Creative Manaaki has more than 600 creative members, based in Kāpiti, Porirua and Horowhenua in a variety of creative disciplines. One of our newest members is Paraparaumu based Alison Clark, who will soon graduate the prestigious Toi Whakaari Sets and Props Course. This two-year practical course leading to The New Zealand Diploma in Scenic Construction & Properties, teaches making skills to help construct, sculpt, carve, mould, cast, paint, engineer, laser-cut and 3D-print sets and props. Students invest $15, 856 in course fees, leading to a career in the stage and screen industries. 

“I once did acting night class and decided I didn’t like being on stage but got involved in the set building team” says Alison. “It peaked a real interest so I did two short courses (one at Toi Whakaari and one in Sydney) to learn more. During that time, I had the thought ‘people get paid to have this much fun?’ I then applied for the two year fulltime course, got in, and moved to the Kāpiti Coast to attend. My dream production would be anything with interesting props to make.

I did an exciting internship with The Court Theatre in Christchurch under the expert guidance of Julian Southgate. We were making for Frankenstein so I got to do taxidermy, blood guts and gore, plus lots of other props. Testing materials and processes is really important. Even the experts still make things for the first time! The value of putting time into planning each step before you begin saves time and money.”  

Alison told us that one of the benefits of the programme is the variety of skills training and learning in the context of collaborative interdisciplinary film, theatre and performance projects. Another key skill is problem solving – many props are one off and may not have been built before. Or the props have a different budget or different materials to what is available. Creative solutions have to be found! 

“My special interest is prop making with a bent for theatre. I also have an interest in education so I’m exploring ways I can combine the two. Whether that’s workshops for children or community groups, something in schools or museums, or something I haven’t thought of yet” says Alison. ” My second year major work is a table top version of the Efteling Theme Park Resort fantasy book in the Netherlands (pictured left). We are tasked with making something that already exists within a limited time and budget. It’s a work in progress – the painting and landscaping begins this week” says Alison. And her plans for the future? “Once school finishes in November I will actively explore all the ideas and leads I have already. I’m keen to work on interesting short- term projects or work part time so that I can still have time to give back to the community in some way.”  We look forward to exhibiting some of Alison’s props in the future.