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Meet Maggie Schpak

Meet Maggie Schpak

“… joy of the true artist …”

– The Valley of Fear (VALL)

Maggie Schpak creating badges in her studio in Glendale, California. Courtesy of Maggie Schpak

We are pleased to share this WGBH feature on artist (and BSI member) Maggie Schpak. We have done posts on several of her Sherlockian medals over the years, such as the BSI Trust Benefactor Medal, the BSI Eddy Award medal and will in the near future start discussing the quiz medals she produces annually for the Curious Collectors of Baker Street (CCOBS). You can view the original story HERE.

Meet The Artist Behind 50 Years’ Worth Of Hollywood Costume Design — Including Star Trek

Toiling with molten metals and polishing fake gemstones for close to 50 years has made costume and jewelry designer Maggie Schpak a part of the fabric of American culture.

Schpak’s work has been featured in some of the biggest blockbuster films from the past few decades — “Star Trek,” “Rocky,” “Rambo,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and most recently, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” She now lives a low-key lifestyle in a Los Angeles studio far from the public’s gaze. Her specialty is designing and crafting police badges for fictional towns in TV shows and films, what she calls her “bread and butter” because it’s her biggest source of work.

But if a Hollywood director needs anything from a princess tiara to a Vulcan head bracelet, they know they can turn to Schpak for help.

She began her career in costume 48 years ago, but Schpak has been in Hollywood her entire life. Her father, Millard Mitchell, was a mainstay of Old Hollywood and shared the screen with the likes of Gregory Peck, Jean Arthur and Jimmy Stewart. He even picked up a Golden Globe award for his role in the 1952 film “My Six Convicts.”

Following in her father’s footsteps, Schpak initially set out to be an actor. While in school, however, she preferred to hang out with the techies. After graduating, she spent a decade at Western Costume, a costume warehouse in Hollywood that provides costumes and costuming materials to the film and TV industry, but Schpak eventually realized her passion was in metalwork and jewelry. She and her partner opened Studio Art Metal Shop in Glendale in 1962, and she’s owned and operated it ever since.

At first, she said, the learning curve was steep.

“We didn’t know anything. We really didn’t know how to make stuff. We really didn’t,” said Schpak, who came to Somerville for an event celebrating the decorations she’s created for “Star Trek” shows and films.

So, while lineage led her to the stage, it was love that kept her in the workshop.

Schpak gave a talk Sept. 22 at The Center for Arts at the Armory in Somerville to a gathering of Artisan Asylum supporters and Trekkies, the fans who rabidly follow the “Star Trek” franchise. It was the first time Schpak spoke publicly about her work for “Star Trek,” and she was worried that her lack of trivia-type knowledge of the greater “Star Trek” universe may be a disappointment for some fans.

“They would say, ‘What do those mean? What do those mean?’” Schpak said about a crowd that once gathered around to watch her recreate the Vulcan Kolinahr necklace worn by Leonard Nimoy in “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” “And I don’t want to say, ‘Well, they’re just shapes.’”

The Somerville audience got a chance to hear Schpak’s anecdotes from working on the set. For example, she said she’s asked all the time about working with Ricardo Montalbán, the star of the iconic film “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.”

“He wanted to show those pecs,” she said. “If you’re that age and you’ve got those pecs, you’ve gotta flaunt it. Lots of people thought those were fake pecs. Nope.”

“Star Trek” holds a special place in Schpak’s heart. While she may not be able to riff in Klingon with “Star Trek” fans, like many of them, she looks back on her time working on the show fondly. The chemistry between the original cast members was “magical,” she said, and she expressed gratitude for the chance to have worked on the show.

“I met an awful lot of great people,” Schpak said, “And it’s been my life for 48 years. So, you can’t sneeze on that.”

 

Data! Data! Data! – The Cardboard Box

Data! Data! Data! – The Cardboard Box

“‘Data! Data! Data!‘ he cried impatiently. ‘I can’t make bricks without clay.’” – The Adventures of The Copper Beeches (COPP) This column is composed of material (Data!) developed for a short course called Appreciating Sherlock Holmes that I teach twice a year in the Community Education Life Enrichment Program for a local community college. It… Continue Reading

Data! Data! Data! – The Sign of Four

Data! Data! Data! – The Sign of Four

“‘Data! Data! Data!‘ he cried impatiently. ‘I can’t make bricks without clay.’” – The Adventures of The Copper Beeches (COPP) This column is composed of material (Data!) developed for a short course called Appreciating Sherlock Holmes that I teach twice a year in the Community Education Life Enrichment Program for a local community college.  It is… Continue Reading

The Case of the Shoeless Engineer – January 3, 1955

The Case of the Shoeless Engineer – January 3, 1955

“… I have lost my thumb, and I have lost a fifty-guinea fee, and what have I gained!” – The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb (ENGR) In 1954, Ronald Howard and H. Marion Crawford would star as Holmes and Watson in 39 episodes of a syndicated Sherlock Holmes television series. The 30 minute episodes were produced by… Continue Reading

Sherlock Holmes and Scooby-Doo

Sherlock Holmes and Scooby-Doo

“Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!” – The Hound of the Baskervilles (HOUN) Since we having recently been talking about a mystery involving a giant hound, let’s turn our focus onto a giant hound that helps solves mysteries. In 1969, the animation studios of Hanna-Barbera produced the first episodes of Scooby-Doo,… Continue Reading

Gibraltar’s 1994 The Empty House Crowns

Gibraltar’s 1994 The Empty House Crowns

“… with convulsive strength he seized Holmes by the throat; but I struck him on the head with the butt of my revolver …” – The Adventure of The Empty House (EMPT) Gibraltar released 8 different designs for its 1994 series of coins commemorating the 100th anniversary of the return of Sherlock Holmes. In this post,… Continue Reading

Elementary’s Holmes and Watson at the Hall of Fame for Great Americans

Elementary’s Holmes and Watson at the Hall of Fame for Great Americans

“… having attained the national fame which he has now achieved.” – The Valley of Fear (VALL) In the May 1, 2016 episode of CBS’s Elementary (Season 4, Episode 23 – The Invisible Hand), Holmes and Watson determine that someone has stepped into the leadership void caused by Moriarty’s arrest and imprisonment. Holmes investigates further and discovers Professor… Continue Reading

The 17 Steps: The Final Problem

The 17 Steps: The Final Problem

Seventeen thoughts for further ponderance of the case at hand – The Final Problem (FINA) THE TRUTH, THE WHOLE TRUTH, AND … WAIT A MINUTE! A still-bereaved Watson writes: “My hand has been forced, however, by the recent letters in which Colonel James Moriarty defends the memory of his brother, and I have no choice but… Continue Reading

Heritage Auctions’ October 8, 2014 Auction Lot Descriptions of Two Irregular Plates

Heritage Auctions’ October 8, 2014 Auction Lot Descriptions of Two Irregular Plates

“Well, really, this is a very pretty little mystery!” – The Sign of The Four (SIGN) LOT 45316 – Original Brass Plate Mounted to a Dinner Tray Celebrating Sherlock Holmes and the … – Heritage Auctions October 8, 2014 Rare Book Sale, Beverly Hills We recently reprinted Jon Lellenberg’s 2014 article on The Mystery of The… Continue Reading