You may recall a blog post that I wrote back in April regarding the extremely cool project we did for the Black Sabbath Tour, a mixed media piece that combined soft goods by Sew What (featuring Metal Mesh, Black Commando, and Black Sharkstooth Scrim) with LED walls.
Well – the project came to the attention of Specialty Fabrics Review, and they decided to write an article on it in the September 2013 (both print and online editions). We were so excited to see the article in print, complete with photos!
Last year, Megan posted about the expanded content on the Sew What? / Rent What? channels on You Tube and Flickr. Well, in the last month or so, we have added a number of You Tube videos to our channel, and so I wanted to give our blog readers a preview.
In scrolling through Flickr recently, we came upon several photos of a concert backdrop that we immediately recognized, because it was one we made for indie rock band The Yeah Yeah Yeahs back in 2009. I remember it as one of the most interesting custom band backdrops that we have made.
Our manufacturing staff began by cutting Black FR Tiger Gauze, a square cotton netting with a 1/4″ opening, to size to serve as the backing of the 20′ h x 40′ w backdrop. Then the detailed work began. Working with detailed drawings provided by production designer Dan Hadley, our sewing staff painstakingly cut out and appliqued metallic blue floral petal mylar sheeting to replicate the concentric circle design.
As you can see from this photo , the tiger gauze recedes so that, even up close in standard fluorescent lighting, the mylar circles appear to float.
The backdrop is beautiful as-is, but it became even more dramatic once the client added a giant eyeball prop to the center, seen most dramatically in this Flickr photo. The backdrop also looks great up close in the daylight, as in this photo. It was great seeing the photos and being reminded of this fun and innovative project. It’s hard to believe it has been four years since we made it.
(Note: We recently made a new backdrop for The Yeah Yeah Yeahs current tour. This new one was a beautiful classic design of 3 giant “Y”s in Silver Allure appliqued onto Black Poly Muslin. Check out this photo to see this year’s backdrop).
Back in late March, we were excited to get a call from Baz Halpin, with Silent House Productions. He had designed an amazing set for the Black Sabbath tour (an historic tour as it was the first tour with Ozzy Osbourne in more than thirty years), and he wanted our help in translating his innovative design into reality.
After receiving Baz’s initial designs, Shane Nelsen, Sew What? Creative Director and Senior Sales, met with Baz and his team at the Silent House office to further review Baz’s design and vision for the backdrop. This meeting gave Shane the opportunity to hear more about the look Baz was going for and suggest materials and sewing methods that would take the design to reality.
During this collaboration, a design was approved utilizing FR Black 16oz Commando Cloth, FR Black Sharkstooth Scrim, and Silver Metal Mesh. At that point, our sewing shop went into action, first manufacturing a custom flat black backdrop in Commando Cloth at 41′ 6″ h x 60′ w (split into three sections attached by velcro). From that initial simple drape, our team of sewing staff began the transformation from basic to extraordinary by first judiciously cutting out sections, then inserting Sharkstooth Scrim behind the cutouts, crinkling and “distressing” the aluminum mesh, and then finally appliqueing the aluminum mesh in strategically placed locations.
Sew What? manufacturing staff Roberto and Antonio, pinning mounds of aluminum mesh onto the backdrop.
On several occasions throughout the manufacturing process, members of Baz’s team came out to our shop to review the work and collobarate with Shane to tweak the design to achieve the desired ultimate “heavy metal” look.
Sew What? sewing machine operator Alberto sewing mesh to the backdrop
The final backdrop looked amazing in our shop, but the final touch was added by Silent House who, after receiving the backdrop from us, hung LED walls behind the scrim sections, allowing video images of the concert to be seen within the backdrop itself. We were awestruck this morning to see a video of it live on stage in Auckland, New Zealand. Take a look, and I think you will be awestruck as well!
Something that is often overlooked today when in the throws of the creative process is the use and/or influence of architecture. I am lucky enough to have lived near Detroit for the last twenty plus years. I know to the rest of the world Detroit has a less than desirable status but I can tell you the people are great and the old architecture is second to none from a creative standpoint.
My point here is to take a look around you at the architecture near you. It’s often overlooked or taken for granted yet it standsthere in all its glory and history, either grand and opulent or rundown, burned out and beaten down, you can find beauty and creative juice right in front of you if you look.
I have posted about the wide variety of specialty drapery collections that Rent What? has available for rent, from “Rockin’ Red” to “Industrial Textures” to “Delightfully White” and beyond. At Rent What? we have tried to think “outside the box” to continually re-imagine soft goods and stage decor to create interesting and beautiful new drapery options for our clients.
Today, I want to give you a sneak preview of our newest specialty collection, the “Swanky Collection.” We have just added the first piece in the collection, and it is definitely something different. Rather than a traditional custom stage curtain made of fabric, instead this piece is actually a series of individual linear pieces composed of mirrored plates suspended on invisible threads.
Each thread of mirrored plates is separate and distinct – different heights, different placement of mirrored plates – allowing a completely customizable dazzling linear mobile. By attaching each thread to a different location on the stage truss, you can create a unique mobile “drape” for every show.
I am so excited about this new piece. I hope you like it as much as I do. Stand by as we add more “Swanky” pieces to the collection – I’ll keep you posted.
As the clock ticks closer and closer to 2011, I thought I’d reflect a little on some of the projects that we have worked on this year. I’d love to post a little bit about all of the projects that we worked on in 2010, but for that I would need to publish a book! So, instead I’ll just remind you of a few particularly memorable projects.
