We here at Rent What? were delighted to work with one of our favorite clients again recently, who seems to have mastered the art of designing his stages and events with our versatile Aluminum Metal Mesh Backdrops and Legs. Michael Roccaforte with Forté in Carmel, Indiana, works to create the most innovative and distinctive designs for their national and international clients, and we are thrilled to be a part of their creative vision. I have written about some of Forte’s designs before in a past blog entry, but I wanted to share this new remarkable design with our readers, too.
Photo Courtesy Michael Roccaforte
Not long ago, Forté designed the staging for a national sales training meeting in Denver with a theme of “Let’s Rock,” which is exactly what they did with their stage creation. They started with some of our Metal Mesh drapes from our Industrial Textures Series as their main backdrop, which are extremely lightweight and easy to hang with webbing and ties along the top and are adaptable enough to use for any special occasion. Forté then designed a 7’ x 16’ guitar in foam board, which was hung in front of our mesh drapes. Then by simply adding in some gorgeous and dramatic lighting, they were able to create a powerful and memorable stage design for their clients to fully immerse themselves in for this important meeting. We truly enjoy being a part of our client’s imagination, and love seeing what incredible designs they will produce with our rental drapes and backdrops next.
Just recently, I worked on a project for the Christian Rock Band Skillet. I really enjoyed the project, and it got me thinking about the fact that, over the last few years, here at Sew What? we have been approached by more and more Christian Rock Bands interested in custom stage curtains, digitally printed band backdrops, and other soft goods for their tours.
When I first joined Sew What? back in 2005, we primarily worked with “mainstream” rock, pop and country music artists. Of course, we still do, but in recent years, we have also provided custom soft goods to the tours of numerous major Christian Rock and Pop recording artists. In looking through the list of Best Christian Rock Bands from the website “The Top Tens,” I recognized over a dozen that we have worked with.
Top of the list is Skillet. Just a couple of weeks ago, we made a series of digitally printed backdrops for the band’s current tour. Included in the series were 2 center panels at 10′ h x 10′ w and 4 side panels at 10′ h x 5′ w, all printed on Heavy Knit and topically treated for flame retardancy. With artwork that is a variation of the cover art on their current album, Rise, the backdrops really turned out beautiful. Want to see the finished backdrops? The band’s U.S. tour just started and runs through the end of September.
Here are a few more Christian bands / artists from the list that I recognized:
Thousand Foot Krutch (# 3)
Casting Crowns (# 5)
Third Day (# 15)
Decyfer Down (# 21)
And that is just a few (I recognized many more). When I think about it, though, it’s not really surprising that we are working on the tours of more faith-based artists than in the past. In doing a little Internet surfing, I discovered that Christian Rock Music has become more and more popular over the years, not just with religious fans, but with mainstream fans as well. Even the New York Times wrote an article on Skillet recently and, guess what? Skillet sold more than 1 million albums last year, at the top with mainstream artists The Black Keys.
With this rising popularity, the tours of Christian artists are becoming more and more sophisticated, in regards to stage design, staging, lighting, special effects, and, yes, drapery and soft goods. It is great for us here at Sew What? to have the opportunity to work with terrific artists, whether they perform so-called “mainstream” music or “faith-based” music. We are proud to support artists and help them achieve their vision.
A few months ago, we received an email from Narci Martinez, Production Manager for Josh Groban’s 2013 Tour. The set design, created by Calvin “Mac” Mosier, called out for an unusual backdrop to provide texture, dimension, depth and movement. Narci was confident that the backdrop design, though “out of the box,” was right up our alley.
Manufactured from hundreds of fabric squares, painstakingly cut out and sewn together to make each square double-sided, and then attached together at the corners with grommets and steel rings, this custom band backdrop has texture, movement and depth. Utilizing a random pattern of creased and crushed fabrics (including FR Textura, FR Creased Taffeta and FR Crushed Taffeta) in shades of white, ivory and silver provided the desired textural element. Movement and depth were created by leaving slack between the squares, so that each square dips at the top.
Adding to the versatility of the backdrop is that, rather than consisting of a single backdrop, the piece was manufactured in five individual 30’ h x 10’ wide sections, giving production the option of varying the number of panels used based on the stage width at each venue. For smaller stages, production can utilize just three or four of the panels; for larger venues, all five are used. Regardless of the number of panels used, visually the panels appear as one backdrop onstage.
Photo Courtesy Calvin “Mac” Mosier
The lighting in particular is enhanced by the random pattern and varying colors and textures of the fabric, as well as the “dips.” Seeing the backdrop onstage during a recent show demonstrates how the different colored spots read as lighter and darker depending on the color and texture of the fabric used on each square, giving amazing dimension to the backdrop. Beautiful!
As Creative Director and Senior Sales for Sew What? Inc., I work with clients on a number of projects featuring custom stage curtains, digital backdrops and other soft goods. My role is focused on the front end – consulting with the client to understand the client’s vision of the set design, translating that vision into a recommendation of how Sew What? can help achieve that vision (perhaps recommending a specific fabric or style of custom drape), following through with our manufacturing department as the drapes are being made, and much more. However, while I may see the finished product in our facility just prior to shipment, it is rare that I see the drapery on the back end – in use by the customer.
