear photographs of all items to show you exactly what you are hiring. It works just like an online shopping cart where items for hire can be added and tallied as you browse. Then, the items are delivered the next day to your studio or location and will be collected when the hire period is finished.

all sorts of props – from baskets, books, and backdrops…

Jenni has also included something rather exclusive to the range of items available - stylist supplies and kits. So if you have run out of masking tape or need a whole new kit, she can add this to your order and deliver it too. With this launch there are over 500 items available to hire for every kind of shoot, be it interiors, still life, food or fashion. New products will be added as they are gathered and a regular newsletter will keep you up to date with the latest arrivals.

One of the other things I love about it is that you can type anything you like in the search button – be it, say, the colour ‘red’ – and you get a selection of all the red props…

Isn’t that cool? Since shoots are often theme-based, you can narrow down your search this way. Let’s try, ‘green’…

I love it. There are so many gorgeous items. Looks at some of the crates…

and vintage bottles…

Last year while I was visiting from Amsterdam, Jenni and I were in a fabulous antique store in a little country town, and found this divine vintage French champagne bottle to add to the Prop Hire Online collection…

It’s one of my favourite items in stock, and I can’t wait to hire it for an upcoming shoot.

So if you’re based in Sydney or around, and are a stylist, photographer, art director, or just love photographing beautiful props for your blog, OR if you want a stylist’s kit of your own, then this is the store for you. Congratulations Jenni, after all the hard work and persistence, you’ve done it! And it’s more than fabulous. I am a very proud friend.

xx

-photo credits: first 3 images by me, fab product images by Alan Richardson.
-click here to visit Prop Hire Online.

 

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Posted in handmade, holland, nature, stylists March 7th, 2011 by pia

Dutch stylist & jewelry designer Miranda van Dijk has just created a beautiful new collection called hidden memories. I’ve known about it for some time, and have found myself going back to Miranda’s website to take ‘one more look’ a number of times over the past couple of months. Drawn to her new work but again last week, I figured it was about time I share it with you here in the (blog)house…

Inspired by the connection between nature and humankind, Miranda has fashioned brooches and necklaces from cotton fabric printed with old photographs. Above are some of the designs she has been working with, and I’m captivated by all of them, but especially love the necklaces. Miranda sells her work in markets around Holland (she was just part of the Swan Market in Rotterdam this weekend), but her work is also for sale online here.  And you’ll be rapt to know that Miranda is also offering custom creations as part of this collection, just send her an email.

Now I’m inspired to rummage through my old family albums and email some photos to Miranda… mother’s day is just around the corner.

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