Over on Brooklyn-based freelance prop stylist Randi Brookman Harris’s Instagram feed, you’ll find images of artfully arranged beauty products, lovingly displayed Legos, and wrapped gifts with googly eyes. But dig a little deeper and you’ll unearth the hashtag #RBHSeder, where Harris files some of her most personal work to date: her one-of-a-kind Seder plates.
From a green-themed assortment of bowls to last year’s sparse arrangement, every display is a twist on tradition. Here, Harris tells us how she conceptualizes each year’s plate and how you can crib her look, while making it all your own.
How did you start playing around with the traditional Seder plate?
I grew up in a mostly observant house. My parents kept kosher and we went to synagogue—all of that. When I got married, my husband and I didn’t really have our own rituals and were slow at making them together, but I eventually realized that I missed it. I love Passover. It’s one of my favorite holidays. When I was little, we always had big, big Seders with all the cousins. You’d get to stay up late and sneak wine, and it was just so much fun.
After my son was born, I felt like I wanted to make this a more special thing for him as it had been for me. As a prop stylist I wanted to make the Seder plate really beautiful, because it’s the center of the table. But I wanted to make it our own, and I wanted to do it in a modern way.
Every year your arrangement looks a little different—why is that?
Every year I take what’s happening in the world, what’s happening in our lives, and what’s important to us, and I make the setup a bit different. For example, for the first year I put a lot of different eggs on the plate. I sourced a goose egg, a quail egg, a green egg, a brown one, and a white one. That year was about diversity. And I like how spring-y it feels.
Last year our Seder plate was very, very sparse because we were all freaking out in pandemic mode. It was April and everything was scary. Grocery time slots were not gettable. It was sad. There were three sprigs of parsley to show sparseness, and there was one tiny cup of haroseth. The horseradish was from a jar that had been in my fridge—normally I would have grated my own. There were just three lettuces in that little cloche. There was also an actual chicken wishbone for wishing that the pandemic would go away—that did not come true. The Bermuda glass was my nod to “Anywhere but here.” Gosh, I’m choking up because I just remember how sad it was. It was such a scary time. We couldn’t gather, and it was just so sad. That was my sad Seder plate.
Do you feel like, because of your day job, you can’t help but make it look beautiful?
I want to make it beautiful. But that’s also easy because I have all of these little plates and bowls at my disposal. The objects are storytelling for me, which makes sense because Passover is a storytelling holiday.
What’s the story behind the all-green one?
That was for spring—it’s all from Mud Australia, a great carbon-neutral company. I also just love parsley. I generally eat it like I’m chewing my way through a brush. Everyone at my table eats their one sprig, and I go wild because basically I am a goat.
How have you improvised over the years?
Every year the bone changes. And one time I wanted a black bone—I don’t remember why—so I colored a wishbone with a Sharpie.
How can someone make it their own?
I don’t want to be the blasphemous person who says you can do whatever you want, but I actually think that you can do whatever you want. It can be any bone. It can be any green. It can be any bitter herb. It can be anything. Remember that these things are symbolic of the Passover story, so you can mold them for your own experience in the world.