That is why I love it when I find a picture on Flickr or a video on YouTube of our custom made stage drapery or backdrops featured in a concert or performance. Even better is when a client emails me a photo – that tells me that the client is pleased with the products we provided, and gives me the opportunity to “see them in action.”
Recently I was emailed by Vido Rhodes from Lone Star Ballet, an organization that I have been pleased to assist for several years now. Vido sent me a couple of photos of sheer drapery that we manufactured for them over the last year or so, on stage during Lone Star Ballet performances.
These 30’ h x 9’ 9” w drapes were sewn flat (unpleated), with grommets and ties on both the top and the bottom. This offers flexibility in hanging and draping. The client can increase or decrease the fullness of the drapes as desired, simply by varying the way the drapes are tied onto the supporting structure. The closer together, the greater the fullness; farther apart and the fullness decreases. The grommets and ties on the bottom edge also allow the client to use the drapes in multiple ways – either hanging from the top in a traditional drape configuration, or creating swags by hanging from both the top and bottom.
IFR Fire Red Voile Drapes. Photo Courtesy Vido Rhodes, Lone Star Ballet
I love the way that Vido and his colleagues have designed the stage for these performances, and I’m so proud that our drapery played such a key role in achieving their vision.
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!
Many times a client will come to us with an image that they love, but the original file is too small to reproduce at twenty to thirty feet or larger.
Recently we were approached to produce a backdrop for Kacey Musgraves. The image they provided was about ten inches wide and had nowhere near enough data to print a backdrop.
The first step: In the foreground of the image is a huge trailer house that would fall apart if enlarged to the size it needed to be. In order to have the trailer print well at twenty feet I decided that I needed to illustrate a vector version of the main trailer and the other trailers and buildings in the image. Vector art is independent of resolution and therefore can reproduce at any size without image quality being lost.
I used the provided photo to sample colors, shadows and textures and created an illustration of the main elements that was visually the same as the photo. I then used stock photography of grass, flowers and digitally hand painted other photo elements to bring the image together and give it a realistic feel.
Even after working on the piece for a day and a half, the end result made me step back for a minute and compare my artwork to the original photo. It was amazing how close the two were.
You can see the backdrop for yourself as Kacey is opening for Little Big Town on their current tour.
A few weeks ago I got the call to create a piece of art I had dreamed about doing since I was in grade school. I was a card carrying member of the KISS Army back in eighth grade and being an artist, the ultimate assignment would obviously be to create something for the band. The call came in that they wanted a new drum riser piece for the new tour with Motley Crue.
After my head stopped spinning, I quickly went to work looking for a reference that showed detail of the two iconic cats that are traditionally on the riser. Scouring the Internet, I was unable to find anything really detailed. I had to draw on my memory of opening the KISS ALIVE II album and seeing the cats image for the first time. I did findsome small images but the details had to be imagined. So I went to work, keeping in mind that I should “Let go” and not worry about the exact details of what had been done in the past, but instead concentrate on capturing the attitude and feel. The cats faces were the first graphic elements to be done, then I moved on the bodies and explosion at the bottom.
The new version is a combination of a few different versions, structurally, from a historical content standpoint. The cats are covered in a completely unique animal stripe pattern that I developed for this project, printed on a metallic gold material, appliqued to black fabric and outfitted with lighted eyes. It’s all KISS!
Recently Rent What? Inc. had the pleasure of working with Raphael Saadiq on some beautiful drape rentals for his concert tour stage design. His crew wanted draping that was simple yet dramatic, something that could be lit to look different at each show if need be, and something that was versatile enough to be able to have its shape and style change from night to night. We came up with gorgeous White Voile draping 24’h by almost 70’w with 100% fullness (lots of pleating) from our Delightably White Drapery Collection, which you can see turned out to be exactly what was asked for.
Because of the sheer textile of White Voile, it could be dramatically lit with all sorts of colors and intensities to help create the right mood for each song being played. They were able to hang these drapes at different angles because of the clever usage of the drapes’ grommets and ties on top, and so they were able to make unique staging while still using the same drapes over and over again.
We love being able to come up with memorable drapery rentals for our clients. This was a perfect example of how we help accomplish what our clients want without them having to spend an arm and a leg on renting multiple types of drapes in order to create a new and unique feel for each show.
So you want to create your own downtownscene and make it either quaint or edgy, uptown or downtown, back alley or main street. This is not a problem.
We recently created a downtown scene for a theater group in Deadwood S.D. for their Christmas show, and the end result was impressive. The objective was to make a believable looking street in Downtown Deadwood. The problem was they needed stores and shops that are not necessarily in the same proximity to appear on the backdrop as if they where actually there.
Using several provided digital assets, we created the new custom street digitally, complete with window decorations, snow, wreaths and the like to make the audience feel like they where standing in the actual street days before Christmas.
The end product was not only believable, but it put you in the mood for the holidays at first glance.
Back in June, I wrote a post about Sew What? and Rent What? working together to provide custom stage curtains to the Glee Touring Show.
Well, a few months later, we were approached by the folks at Glee again. But this time, they wanted us to provide custom theatrical drapery for the set of the television show. Very exciting! We work with music tours and traditional theatres regularly, but not much in the television and film industry. And Glee is the perfect television show to utilize our drapery, with its emphasis on music and performing.