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.