A weblog about theatrical drapery and stage curtains for Production Managers, Set Designers, Custom Drapery Resellers, and local/school/church Productions
I love the way that Rent What has organized their specialty drapery into different series – “Silver Satin”, “Rockin’ Red”, “Ivory Scene”, “Industrial Textures”, and “Timeless & Traditional.” And the way that the series are presented on their website is terrific, too. Next to each series on the page is a list of the various drapery elements available in the series (such as Austrians and Swags), several photos of the drapes, and a link to a pdf “Profile” with more information, photos, and inspiration.
It makes it so much easier for the client – to be able to choose from a variety of custom stage curtains in various fabrics that coordinate together a achieve one cohesive look. Rather than having to start from scratch, all the customer has to do is review the information and “Profile” file for each series and then select which series best fits the design vision for the show or event.
From there, in consultation with the folks at Rent What?, the designer can discuss the different drapery options before choosing the specific elements to rent.
Each series includes beautiful custom stage drapes and theatrical backdrops, but the one that I find the most interesting and innovative is the “Industrial Textures” series. It’s a little more “rock-n-roll,” a little more funky. It includes elements such as Metal Mesh drapes, Camo Net backdrops, and Texturelite (a gorgeous crushed fabric).
Meet Ana Rosa, Project Manager
Ana Rosa has been with Sew What? for five years
If you could take a vacation to any place in the world, where would you go, and why? I’d like to visit Cuba.
Who is your favorite music artist? Laura Flores.
Do you have a special talent? She doesn’t think so, but those of us at Sew What? think her cooking is pretty amazing!
What is your favorite movie/TV show? Spanish soaps
What is your favorite memory from Sew What? All of the hospitality and the Christmas parties.
What project have you worked on recently that was interesting or challenging? Some challenging red stars.
As you may know from reading this blog, Megan (founder & President of Sew What? Inc.) was born and raised in Australia. Though she has lived in the United States for many years (and is now a US citizen), it is still a kick to find her and Sew What? Inc. recognized in her home country.
The Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald recently published an article about Megan and Sew What?, and I really enjoyed reading it – it gives a true portrayal of Megan, the company, and the many roles that custom stage curtains play.
The staff photo used in the article is especially fun to see – all of us had a fun time posing for Megan. She gathered us all together with a bunch of fabric and said, “Have fun,” and we sure did! Here is another one taken during the same shoot:
I think these photos really show the spirit of Sew What? We take our work seriously, but we still have fun while doing it!
During Megan’s trip to Shanghai for the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network conference, she had the opportunity to meet up with a friend who lives in China and visit Shanghai’s garment district (including a few fabric mills).
She reported that it was a fascinating experience, seeing how fabrics are made and sold in China. She also had a chance to take some great pictures.
To me, the most interesting was to see the twists of yarn ready for weaving – quite reminiscent of the yarn used for home knitting and crocheting.
Working in a company that manufacturers custom stage curtains, I am around fabric all the time – and yet pictures like this continue to educate and inspire me. They remind me that the textile industry operates in so many countries – there are fabric mills and suppliers in so many countries around the world, including the U.S., Canada, Mexico, China, India, and many more. It really is a small world!
John Rios of GrafixJam strikes again! Last week, I told you about the incredible artwork that he did for Rod Stewart. Well, we were also privileged recently to use artwork created by John for a trio of digitally printed backdrops commissioned for the Billy Idol 2010 tour.
The scenic backdrops were made as one center panel, 20′ h x 16′ w, with two reverse and repeat side panels, each at 16′ h x 10′ w. FR Heavy Knit was selected as the fabric substrate for its durability and resistance to wrinkling (so important for tours!). After printing, the panels were topically treated for flame retardancy, we did the finish sewing, and off went the pieces to show rehearsals here in California.
Take a look at John’s working drawing:
The tour kicked off in Europe in early June and arrives for the North American leg of the tour in early August. If you think John’s working drawing is amazing, check out this photo taken at one of the tour’s European shows. The panels really are even more impressive at full size.
