Today, Hallmark designer Lindsay Tippett takes us behind the scenes of one of Hallmark’s most magical resources; the photo studio’s prop closet!
A stone’s throw away from main campus, in a building that used to be a Police Station, sits one of the most fascinating spaces at Hallmark: the Union Hill Photo Studio (UHS). UHS is a 58,000-square-foot warehouse featuring wardrobe rooms, prop rooms, dozens of studio spaces, green-screen rooms, a fully equipped woodshop, a floral room, a kitchen, and even its own shuttle. This ever-expanding commercial photography studio hosts a crew of Hallmarkers with roles ranging from photographers and stylists to equipment managers and talent coordinators. UHS even has a set builder and courier. These Hallmarkers all work on hundreds of photo, video and sound projects each year.
The first time I went to UHS, I was floored by the sheer scale of the place and the overwhelming amount of stuff it contains. But the longer I browsed, the more compelling it all became. I began to see this studio and these props as the raw materials used to bring thousands of photographs to life. Every photograph that has found its way into Hallmark stores, onto our cards, our mailers, or our Dreambooks was originally dreamt up and made real at UHS. This studio contains an organized rainbow of furnishings, neatly categorized, awaiting their chance to be a part of a Hallmarker’s vision.
I met up with stylist-turned-art-director Danielle Mousley, who generously offered to give me a tour of the collection in The Prop Room. Is she kidding me? It’s more like a Prop Wonderland! Items are stacked floor to ceiling, on bookshelves, wire-coops, shelves, and wall mounts. It goes on as far as your eye can see.
“At first, I was super intimidated, but then you learn what we have, and you start to assemble an inventory in your head,” says Danielle.
All of these props have been purchased, made or scavenged to be used to style the many needs and moods of Hallmark photography. Are you a Hallmark designer with a photo concept that requires a classroom? UHS has your chalkboards, desks, rulers, notebooks and even apples. Need to create a beach scene? UHS has umbrellas, flip-flops and sand toys. Need a taxidermy squirrel for the spring catalog photo shoot? They have that, too.
Such a massive library of props requires meticulous and deliberate categorization. It takes a queen of organization to maintain the UHS collection. And for that, we talked to the Prop Master, Ashley Travalent.
“The prop room was my ‘office’ for almost 10 years, and I loved organizing it,” Ashley says. “It was a big challenge—much like fitting pieces of a puzzle together.”
But how and where do you start? Ashley opted to organize the rooms by hue.
“People tend to think in color, especially when you’re dealing with seasons. If it’s a Christmas shoot, I know I’ll need red pillows, green blankets and gold candleholders. It’s more efficient and much quicker that way. Plus, it’s prettier.”
Ashley is right. This place is pretty indeed. It’s also entirely immersive and so inspiring! The boundless palette of props, colors, and surfaces at the Union Hill Photo Studio reminds me again that there are so many visual stories still waiting to be told.
All photographs by Lindsey Mehlhorn.