Project Walkthrough: Palm Springs Prop Installation

Project Walkthrough: Palm Springs Prop Installation

In early 2023 I travelled to Palm Springs to create a build and install a collaborative art installation at the renowned Alt Summit conference with my good friend, Scottish designer Nikki Williams, travelling from opposite ends of the world to make art together in the desert. Here's how we did it!
Nikki and Kit, two creative women, stand in front of a colourful backdrop with their arms around each other.Nikki and I at Alt Summit in 2019!
A photo of the Saguaro Hotel in Palm Springs, a colourful rainbow hotel with tall palm trees against a clear blue skyThe beautiful Saguaro Hotel, where Alt Summit is held
Nikki and I first met on Instagram years ago, and then in real life in Palm Springs where we both ran creative workshops at the 2019 Alt Summit conference. Ever since then we've been meeting up at Alt and other creative conferences in the US to spend time together and get inspired. This time, we decided to pitch a collaborative art installation concept for the conference, inspired by women in business, our friendship, and the community of incredible creatives we have met at Alt over the years. We were so thrilled when our pitch got accepted, and got to work planning how we were going to design and build our installation from opposite ends of the world. 

Combining Nikki's playful illustrations with my signature prop-making techniques, we designed a 6 piece installation of oversized props in nostalgic shapes, with empowering messages on each that reflected the vibe of the conference. Organising an art installation for Palm Springs while we were in Australia and Scotland came with it's challenges, and involved a lot of pre-planning to ensure we could hit the ground running.

A colourful digital image with photos of the Saguaro Hotel in Palm Springs and Nikki and Kit, two designers. The image also shows digital mock ups of fun and playful shapes.
A page from our pitch deck, showing how our props might come to life against the colourful backdrop of the Saguaro Hotel, where the Alt Summit is held. 

Planning an installation remotely
Nikki and I spent numerous video calls planning out the design and construction of the props, down to the last centimetre measurement. I turned Nikki's hand-drawn typography and other illustrated elements into vectors to then cut on my Cricut machine and bring with me to the US. With limited time up our sleeves, we booked flights that landed in LA within hours of each other on the same day, and then planned 1.5 days to pick up all the supplies we'd need to build our props (thanks so much to Nikki's husband, the talented mural painter Michael Corr for driving us around!).

In the months leading up to our trip, we remotely researched and sourced all the materials we'd need from supply stores that were close to the hotel we were staying at. Because traffic is notoriously terrible in LA and we only had limited time for materials sourcing, everything needed to be in close proximity so we didn't waste time stuck in traffic. We also brought over our own installation kits and favourite tools from home, plus some extra supplies. For example, I already had all the paper stock we needed at my studio, so rather than buying it all new in the US, I booked a flight that allowed for an extra 23kg piece of luggage, and brought all the paper in a boxed-up roll. And so, with our car packed full of cardboard, paper, materials and tools, we got on the road and headed for Palm Springs!

The Build
A photo of a kitchen filled with crafty mess, cardboard scraps, and props being constructed.
Building giant props away from your studio can prove challenging if you don't have the right place to work. The amount of times I've travelled for work and ended up on the floor of my hotel room trying to build something while squished in between the bed and a wall has taught me this! With just 2 days to build our props before install, the solution for us was to rent an AirBnB that had enough room in the kitchen and living areas for us to spread out and get messy. We even spent some time building out by the pool (it's a tough job but someone's gotta do it)!
Cardboard props in-the-making sit in a living room ready to be decorated
Kit, a craft-based-designer builds some colourful giant oversized props in a kitchen

Because we had pre-planned our prop construction in so much detail before hand, it was simply a matter of getting stuck into it and rolling out our build strategy in my standard assembly-line process, which consists of a measuring and cutting phase, constructing the bases, overlaying the paper-craft elements, then finishing with all the detailed bits (type, icons, motifs etc). 

Colourful oversized cardboard props are arranged by a sunny pool
Crafting by a pool in the desert sunshine aint a bad life, let's be real
A giant pencil prop leans against a wall outside a white house with a blue door.
A close up photo of colourful letters cut out out paper.

