Friday, April 30, 2010

Toolkit Contest Entry # 2

This is the second entry in our Show Us Your Toolkit Contest, this one from Denise Reynolds, a food stylist.

I'm attaching some photos of my toolkit. I know you posted that the contest is rolling now...well, my toolkit really rolls--literally! I have experienced back pain on and off over the years, especially when I try to carry more weight than I know I should. That's one of the many reasons I love this toolkit. Not only does it rock and roll, but I can split it into three separate sections, and take only the sections that I'll be needing to a particular job site.

I also love the stylish stainless steel construction on this toolkit. I'm not really fond of dirty plastic; I feel so much better wheeling in a toolkit that looks as professional as I do.

This tool box meets my needs on multiple levels--literally! First, it's stylish, and it's virtually impossible to find a tool box that's stylishly designed.

Second, it's versatile. The gold plastic clips on the sides allow this box to be split into three separate tiers. All three tiers have their own handle and can be carried separately. The top two tiers have handles on the top of their sub-boxes, and the bottom section can be rolled around with the pull handle.

Third, it's organized. The top of the three sections resembles a traditional flat tool box comprised of a lift-out sectioned tray immediately beneath the lid, which can be lifted off to access a roomy undivided section below it. If you need just your basic tools, this top section can be carried alone. This top sub-box can be locked with a padlock (not included).

The middle section is also a self-contained toolbox with a sturdy carrying handle on top. This sub-box contains two identical pull-out drawers. This is the only part of the toolbox that is not designed to be secured with a padlock.

The bottom section is about 14 inches deep and it will store small pieces of equipment that are too bulky to fit into a traditional tool box. Again, it is designed to be secured with a padlock.

I like to think of this as more of a tool storage system than a tool box because I can reconfigure it as needed and take only the parts that I require that day to my job site. I can also remove the middle section and the top section will attach to the bottom section, so that's an option on days when I don't need the stuff I stow in the drawers.

The wheels are nicely sized to provide a smooth, steady glide when rolling. Since I have back problems, this is wonderful for me because it saves my back from carrying the weight of all my tools, which is considerable. To transport I typically disassemble the box into its three sections and then lift each section into my vehicle. I don't think it's made to lay down, fully assembled, on its back side.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Toolkit Contest Entry # 1

The Toolkit Contest, offered by Photo Styling Workshops, is coming to a close. Tomorrow (April 30) is the last day to enter to win a free online class. This has been really fun for me and I think motivating to the people who have entered. They're motivated to take a free class and to evaluate their own styling kits. We've had three entries near the end of the month and I'm happy to share them here with you.

Lee Bottorff, a Food Styling 101 student of ours, sent the first entry and some great descriptions which follow. The other toolkits will follow.

I do garden and outdoor lifestyle and product styling, I always have kit envy when on set and the other stylist has a new configuration but I keep my various tool boxes anyway....So here is my kit on location last week at the prop is actually 3 boxes and a fourth is now being filled for additional floral styling tools....

Main one is a rolly from Home Depot that breaks apart.
- bottom is cleaning liquids, cloths, spray bottles, canned air, goo gone, fireplace lighter and my trusty Heat gun (great to melt cheese on a burger that's been on set waiting for its shot....basically big stuff.
- top section is the stuff I need the moment I get on set, hammer, fabric scissors, sandwich bags for tags (this one had lighters this round from all of the fire pits I just shot), all of my brushes for dusting cleaning (painting to detail oil paint brushes) Lint Roller, picture hooks and wire various sizes, felt pads.
-very top of the big boy has flip open sections for Fun Tack, Bank Pins

Second one is the floral, cut and paste bin.
- top cutting tools, flower frogs, hot glue gun, thorn stripper,
Floral pick and wire potting trowels.
- bottom Turkey Baster ( I use this for everything except turkey basting, it's essential), large freezer bags to stow product tags, or loose things from the set when you clear such as shims, pins, tape
- anything you don't have time to put away during the day. Green twine, zip ties, floral tapes etc.

Third one has sides that flip open and stays open all day, the photo team heads for this one usually for glue, fishing line, small clips and clamps, tapes, Playing cards ( keeps the photo guys busy while you set up the next shot), all shapes and sizes of bamboo skewers, tea lights both metal and clear plastic.
Jewelers kit (tiny tiny tools), pretty much any glue or adhesive substance, even small can of spray mount, shims plastic and wood, hem tape, double sided carpet tape, chalk, and nail polish remover for the clothing stylist or bed stylist and silver tape.