We printed and sewed so many amazing digitally printed backdrops this year. A few that come to mind include several gorgeous panels for Brooks & Dunn‘s “Last Rodeo” farewell tour (I love the cowgirl images!), the “Distressed Fleur de Lis” pattern for Little Big Town, Billy Idol in black and white, and, of course, the beautiful backdrop for Kenny Chesney (third year running). All beautiful, all unique!
Of course, all of the drapery that we make is custom-made according to the client’s specifications, so all projects are interesting and unique. But some projects really stand out. The Silver Scrim for Yusuf Islam was so beautiful and quite unusual. The Alice in Chains project was so cool that I posted about it twice, and of course the drapery in sheers and silvers for Celtic Woman set the perfect ethereal backdrop to their music.
These are the projects in which we really “think outside the box,” using materials and/or techniques that are just a little bit different from the usual drapery style. I loved the Metal Mesh frame pieces that we made for James Taylor and the Korn backdrop was an amazing combination of netting, digital printing, and smoke tubes. And just a few weeks ago – who could forget the American Parachute that we made for Katy Perry?
All of these terrific projects are just a small fraction of the projects we worked on in 2010. I can’t wait to see what projects come our way in 2011!
Such a nice surprise to find Sew What? recognized in the November 2010 issue of Projection, Lights and Staging News (PLSN). The industry mag included a terrific article by Steve Jennings on this past summer’s 2010 Mayhem Festival in Dallas, TX, in which Steve interviewed several people at the festival, including Jim Lenahan, Set Designer for Korn. In speaking about the set design, Jim mentions the mixed media backdrop constructed by Sew What? according to Jim’s design.
It really was a fantastic theatrical backdrop, including black netting, digitally printed elements, and smoke tubes, and looks great as part of Jim’s complete “industrial oil rig” set design. We really enjoyed working on it – thanks for the shout out, Jim!
Want to see photos of the show? Steve has included several terrific photos in the article – just scroll to the bottom.
When most people think about sewing (whether it is custom stage drapes or handmade quilts or apparel), they generally think of it as a craft rather than an art. And I think that is generally a valid way to categorize sewn goods. But you would be surprised at how much “art” actually comes to play in the creation of what is known in the entertainment industry as “soft goods.”
When a major music tour is being planned, much more is involved than simply the music itself (the set list, the rehearsals, etc.). Concerts today are more than musicians on a stage, singing and playing. Sound, lighting, special effects, pyrotechnics, and set design all work together to give the audience an experience for the ears and the eyes. And soft goods are often a major part of that.
The role of the Production Designer is to design a set (which may include both soft goods and hardscape) that provides a stunning visual backdrop to the music. Once the design is created (the “art”), the Production Designer brings in all of the crafts (sewing, stage builders, etc.) and charges them to make his artistic vision a reality.
That is where we come in. The Production Designer presents us with his vision (it may be in the form of an artistic drawing, a technical drawing, or even a verbal sketch), and it is up to us to figure out how to best achieve that vision through stage curtains, painted or digital backdrops, and even mixed media pieces. The Production Designer relies on us to recommend fabrics and construction methods that will carry his design from paper (or just his head) to the stage.
At times, it is relatively straightforward – perhaps an Austrian Drape or a series of Swags. Other times, however, it takes skill and ingenuity (and, dare I say, art?) to figure out the best way to manipulate fabrics (and other materials) to achieve the look.
One example that springs to mind is the project we did for Mariah Carey last fall. The designer knew the look he was after, but it was up to us to find a way to achieve that look. Gwen Winter, the Senior Sales Rep on the project, knew that traditional stage fabric, such as velour, was out of the question. The solution? Clear vinyl, hundreds of silk flowers, and sheer net, along with the experience and skill of our manufacturing staff, turned the designer’s vision into reality.
Another example is the Maxwell 2009 project, in which Sew What? and Rent What? joined forces to help the production designer achieve his vision through the use of fabric (Black Mirror Sequins and ”tattered” White Voile) and other media (mirror shards), with Rent What? bringing more drapery to the table (including Silver Satin Austrian Drapes and Swags and an LED Star Drop).
These are just two examples (out of many), but I think they are great illustrations of how closely connected “craft” is with “art.” We may be a craft, but part of that craft is taking the “art” and making it a reality. And I am so proud of the way our team accomplishes that reality.
We work on a lot of music tours, and it is always fun to see the interesting and innovative set designs that the production designers come up with. In some cases, the set is classic and elegant, in others it is funky and edgy. For Maxwell‘s recent tour, the production designer presented Sew What? and our sister company Rent What? with a design that combined fabric, reflective elements, and mixed media pieces to make up a cohesive set that was eye-catching, dark and sexy.
The key to the design was the combination of black fabrics and reflective elements. Though the design called for traditional drapery pieces, such as Proscenium Drapes, Riser Skirts, and the like, it was the choice of fabric – a black-on-black Mirror Sequin textile – that took these pieces from traditional to WOW!
Building on the theme of reflection, we also made incredible mirror shard drapes – huge pieces of mirrors, carefully cut and broken into “shards” and attached to webbing headers. The concept of shards continued in additional drapery – white voile was carefully cut with a hot knife to achieve a “tattered” appearance.
Rent What? also provided soft goods to the show, including a number of black masking drapes and borders. A Silver Satin Austrian Drape and set of swags provided another element of reflection and glamour.The most dramatic rental item, however, was the LED Star Drop (manufactured by Sew What?). Made out of black synthetic velour, it includes dozens of twinkling lights, perfect for this show’s theme of light and dark.
All together, I think the set came out looking fabulous – just right for this sexy soulful artist.