Scenic Design by Jill Carter for Ballet Northwest’s The Nutcracker.


About the Scenic Design:

Carter’s first job in the theater was working backstage at Ballet Northwest’s 1987 production of The Nutcracker. She fell in love with live performance and attributes the magic of The Nutcracker as the inspiration for her career in theatrical design. She has been a part of Ballet Northwest’s production ever since and has done several scenic designs for them, including the previous Land of the Sweets set in 1996.”

According to Carter, art nouveau and French ironwork designs heavily inspired the new Land of the Sweets design. “The looping shapes and fluid curves were very inspiring and lent themselves naturally to be recreated into candy swirls. After playing with hundreds of design combinations and colors pallets, I finally settled on a colorful but very muted palate, one that looks lush, romantic and fantastical but is hopefully not so bright that it won’t overshadow the dancers. The main backdrop is a cut drop to look like a large gate in the palace, overlooking the snowy valley, to add a sense of depth to the stage,” she said.

To create the Snow Kingdom, Carter studied the painting style of Japanese winter woodprints. “There was a simplicity to the style of painting the snow on the trees, and the trees were more pine then the typical northwest fir trees in most Nutcracker snow scenes, leaving a more open and lacey design to the snow-laden branches. I also wanted to add in the Land of the Sweets palace with its decorative iron gates, visible in the distance in the snow scene, the Prince and Clara’s destination,” said Carter.

To create all of these Snow Kingdom and the Land of the Sweets backdrops, Carter and her team used approximately:


  • 12,200 square feet of cotton muslin fabric
  • 10,300 square feet of plastic to protect the floor to lay out the drops
  • 67 gallons of paint
  • 615 hours to design both scenes and create all the paint elevations, drafting,and build the models.
  • 1,900 hours to paint it all, using 16 local professional scenic artists and hundredsof volunteers.