Portable dressing rooms, for use by artists onstage (or backstage) are something that many music tours need. Think about those “quick changes” that happen between songs (or even mid-song). The reality is, there just isn’t enough time for an artist to get offstage, get to their backstage dressing room, get changed, and get back onstage without missing a beat. But for years, there hasn’t been a good solution to this need. Yes, pipe and base can work, but it isn’t ideal. Among other things, a dressing room made of pipe and base components requires several different pieces (uprights, bases, drape supports, drapes) – and if one piece is left at last night’s venue? Well, the crew is scrambling to jury rig something together for tonight’s show.
Well, Rent What? recently came up with an innovative solution to this problem. They combined a durable, portable pop-up frame with a custom cover that stores on the frame. At the show, all the crew has to do is pop it open and, voila, instant 8′ x 8′ dressing room, in under two minutes!
As Rent What? developed the idea of a portable pop-up dressing room, they realized that the outside of the cover needed to be black (to blend in onstage or in the wings), but that the inside should be white to maximum the light within. The cover also needed to be opaque, so that the light didn’t bleed to the outside. And the cover needed to be water resistant, for those misty (or rainy) days at outdoor venues. With these considerations in mind, they chose Roadura, an innovative fabric offered exclusively by Sew What? Inc.
Not content to rest on their laurels, Rent What also thought about the comfort and ease of both artist and crew. They added a light and mirror, so that the artist had all the necessary elements for a quick change, and they added a rolling cart for easy transport by the crew.
I am really blown away by the way that the folks at Rent What? identified a need and came up with an innovative solution to fill that need. That to me is the true definition of an entrepreneur.
For years, many digital printers have felt that, if the substrate manufacturer certifies that the fabric is flame retardancy, the digital printer can feel confident to certify that the digitally printed panel is flame retardant. Many printers still feel this way.
Unfortunately, we have found that this is not always the case. Depending on the type of ink and the type of fabric substrate used, as well as the specific colors and ink saturation of a particular image, the completed digital backdrop may be less flame retardant than the unprinted fabric substrate. In some cases, the inks (or the specific combination of inks and substrate) may actually cause the digital backdrop to become flammable.
So, what do companies that offer custom digital printing services do, in addition to using flame retardant substrates, to ensure that the backdrops they print are flame retardant? Can they really test every single backdrop to see if the specific combination of inks and colors and saturation and fabric used for that specific backdrop has retained the flame retardancy of the fabric substrate? And what do they do if it doesn’t?
Here at Sew What?, we have carefully considered all of these questions. As you are probably aware, if you are a regular reader of this blog, flame retardancy is of utmost importance to us. We manufacture custom stage drapes and scenic backdrops for use in public spaces – music tours, schools, churches, theatres, special events. With very rare exception, every drape that we make must meet flame retardancy standards.
As a result, after extensive research and development, we made the choice to topically treat our digital backdrops for flame retardancy – after printing but before sewing. Yes, some may think that this is overkill. In some cases (perhaps with a certain type of ink or colors or low ink saturation or fabric), the backdrop might be flame retardant without the topical treatment. But we’d rather be safe than sorry.
What are the advantages of this decision to our customers, particularly our music touring customers? It means that when they arrive at a venue in South Dakota or Sacramento or Boston, they can feel comfortable that the backdrop will pass a field test by the local fire marshal. No production designer or tour manager wants to be told, a few hours before a show, that the backdrop failed a burn test and they have to either remove it from the venue or find a local company to topically treat it onsite (usually at great expense due to the rush situation and onsite visit).
And even with the decision to topically treat our digital backdrops (and the resulting additional cost to do so), we have found that we are still able to remain competitive from a price standpoint. Which is important – our customers want a safe product, but they still need to consider the bottom line. And we can feel satisfied that we have offered our customers a product that is both beautiful and safe.
