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Meet Lauren Shields of Prop Culture in Highland Park

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lauren Shields.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
After graduating from Smith College with a degree in Studio Art + French Literature, I moved to New York City where my first job out of college was working as an editorial assistant in the art department of Martha Stewart Weddings magazine. It was here that I was introduced to the inner workings of how editorial content (a.k.a. a magazine) was made. We’d start with an idea (take lace, for instance) , then pitch the story (is it a modern take on lace?), develop the concept visually (should it be shot in black and white to see the design + craftmanship or a fashion story?), develop the budget based on how many pages in the magazine we were given (editorial budgets are remarkably small in comparison to advertising or catalog), look at portfolios and hire the photographer (do we want a fashion, still life or lifestyle photographer?), then build the sets or find a location. It was a symphony of creativity, where each individual; stylist, set designer, art director, and photographer collaborating to tell the story.

Moving away from the weddings magazine, I eventually landed in the Craft Department for Martha Stewart Living magazine, where I spent my time pitching and developing craft project ideas and content for the magazine. After 5 years at the company, I decided to branch out on my own and work as a freelancer. I started working for a variety of companies doing crafts and handmade projects, but eventually, the demand for a prop stylist was higher and so I gradually started doing more of that. It took a year or two, but my prop styling and set design career took off and I’ve been busy doing that since 2005.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
When I first started my own career as a freelance prop stylist and designer, I had been working full time for a company with a very strong visual identity and aesthetic. As employees, we were instructed to use a specific visual vocabulary for that brand and stay true to that. When I ventured out on my own, it took me a minute to get back in touch with my own visual voice and aesthetic, and it actually took quite some time before I regained my confidence and felt secure in my own visual voice and choices. I think of styling as its own language, unique to the individual stylist and the story they want to tell. We are all drawn to different color palettes, shapes, design references, and objects and while you get hired by a client to execute their wishes for their own brand, I find most clients are curious and interested to hear what your own unique language has to say about the project and they invite your unique perspective to the conversation.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Prop Culture – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
When people ask what I do for a living, I’ll say I’m a prop stylist, although styling on set is really a fraction of what I do. Since my background is in crafting and handmade projects, most companies hire me to create one of a kind, unique handmade props and sets for them (usually for photographing in their catalog, advertisements, commercials, etc.) Most prop stylists specialize in a certain category; tabletop, fashion, interiors, lifestyle, still life, kids, etc. but I love doing all of it and thrive on the variety of different types of projects and requests. Most recently, I was hired as the craft consultant for an upcoming craft competition show on television, which was such an incredible opportunity to put all the years of experience, mistakes, and mishaps, triumphs, and tribulations to use!

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
Having recently worked in television, I would love to do more of that and thoroughly enjoyed the process of developing content, troubleshooting the ideas and watching it come to fruition. Most of all, I just want to do good work, make things I am proud of, and continue to collaborate with talented wonderful people. I’m beyond grateful to be able to say that I love my job and get to learn something new EVERY SINGLE TIME.

Contact Info:

  • Website:
  • Phone: 917-751-9356
  • Email:
  • Instagram: @shieldsonset

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