Monday, September 01, 2014

Everything's Coming Up Roses


On Mondays, I typically write about my garden.  There's a weekly blogging event over at Daphne's Dandelions, where bloggers post garden updates.  I enjoy the camaraderie there, and like having a glimpse into the life of other gardeners.

But, alas, I've been too busy with work to do much of anything in the garden.  We're in the middle of a drought, so things would be looking pretty rough under the best of circumstances.

However, that doesn't mean that I haven't been surrounded with flowers.  I'm working on a wonderfully audacious project for Berkeley Repertory Theatre called An Audience with Meow Meow.  Meow Meow is an Australian performance artist, who lives at the intersection of insanity and genius, somewhere in the neighborhood of subversive burlesque and demented opera.  That's a place I enjoy very much, and I'm delighted to be a part of the creation of this show.

This weekend, I built two oversized roses to adorn the massive wall of chintz that I wrote about previously.  The rose pictured above is four feet wide, but only about seven inches deep. This rose is attached to scenery that "flies out" and stores above the stage.  Space above the stage is very tight, and we cannot have scenery scraping against lighting instruments or other scenery.

The trick was to make a massive rose that was relatively flat, that didn't look like roadkill.  I had to give these flowers a lot of implied depth, without actually making them very dimensional.

I also had to make sure that these flowers -- like everything else on stage -- would pass muster with the fire marshal.  I saturated synthetic taffeta with flame retardant chemicals, and let them "marinate" in a sealed container overnight.  Then I hung them out to dry on laundry lines we rigged over our loading dock.   (I've also been using these lines to dry the fabric that I've been coating with multi-colored glitter.  The concrete of the loading dock has never been sparklier!)

I then sprayed each petal with various shades of pink paint, and formed them into petals.

I had previously studied books on historical techniques for making floral ornaments out of ribbon.  There's a fantastic fiber-arts store and museum here in the San Francisco Bay Area, with a phenomenal selection of books and tools for making just about any fiber-craft you could possibly imagine.  The folks at Lacis are infinitely gracious, and don't ever blink an eye when I go shopping in my paint-besmirched clothes.  (I've written about Lacis some time ago.  Click here for the link.)

I formed the edges of the petal with a heat gun, and then sewed irregular pleats into the petals.  I tried to remember everything I had ever learned about the art of making artificial flowers.  I may not know anything about pop culture, but tell me about an antiquated craft and I'll remember it forever.

After forming the petals I carefully stitched them together to form the roses.  I take great pride in craftsmanship, and feel that the backs of the flowers are as well made as the fronts.  The theater where I work has a reputation for building things to the highest standards, which is a responsibility I take very seriously. 

The paint-impregnated fabric was quite stiff, which was great for the structure of the flowers, but not so fun to stitch through.  Even though I've been wearing a leather quilting thimble, I've developed callouses so thick that I can barely activate the touch-screen on my mobile phone.  For some reason, I find this really hilarious.  Sweat shop meets First World Problem.

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