I’ve told you about some of the beautiful projects we have done in the past for Rod Stewart – the gorgeous voile drapes in 2009 and the amazing Stewart Tartan drapes in 2006. Well, we recently provided drapery for Rod’s 2010 tour, and it was seriously cool.
We started out making three 36′ 6″ h x 41′ w Braille Curtains out of Black 16oz Commando Cloth (along with three 7′ h x 41′ w Borders, also in Commando Cloth). Then, our favorite graphic artist, John Rios of GrafixJam, provided some amazing artwork, which we had scenically painted onto the Braille Curtains. Who would have thought that a Braille Curtain could also be a Scenic Backdrop?
The drapes alone look amazing, but just as impressive is that John’s artwork was also pulled into the tour’s video content as well. Note the terrific cartoon of Rod that John did!
All in all, the combination of the scenically painted Braille Curtain and the accompanying video content makes for a really compelling set design, don’t you think?
Meet Mari Chui, Sewing Machine Operator
Mari has been with Sew What? for 2 1/2 years
If you could take a vacation to any place in the world, where would you go, and why? I’ve always wanted to go to Hawaii.
Who is your favorite recording artist? Jenni Rivera
Do you have a special talent? Making desserts
What is your favorite movie/show? La Familia Peluche
What is your favorite memory from Sew What? The Christmas parties and the games we play always make me laugh.
What project have you worked on recently that was interesting or challenging? The drapes in a sheer silver fabric that were shirred with elastic instead of lift lines. It was VERY challenging, but it worked out!
As Lynda has mentioned in previous posts, I was honored to be invited to participate in the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network conference, held in Shanghai, China, in connection with the World’s Fair. I have been to China once, but that was many years ago, so it was great to return.
I started the trip out on a high note. Had a terrific flight over with China Eastern Airlines and landed safely and well rested. The Four Seasons Hotel Shanghai was the venue selected for both accommodations and the program. The hotel is fantastic, and as a guest the services were flawless.
We were absolutely floored to be greeted at registration with an unexpected (and completely amazing) attendee gift kit featuring a Dell Vostro 3300 laptop fully loaded with Windows 10. I am personally putting it to use already!
Started the program out with an evening cocktail party at the M Bar on the Bund. It was a lovely evening where we spent several hours meeting and greeting and getting to know each other. The group (75ish) was small enough to be able to get around and really dedicate some time to learning what everyone is doing. I was fascinated to learn of the stories – so many of them with similar threads and certainly similar challenges. There was a lot of commonality. Really interesting. I believe that there were 10 countries represented at the conference.
One goal that I had in attending was to meet inspirational CEO’s and learn their stories and discover their challenges. No problem meeting this goal – I felt very humbled by meeting these women. There was a tremendous amount of authenticity amongst the group.
The programs were excellent. The live link to the Bloomberg DWEN Group on LinkedIn was a great idea. I have not seen this type of tool used live in a presentation program before – and I am completely sold on it now. It really benefits the attendee. Having the attendee comments posted live throughout the sessions allowed the speakers to keep the content relevant and also made it possible to generate some great break conversations.
There was a focus on innovation and technology. The theme was definitely “mission first”. Passion and commitment to innovation and business development was very strong amongst the group.
The session with Frog Design was fascinating. We participated in a hands on activity in smaller groups that challenged us to really push typical business concepts to the limit and develop our own innovative business plans. Despite having had a business for 14 years and also having a 2 year old startup company I found myself really scratching my head – collaborating with my team was great.
This was an incredibly inspirational group – in particular I was very inspired by Ingrid Venderveldt (CEO Clean Air Conversions).
After the conference ended, I was luckily enough to have a free day in Shanghai to explore. I loved visiting the garment district and seeing bolt upon bolt of lovely fabric. I also visited several textile mills – fascinating!
I arrived home last Thursday, exhausted by jet lag but energized by this incredible experience. What an great opportunity, one I won’t soon forget.