The Installation
The actual installation of our props was super simple, which is rare for me! Usually the process involves an install plan and working out hanging or display logistics, plus the labour-intensive installation process itself. But this time all we had to do was place our props on site (outside on the balcony at the Saguaro), and style them to fit within the existing furniture and decor pieces. Easy! To spread the word about our installation and our respective design businesses we created a free sticker sheet inspired by the props that visitors could take away with them. 
Colourful oversized props sit on a balcony in the sun in front of a pink wall Birds eye view of a green plinth with writing on it and a pile of stickers, with two women's shoes visible in the corner of the photo.
A cute sticker sheet full of inspiring and nostalgic illustrations design by Kitiya Palaskas and Nikki McWilliams
Our installation all set up on the balcony at the Saguaro, with our accompanying matching stickers that conference attendees could keep

It was incredible to see people interacting with the props across the three days of the conference, and such a thrill for us to create site-specific artwork for such an iconic location. 
Two women stand on a balcony holding colourful, oversized, cardboard props
A woman with red hair and a floral dress stands on a balcony holding an oversized Nokia3210 mobile phone prop made from cardboard
A small baby in a yellow hat stands in front of an art installation of giant cardboard novelty props
Two smiling women pose with a pair of giant prop heart shaped sunglasses made out of cardboard.
Photos of our installation by the amazing Nicole Breanne.

Closing the Loop
Three smiling women sit on a bench surrounded by giant novelty cardboard props, against a lime green wall.
Three laughing women sit in a car that is full of giant novelty cardboard props.
Thank you Angie for giving our props a new home in your wonderful store!

In all the creative projects we do here at Kitiya Palaskas Studio (or in collaboration with others) we like to consider the afterlife of our props and installation pieces. We feel like it's our responsibility as designers to be conscious creators, and ensure that the art we put out into the world has as little impact on the planet as possible. In the case of our Alt Summit props, we wanted to find a way for them to be used and enjoyed after the conference was over. Enter the incredible Angie from iconic Palm Springs stationery and gift store Bobo Palm Springs, who agreed to adopt our props after the event and allow them to live on forever as decor in her beautiful shop. This speaks so much to the power of community and rallying together for the sake of creativity, which is what our installation was essentially all about!
A collection of giant novelty cardboard props is displayed in a shop window surrounded by paper flowers
A collection of giant novelty cardboard props is displayed in a shop window surrounded by paper flowers
The props in their new home at stationery store Bobo Palm Springs

How to establish creative opportunities overseas
Nikki and Kit, two female designers, stand in front of a summery sunny pool surrounded by giant novelty cardboard props

Has all this got you thinking about how you might create your own art project overseas? You don’t need a client to hire you to create creative opportunities in other countries, or even in other cities or towns in your own country. Here's some quick takeaways from my experience working with Nikki on this project:
  • Got a friend in another country or an international creative crush? Why not approach them and ask them if they want to collaborate?
  • Apply to create art and installations at conferences - there's always call outs. Do some research on what kinds of creative events are going on in the country you want to work in and seek out information on their program submission process
  • Network online with local businesses and community groups in the country you want to visit to generate opportunities for you to exhibit or display your work
  • Do the groundwork online first - reach out, make friends, and connect with creatives in other countries that could end up becoming collaborators. Social media is a powerful tool to do this
  • Communication is key. If you're working remotely on a project with someone in another country, make sure you're scheduling lots of planning sessions and catch ups to ensure everything is as prepared as possible before you travel
Nikki and Kit, two female designers, stand in front of a pink wall holding a giant handmade novelty pencil and glue stick prop
Kit and Nikki, two female designers, sit on a bench in front of a lime green wall, surrounded by handmade oversized novelty cardboard props

Travelling to another country to make creative work can be a financial investment, and may not be within your capacity right now, which is okay! If that's the case, you can still create amazing stuff with people from other countries without physically being there (thank you internet)!

If you do have capacity though, know that it’s an investment in your creative practice and yourself and you never know what amazing career opportunities can come your way from being in another place making your art. Not to mention, the inspiration you get from travelling can fuel your creativity and help you grow as an artist, which is invaluable in my opinion. I loved my experience making props in Palm Springs and I can't wait to see what other creative opportunities come my way next. 

Nikki and Kit, two female designers, stand in a street against a desert mountain backdrop, surrounded by giant novelty cardboard props

Are you a brand, business, organisation, institution or creative agency looking for some giant novelty props for an upcoming project, event or campaign? Here at Kitiya Palaskas Studio we produce props, installations and design work for clients all over the world! If you're interested in finding out more, please get in touch, we'd love to collaborate with you. 


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