“I was the definition of a giraffe on roller skates, but I had a blast and it confirmed in my mind that this place filled with oddballs (myself included) was the place I needed to be.”
Meet Chris Bennett, Chemical Engineering graduate turned designer for the arts, pursuing a career in doing what he loves, right here in Geelong.
“I would describe myself as a maker, designer and all-round nerd. I got my start by making props for the musical theatre industry until COVID-19 arrived and a majority of arts were put on hold. Some of my favourite projects include a giant sausage and pretzel hat for the musical The Producers, 3D printed fixtures for antique windows and a large LED light sculpture for the Geelong Youth Choir (which unfortunately was unable to be realised due to the event being cancelled).”
Chris uses 3D modelling and 3D printing to produce his creations, but also works with wood, metal, foam and electronics to make display pieces. But, as is often the case these days, his path to now included a detour of sorts.
“I have always been very academic, so when my high school gave the career advice of ‘do what you are good at,’ I followed their advice and got a Master’s Degree in Chemical Engineering.
I worked for several years in chemistry research and was planning to do a PhD until mental health issues prompted me to re-evaluate my life and my career. You could call it a quarter-life crisis!
In hindsight, I wish my career advice had been ‘try a bunch of different things and find what you are passionate about’ because this is what led me to buying a cheap 3D printer and realising that it was something that I could not only do, but also get paid for. Over time, I started to collect tools and experience with a wide range of materials to make whatever cool props I wanted!”
The support of those around him helped him take the next step.
“My housemates at the time (who were very patient with me leaving my props all over the house) encouraged me to volunteer at the local musical theatre company CentreStage. They had heard great things about their people and shows, so I nervously emailed them and, before you know it, I was making a few things for their show Cinderella. By the time their next show rolled around (The Sound of Music), they were desperate for more males to be in the show and somehow I got roped in to do a waltz even though I had never sung or danced before.
Fast forward and since then I have been prop-master for an entire show Urinetown and assistant producer for their production of West Side Story!”
Whilst the arts industry has had to pause live productions at this time, Chris certainly hasn’t lost his momentum.
“Until life returns to some semblance of normality, I have changed tact and have been using my skills to make replica props from film, TV and video games. I am currently working on a full-sized axe from the video game ‘God of War’ which will be complete with internal LED lights and electronics!”
Chris has a great way of keeping positive during the current pandemic, and, like his housemates back in the day, realises that patience is key.
“I keep a vision board of inspirational quotes that I find and feel a connection to. One particular quote that I’ve been reminding myself a lot of lately is from the author Brené Brown and it simply states that ‘everyone is trying their best.’ Basically, try to have empathy for people who do things that you might not agree with- we are all just trying to find our way in the world as best we can. It is a useful reminder when I’m being impatient at the supermarket or even just frustrated at a friend.”
Chris is always looking for new and exciting projects to take on, so if you need a display made, something 3D modelled and printed or just want to see all the fun things he makes, feel free to contact him: www.instagram.com/chrisbennettprops or www.chrisbennettprops.com
Footnote: We’d like to welcome Chris to the @humansingeelong team, he is doing an amazing job of editing videos for our Online Expo. Thanks Chris.
Story: Sarah Treacy. Photo: Chris Bennett
Prop photos: Gavin D Andrew