As I said I have a fourth one building now just for floral stuff; the cardboard box is full now.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Tailcoat Adventure

The San Diego Opera costume shop, where I work part-time in the winter and spring, has just wrapped its season. As I make the transition into my summer schedule of more blogging, I hope, I wanted to share a fun project we worked on recently. Tailcoats for La Traviata.

This opera season my team was assigned the task of building eleven custom-fitted men's tailcoats from scratch for La Traviata. It was a team effort, led by Su-Lin Chen and including Corey, Nunzia, Yang-Chen, Issa, Mary Jill, Mark, and me. Ingrid Helton is the shop manager.

This is where it all happens, the costume shop of the San Diego Opera.

Some of the fabrics that are used to build the many complex layers of the tailcoats. There is much more to tailoring than most people know.

After the pieces are cut out they are thread-marked for precise sewing. Each tailcoat has 52 separate pieces - I counted them!

The mannequin (sized for each jacket) is necessary to build the curves of the human body into the garment.

The layers of the jacket, lapels, and collar are beginning to be built and shaped.

A look at the path-stitching, done by hand, that shapes the lapels.

Su-Lin working on positioning the shoulder pads inside the jacket.

This helps to create curves in the right places.

The bodice front pieces are attached to the tail panels.

With the back in place you can see how important the stitch marks are.

Now the four panels of the tail are together, the side seams are sewn, and the sleeves are basted in place.

The jacket takes shape but still needs to be fitted and then taken apart for precise reconstruction. The sleeves are only basted for now.

On the ironing table. Careful pressing is important at each step.

The crisp edges of the tail and its lining contribute to the elegance of the tailcoat. Nunzia is expertly ironing here.

Finally the jacket has been fit, taken apart, and reconstructed. The lapel and collar fabric is now included.

With buttons in place this tailcoat is finished.

Back view. The tailcoat's shape gives the gentleman an elegant posture.

A tailcoat with its own white brocade vest, also patterned and constructed by our team (Su-Lin and Corey, to be specific). In addition to the tailcoats we made twelve pairs of pants and five vests!

Ready for La Traviata! Plus these tailcoats will be used in future operas and available for rental to other operas and theaters.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Fashion Styling 101 starts April 27

After reading her enlightening little career book, "Career Diary of a Fashion Stylist," I recruited fashion and celebrity stylist Kim Maxwell of Atlanta to teach a course. Her book was such a thorough look at the daily life and challenges of the profession that I had to have her as an instructor for Photo Styling Workshops.

Together we built the online course Fashion Styling 101 and its companion course Business & Marketing for Fashion Stylists. Between the two courses a fashionista should have every skill, form, and bit of information needed to start this fun and fascinating career.

The next session of this interactive class begins next week - on Tuesday, April 27, 2010. Kim and I are also planning some live hands-on workshops in the near future. You can register at

I wanted to share some of the final fashion images created by past students. Student Best photos above styled by Amelia Satoor of Australia and Daunea Foster of Atlanta.

Friday, April 16, 2010

A Home Photo Studio

My friend Corey Johnston was wondering how to get a good photo of his products. He makes exquisite handmade and hand-painted jackets for his etsy store but found it a challenge to photograph them in a way that would show them at their best. I told him about Photo Styling Workshops' online course Style It & Shoot It. It would answer all his questions about do-it-yourself product photography and he's signing up for the next session.

Corey also writes a blog, Relished Artistry, which has a wonderful article about.. ME! (Quite flattering; thanks, Corey!) It is also about his new technique of covering a mannequin with a black velvet sleeve to enhance his garments in his home studio.

He has in turn inspired me to spread the word about Style It & Shoot It to the creative world of crafters and etsy store owners who already accomplish great photos but strive for more techniques to improve them. Next session to be announced soon. Visit Photo Styling Workshops for more information.

Monday, April 12, 2010

San Diego Favorites: The Little Yoga Studio

I miss The Little Yoga Studio. Now that I have moved from downtown San Diego to Carlsbad, half an hour north of San Diego, my little yoga studio is not across the street any more. There was nothing like an under-five-minute walk to and from my excellent yoga classes. And such a great (little) studio space.

I wrote last summer about a product shoot I did for Maria, the owner, in exchange for some classes. It was then that I realized what a great photo location this was. Having searched for locations like this in the past I know it can be a challenge to find a space that doesn't rush you and doesn't have mirrors everywhere. Bamboo style flooring, good light, no inconvenient mirrors. I really recommend it for anyone who needs to do some athletic- or yoga-wear shots on location. Or for an out-of-town crew who wants to work out in a small class with top-of-the-line instruction and a soothing eye-pillow at the end.

Visit the Little Yoga Studio site,