Julianna Strickland


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a very witchy cocktail hour


The fascinating thing about humans is how many layers we have. The Julianna you usually see is energetic & cheery and colorful. But sometimes I want to wear all black and hang out in the forest and not smile and then take pictures of it all. Enter the perfect occasion…Halloween. With my blogging partner in crime Ashley, my name doppleganger Juliana (the talent behind the lens), and Ashley’s flower genius friend Carolyn, we collaborated to create this cocktail hour styled shoot in the woods. Ashley & Juliana and I produced the collab as a team, so I thought instead of simply posting the pics it might be cool to show you how we put it all together. (If you wanna see more details about the specific elements of the tablescape, pop on over to Ashley’s blog!)

The first thing we did once we decided on a theme was to create a moodboard. I like using go moodbard for small projects like this to communicate a vision simply & easily. I pulled a bunch of pics I liked from Pinterest & Google, and then combined them all on the site. Here’s a screenshot from the board we made for inspiration.

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Once we were on the same page about the look we were going for, we decided what projects we’d each tackle. Ashley wanted to create skeleton placecard holders and a cake, and Carolyn was set on doing what she does best: aka a badass flower arrangement. I was excited to make both an edible item and a craft, so I developed my blackberry sage gin & tonic and some hygge-inspired copper & wood candlestick holders. If you want to see how I made the cocktail click here (it’s really, really, really good, I promise, and it has burnt sage as a garnish which is v. witchy). If you wanna make the candlestick holders, scroll to the bottom for a quick how-to!



Ashley and I tag teamed sourcing most of the props for the shoot, it was v. exciting when I found these pallets!

The hardest part about planning this specific shoot was the location. We wanted to shoot in a forest, but I’ve been kicked out of enough locations in my time as a producer to know that it’s tough to shoot in LA without a permit. It’s one thing if you’re just taking portraits, but with our pallets and the cake and all of our props, I knew we wouldn’t be very discreet. This kind of project is just a personal passion project, so we didn’t have the budget or the time for a permit and we decided to just chance it and hope it all worked out. We ultimately didn’t have time to find the right forest, so we chose to shoot in Expo Park outside the Rose Garden because it’s close to my house and we could prep there before heading over (call me a baby, but I did not want to mix my cocktail in the parking lot of a state park).


Here’s where it gets exciting. David had been telling us he was worried about us shooting in that park. There was a soccer game happening nearby that evening and he was sure there would be tons of police around. I brushed off his concerns off by practicing my story if we were approached, “We’re USC students! It’s a project for our journalism class!” Sure enough, we pulled up to unload in the park, and it was teeming with police. Like, so many police officers (seriously a lot). I was SURE this wouldn’t work. It’s not that anything really terrible would happen if we got caught, of course, (we’d be asked to leave & possibly incur a fine), but we’d put a lot of time and work into this shoot and we really wanted it to work. We unloaded everything and David took the car home (there is ZERO inexpensive parking nearby). The three of us carried in our pallets, the large furry pillows I’d received from Amazon that afternoon, and the boxes of supplies. I was crazy nervous that we’d get busted (plus I hate confrontation). Then, I realized that I’d mixed a huge batch of my blackberry sage gin & tonics for the shoot and didn’t even THINK about how you’re not supposed to bring a giant jar of liquor to a park. OOPS.


So, we start shooting, and for the time being no one’s bothering us. After awhile we get ballsy - we start playing with dry ice, and then we light some sage, and then we have 12 taper candles lit and dry ice smoking all over the place and STILL no one has approached us, it’s like magic. We finally shoot everything we need and the sun sets and we pack up and call an Uber, and when we’re fitting the last pallet into the back of our driver’s car…a policeman pulls up. He wants to know what we’re doing - he is gruff and I think I blacked out a little bit and we jumped in the car and drove away.


And that’s it. No crazy ending. It all worked out! I may have aged myself a few years with all the stress, but I’m super happy with how our tablescape turned out and it’s feels so rewarding to create something I’m proud of with my talented friends. And next time, I’ll get a permit :)


What you need:

  • wooden pieces to be the bases of your candlesticks - a mix of blocks, stars, egg cups, etc. is good!

  • copper pieces - these are 3/4” copper pressure slip couplings i got a bag of them in bulk & they were pretty inexpensive, but make sure whatever size you get will fit the taper candles you want to use

  • black acrylic paint & brushes

  • e6000 glue


This is super easy. Paint the wooden pieces! I left some bare and painted some black. Once the paint is dry, glue the pipe fittings to the wooden pieces. Let it all dry overnight and you’re ready to add some taper candles and host a halloween happy hour!