Recently, we got a chance to truly look at the magic behind the film productions through the craft of propmaking thanks to Chelsea Mainwaring, who spent eight months as a prop assistant in The Hobbit studios in New Zealand while the production of the trilogy was gaining full swing back in 2011.
“Working on The Hobbit was one of the best, and also the hardest, experiences in my life,” she told The Undercurrent.
“Apart from geeking out 24-7 and figuring out how to make these complicated things, there was the pressure to get the work out on time. If not—or not done perfectly—then the scene would not get shot.”
Having no previous experience in welding, The Hobbit was a good head start for a Vancouver jeweler, as she told us in an interview.
“The Hobbit was my first film to work on. I was in prop making (my ID was Prop Making Assistant). I was a jeweler and artist first, and got this into work when I was traveling in New Zealand. Of course, I knew The Hobbit was being filmed when I went there and was dreaming to get work on it. Lucky enough, I did! I have been a Tolkien fan for most of my life, starting with reading The Hobbit when I was very young, then rekindled when I saw The Lord Of The Rings.”
Middle-earth News Reporter, Anastasia Green: Tell us just a little bit about New Zealand–how did you like the environment?
Chelsea Mainwaring: I absolutely love New Zealand, from the friendly people, layed back culture, to the fantastic scenery! It kind of felt like home (BC Canada) but as if it had fallen into prehistoric times. There were the strangest creatures only known in NZ, like the Tuatara lizard, to giant ferns and palms that inhabit the entire land including colder regions.
A.G.: How did you like working with The Hobbit crew and Peter Jackson as a head master of it all? Was there anything special about your screw?
C.M.: Our crew was great! I am so lucky to have met such talented and lovely people that I know will be friends for a lifetime. The most hardworking and determined individuals I have ever met. I learned more from them then I could have ever imagined. Ha-ha, there was no time to learn slowly!
Most days were spent at the props making studio away from the filming studio, so I did not have much interaction with Peter or that department. Though, when I had time off, I could watch the filming and admire from the sidelines!
A.G.: What are, if any, some of the cons to your job?
C.M: The pros and cons seem to go hand in hand. I learn the most under pressure and dive right into projects that I might not otherwise take on. The stress level can be very, very high, but the end results are definitely worth it… like when in the theatre and able to see all the wonderful things in all their glory!
A.G.: What is your favorite object of your own making?
C.M.: Favorite object… that is a hard one to say. There were various things I loved making for different reasons. The tools for Bard were so much fun since I have never made or known how to make giant steel wick cutters. There were the beautiful eleven keys I crafted from wax into pewter and an ornate drinking flask for Thorin Oakenshield. Then there were some things I found wonderful at first until I had to then make hundreds of them, such as the silvery saddle buckles for Shadowfax, Gandalf’s horse.
Chelsea is also hoping to bring some of her experience to good use in the magic that is currently happening in Ireland, where HBO is working on the production of the new season of Game Of Thrones. Being altogether very excited and full of hope about “another fantastic realm of imagination and creativity,” Chelsea says she is determined “to show what I am capable of and hopefully get someone inspired with my work.”
“I would like to think that ‘art’ is a refection of the spirit, a tangle of emotion, a small spark from within, that eventually ignites into something far beyond the realm of words and reality,” says Chelsea on her official website packed with awesome drawings and designs. After having the opportunity to work in a film industry, we wanted to check in with her take on this very special form of art and its value.
“‘Art’ has many facets to it,” she begins. “And to inspire, it can be still, moving, colorful, grim, or lighthearted. Filmmaking turns the imagination that began with an idea into reality and can also speak to those who do not have time to think up these wondrous ideas on their own. It can ‘rekindle’ that magic in life when it seems nothing else can. It may just be a spark, but that is all it takes. Books, of course, do the same thing, as well as a walk in the woods or a stroll by the misty sea, but not everyone has an interest or the ability for these wonders. Film seems to speak to most people; it is visual and abrupt and a great escape into a new world!”
In between the long travels and exciting adventures at her prop jobs, not to mention running a jewelry store back in the lands of British Columbia, it is back at home that Chelsea finds most inspiration.
“It’s really the peacefulness and raw beauty of this place that allows time for the imagination to ignite. Finding that gnarled root or walking between those spindled spider leg-like cedars definitely enhances inspiration. The mountains, the ocean, the forests—this place is a hidden gem. I hope it stays that way. At the end of the day in the city, there is nothing more relieving than getting on the ferry. It’s like entering a completely different realm.”
It was an absolute delight, Chelsea, and we appreciate you making some time to talk with us withing your busy schedule. We wish you further success at the realms of GOT!
For more information about Chelsea Mainwaring and her amazing designs, visit chelseamaindesign.squarespace.com.