At some point during the last month, it dawned on me that if the theatre I currently work in suddenly stopped needing staff, I wouldn’t get a job elsewhere.
I love my job, I love the people I get to work with, I LOVE being on show call – but if I had to start again anew, with people I didn’t know, I don’t think I could. While I had 3 months of unemployment over the summer, I made no effort to find work with other companies because I was so scared. What if they didn’t like me? What if I’m actually rubbish at my job and it turns out I’ve only got this far because of the rest of the team? I didn’t want to explain to strangers that I was deaf, or that I got migraines. I didn’t want to introduce myself to new people.
So I didn’t. And I only got by because I’d saved a lot of money, and because Matt is extremely generous – but that’s not really a sustainable lifestyle. What I needed was a back up plan, something that I could turn to without having to throw myself into a totally new team.
When I returned to work in August, I started thinking about it more so. I wanted to have something that was within the same industry, something that I still had full control over, and something that I could begin straight away – something I already had all the tools for, didn’t require a lot of space, and didn’t have any huge setting up costs. It also had to be something I could do well – and that was a pretty limiting factor itself! Over the following weeks, I paid attention to what kind of things I was asked to do in work that others weren’t, and it usually came down to computer use – especially creating paper props.
Some paper props are fun, like magazine covers, some are just plain but very specific documents. Both of these props were made by me.
Paper props can be anything from a letter, which takes very little effort, to replicas of old, crinkly documents. While the Internet is a treasure trove for things from the past, you’re also quite limited with it. There have been dozens of occasions where I have found the exact image I need, but when it came to printing it out, it was pixellated, grainy, blurry or…just not what I expected, and I’d then have to spend hours re-creating it in Photoshop for it to be what I wanted. One of the most difficult things to do is recreate documents from the past to make them look new and of the period you’re set in. I very specifically remember creating World War I discharge papers for this reason, and it took me an age, but hearing audience members comment on them after the show made it worth while. People seem to think any piece of paper will do on stage because the audience are so far away, they won’t be able to see it. That’s not true. The audience is very close, and much more observant than you’d think when it comes to spotting mistakes or cheap props!
So, I decided to open an Etsy shop, selling paper prop replicas. I’ve only managed to make three so far, because I’ve been called into work a few times unexpectedly, but fingers crossed I can keep the ball rolling. I’m keeping documents very cheap for now (under £1 – after all, it’s only a piece of paper) but obviously the more time I have to put into a document, the more expensive it will be. I’ve also offered my services making custom paper props, such a book covers or bottle labels that relate to a specific joke in a show. I’ll also be putting bulk documents up there, such as pages of bottle labels and medieval manuscript replicas – and anything I have to make for shows normally will probably end up in there!
Is there a market for this? Probably not. But I think it’s worth a try. Who knows – even if I don’t make any sales, at least I’m improving my own replica-making skills, and staying busy! I’m not going to market the shop until I’ve got 10 items up for sale, but I thought I should explain my radio silence. Starting a new business is a better excuse than my usual excuses – which are usually “I got distracted by a game” or “I couldn’t be bothered editing a photo because I hate editing blog photos.”
Have you ever started an Etsy shop? Do you have any tips to share? Feel free to leave a link to your shop in your comment if you have – I’d love to check them out!