Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Verdant

...


The stage floor of the theatrical set we are currently working is supposed to look like a dying lawn. Of course, you can't run out the Home Depot and buy such a thing and install it in your theater, because if you do, it will quickly become a dead lawn that infests your theater with bugs and mildew.

So, it is our job to create a fake dying lawn. We bought six hundred square feet of raffia matting (know in the trade as funeral grass, since it is used to cover the mounds of dirt displaced by grave digging). And we had to teach ourselves to paint a dying lawn.

Since the raffia grass we were going to have to paint is naturally a bit waxy, and also treated with flame retardant chemicals, we had to find a paint that would have excellent adhesion. We settled on textile paints, which would adhere well, and also remain soft and flexible on the individual leaves of grass. According to the technical staff at the company that manufactures this product, we would not have to heat-set the paint if we allowed sufficient time for drying. So we painted our grass, and let it "cure" for a week.

Time went by, and the paint dried, but had an unpleasant stickiness. The grass felt like it was made out of masking tape. It adhered to our shoes, and made us terribly nervous. Finally, I decided to bite the bullet, and heat set the paint on the grass. The hope was that this would fix the problem of stickiness. Another call to the paint manufacturer confirmed that there should be no problems with my plan.

I brought my home iron to work and resolved to spend a few hours on my hands and knees, ironing six hundred square feet of grass. I figured that if I used some kind of a pressing cloth I wouldn't ruin my iron, or scorch the grass. I thought I had everything under control.



Alas, the universe had different ideas.

It seems that if you iron raffia grass painted with a sticky textile paint, the heat of your iron will glue the grass to your pressing cloth. Whoo Boy! This is just the sort of thing that they don't teach in Art School.



So, after a few frantic phone calls and some creative thinking, I decided to rent an industrial carpet-dryer (not pictured, unfortunately) and elevate the grass on sawhorses so that we could better circulate air around our project.



We built the ultimate "Little Kids' Fort" in our scenic studios, and ran the fans overnight. And happily, the grass was dry by Monday.

7 comments:

Ziska said...

It's still better than doing a sphagnum moss deck...

Pica said...

Lisa, I've lost your email address -- have a question about the oil spill. Please could you email me?
Thanks,
Alison
alkent at ucdavis dot edu

Matt said...

::sigh:: I miss theater.

We did something similar on a Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theater production. As I recall, the clean-up after strike was a bit of a disaster (actually, I'm pretty sure that the theater still has bits of fake grass in the audience / backstage)

Lynne Rutter said...

wow! looks... a little flammable, actually!

Anonymous said...

Ironing a yard. Wow. Theater has done something to your brain. I'm not sure what, but I never thought you'd become that obsessed with the outdoors, even with all your pictures!

Good luck with the show!

Annalisa

Unknown said...

Hi Lisa! Mike Fink here :)

So I'm designing this set which I will also be painting and am interested to hear if you were satisfied with the end product here. Was it sticky and slimy yet after drying? I'm having samples of a couple other places mailed to me, but from the computer it looks like the Joseph Stern natural rafia has the most pleasing appearance. That way I can add the greens in- the lawn in this set is also teetering deathwards. Another complication in the whole matter is that it's for a touring show so the paint will have to be as flexible as possible. Will start sampling as soon as the products get here but thought you might have some sage words of wisdom- perhaps another cautionary tale :) Hope you and Robb are well!

Unknown said...

Hi Lisa! Mike Fink here :)

So I'm designing this set which I will also be painting and am interested to hear if you were satisfied with the end product here. Was it sticky and slimy yet after drying? I'm having samples of a couple other places mailed to me, but from the computer it looks like the Joseph Stern natural rafia has the most pleasing appearance. That way I can add the greens in- the lawn in this set is also teetering deathwards. Another complication in the whole matter is that it's for a touring show so the paint will have to be as flexible as possible. Will start sampling as soon as the products get here but thought you might have some sage words of wisdom- perhaps another cautionary tale :) Hope you and Robb are well!

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