Saturday, February 25, 2012

Russian painted tray

Sometimes the trickiest props are ones that no one else even notices. In Hunger at Lifeline Theatre, I was having trouble figuring out what to do about a small tray that was needed to carry a bowl of soup and a roll. Nothing I could find seemed right.
In any other situation I would probably have used a wooded tray to give the impression I wanted, but several scenes earlier we see the characters burning books in order to stay warm. I couldn't justify to myself that these scientists wold be burning books and would have left a wooden tray intact. All of the silver metal trays I found in stock though seems much too cold and formal. 
I realized what the answer was when I stumbled across this old tray at an antique store. Of course, the tray should be a beautiful old Russian painted tray (also the show is set in Russia).
I couldn't afford to buy this tray (or any authentic Russian tray) on my budget, but I took this closer photo of the painting at the antique store and resolved to do it myself.
I started by painting a stock silver tray black. Then I used a small brush to add a base layer of color mimicking some of the strokes I saw in my research photo.
A second coat of paint in different colors gave my flowers a bit more dimension. 
Then add some distance, and a bowl covering part of the plate and you have a very convincing fake antique. More importantly it fits into the mood of the scene without being visually or conceptually distracting.

No one else ever mentioned my tray (or even noticed it I think), but often that is the entire point. 

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