In an interview with stylist Ginny Branch Stelling, we get an honest and humorous glimpse into the everyday world of prop styling. From magazines, to retail, to digital, she’s done it all, and gained valuable insight along the way.
How did you become a stylist, and what has shaped your career path along the way?
I grew up ever since I was 11 wanting to be a fashion designer or an editor at a magazine, so I pursued fashion and fibers at Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, GA. I also worked retail throughout college and loved it (Gap, Urban Outfitters, Marc Jacobs). All of my college professors told me that I would make a better stylist than designer. Basically, I was a pitiful seamstress and equally terrible at pattern drafting, draping, etc. My strengths were in drawing, concepting, materiality, editing, and curating. I interned in New York City in college for both magazines (Nylon) and designers (Kenneth Cole, Costello Tagliapietra, Mary Ping, Libertine). I was pretty driven and committed to following my dreams at an early age. After college, I moved to NYC to work for Marc Jacobs and Maison Martin Margiela where I ended up in a mix of retail and visual merchandising. It wasn’t until moving back to Atlanta that I pursued prop styling full-force. When I moved home to Atlanta, I shared a studio with floral designer Amy Osaba where I was able to collaborate with her on many wedding editorials (in addition to getting to play with some of the most beautiful flowers). I also give photographer Iain Bagwell so much credit for helping me transition out of the wedding world and into commercial prop styling. He really took a chance with me, because before working with him my prop styling experience was specifically wedding, and a little bit of fashion.
I would also like to give a huge shout of gratitude to my parents for supporting me and my dreams. They paid for my college tuition and I will forever be grateful for all of the opportunities that opened up for me, not to mention how incredibly encouraging they have always been. I also need to be completely transparent that my husband helped support me while I navigated the early years of styling and the insanely hard cash-flow of being a freelancer. I honestly don’t think I could have been a stylist without the support of my family and my husband, both emotionally and financially.
I honestly don’t think I could have been a stylist without the support of my family and my husband, both emotionally and financially.
How has your personal aesthetic developed over time?
I think about this a lot lately. I would say it has been very, very slow to evolve. I’m a collector at heart and incredibly, cripplingly sentimental. I’ve also been a lover of Wabi-Sabi ever since I discovered Leonard Koren’s Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers back in 2010. I recently have taken stock of all of my various collections and am in the process of KonMari-ing my life, like half the planet. I’ve been gravitating to more minimal, handmade modern interiors which is completely counterintuitive to my inherent sensibilities. I want to strip away the excess, and more consciously edit my possessions to the essential. I want to make space for new experiences, new memories, and new ideas. I think I will always have a love of textures, materials, and a neutral color palette, but I’m ready to welcome newness. I also hope I continue to evolve, whereas when I was younger I was so committed to staying the same and having the same aesthetic forever and ever.
How do your life and art intersect?
I would say they intersect through the people I encounter. There is nothing more meaningful, career-wise, than the relationships I have developed through my work. I continue to meet some of the most creative, inspiring, funny, and hardworking people in my industry. I’m constantly hoping to absorb all of their good traits. I am currently working on trying to improve my hostess skills. I’m a fairly lousy cook/housekeeper (once I’m off the clock, I’m exceptionally lazy), but I really want to be able to be able to feed a small group of people and make them feel incredibly comfortable and content in my home. Nothing fancy or show-offy, but just basic nurturing.
There is nothing more meaningful, career-wise, than the relationships I have developed through my work. I continue to meet some of the most creative, inspiring, funny, and hardworking people in my industry. I’m constantly hoping to absorb all of their good traits.
Any tips on balancing work and personal life?
I don’t feel that I’m all that great at this. I work pretty hard but when I do have downtime between jobs, I try to see my friends as much as possible and pack in lunch, coffee, and drink dates. I also really, really love my husband and my favorite thing in the world is a lazy weekend at home with him and our beagles. Maybe a good tip would be: Pay your dues and then know when to slow down. When you are beginning your career I think you should say yes to everything in order to learn what you love and what you don’t. Go ahead and spread yourself too thin, make mistakes, and hopefully hone your craft and skills, both creatively and technically along the way. It’s also helpful to periodically take stock of where you are and what you want to accomplish. But just know everything comes with a price, hard work, and sacrifices. Erin Loechner’s I Don’t Want to Be a Girl Boss really spoke to me. I think it’s important to look at your life as a whole and what your legacy will be. Surround yourself with good people in both work and life, and give toxic people the heave-ho and don’t waste any precious energy or thought on them.
Pay your dues and then know when to slow down. When you are beginning your career, I think you should say yes to everything in order to learn what you love and what you don’t.
You live in Atlanta, GA — what’s a must-see spot when visiting?
My favorite places are Star Provisions for shopping, lunch, or coffee and Steven Alan and The Optimist for dinner. I also made a mini guide here that has some more favorites. Atlanta is really spread out and divided by neighborhoods, so it’s best to visit this city with a car.
What are you currently reading, listening to or looking at to fuel your work?
I am a pretty visual person, and I find myself constantly looking for beauty, whether it’s on a walk, traveling, or exploring. Instagram has been a great way to record and share the colors and textures that are inspiring me at the moment. I also do love a good Pinterest binge, which I feel is an unpopular answer these days. I’m a total insomniac, so I can be found pinning in the wee hours of the night. I’m currently reading Pilgrimage by Annie Leibovitz, The Private World of Pablo Picasso by David Douglas Duncan, Wabi-Sabi Further Thoughts by Leonard Koren, and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. My current favorite playlists on Spotify are this one and this one. I’m either listening to 60’s/70’s music or hip hop.