Sunday, July 6, 2014

Aspen Ideas 2014

In January Kitty Boone contacted me about designing something special for the Aspen Ideas Festival's 10th anniversary. She wanted something for the entrance to Paepcke Auditorium.

Cool! Yep, I jumped on the chance, I love my home town of Aspen and Aspen Ideas is tailor made for the polymaths amongst us.  Perfect.

This would turn into much more of an Art Installation than a Scene Design. 

For the 10th year there was a new logo design from Infinia Group

new  logo
old logo

I loved the new logo and thought it would be great to "riff" off of that. So I came up with a few ideas:

The idea was to line the entryway with "people size" logos which would be sleeved in a white spandex. These would be lit from below with color changers and the negative spaces in the logo would be filled with mirror. The mirror would have quotes from the past 9 years.

Kitty wanted to see a prototype so that's what we did. Dimension Design has done fabulous work for me in the past and they can sew spandex into some pretty intricate shapes. The logo may look simple but ask any stitcher- getting a smooth fitting on that shape- not so easy.

The prototype arrived in April.

As much as I liked the look, I was even more impressed by the welded frame.

Kitty liked it too. She picked up a piece of blue cellophane wrapping and held it in front of the leaf. As the blue shadows fell on the sidewalk, "What if we could have it like this?"

Colors like the logo inset into the frame? Like stained glass? Great idea!  (Difficult, pricey, but a great idea.)

That's the fun, Design is a collaborative process or as Amanda Boxtel put it in her presentation at this year's conference Design is "co-creation"

Now there were a few problems, like that pesky thing called gravity and it's equally pesky parent physics.  Aspen Ideas has a history of reusing design elements and changing the colors on their logo so I wanted to make these stable enough for the 10 day event and removable if the colors changed for next year. 

The two big questions were 
1."Do the right colors of plexiglas exist?"
2. "Can I find a way to make it float inside the frame?"

The biggest choice for plexi colors came from Solter and I could also get the plexi pieces cut at JetSets.

Better yet 3 of these were "neon plexi" which gives a hot neon glow edge. That made it even more important to get some air around the plexi inside the frame.

"Will it stick?" First I tried a little clear silicone: clamping it in place with PVC until the silicone had set. That worked on a small sample and gave me enough confidence to go ahead with the project.

Eight new leaf frames were ordered and I started on the R&D process in my studio. Did I mention that I was both Designer and Scenic on this? Well, I didn't plan it that way but that's what the deadline will do. I don't like to do both on a show, I use different neurons for these tasks and sometimes changing lanes becomes challenging.

Forty-two plexi inserts in each leaf, nine leaves 378 pieces of plexi and one week of build time. 

While waiting for shipments to arrive I experimented with different methods of making the process faster: A "negative" of the leaf which would hold each piece of plexi in the right position while I glued seemed like a good plan.

The plexi arrived before the 8 leaves 

so I started working on the prototype:

This didn't work. The glue wasn't stiff enough and made quite a mess.

There wasn't enough uniformity in the leaves either. I won't bore you with all the other failures but you should know that this is a process. You try something, you fail, you learn, you try something else. 

The crates with 8 leaves arrived. That's the big difference between Entertainment Industry Design and just about every other type of Design. We have deadlines which do not move. The tickets have been sold and there is no excuse. Opening is opening.

The best solution was taping the plexi in place while the leaves were standing.

There's a  famous story about John D. Rockerfeller. The kerosene kegs were sealed with 40 drops of solder and John D. asked if they could do it with 38. Thirty-eight drops of solder leaked, 39 did not. 

I tried using silicone around all 4 sides and the neon lost a lot of it's glow. 

Then I "tabbed" the 4 corners with silicone

39 drops of solder:  piping Crystalgel on the short sides only.
 (it's stronger than silicone)
Crystalgel is thick enough to pipe and a quick wipe with a rubber smoothing tool will keep it clean.

39 drops of solder- pop out the silicone tabs leave the crystal gel…

Repeat again
and again

Late on Saturday night Allan Trumpler (who happened to be in town painting for John Kasarda's production of Eugene Onegin at the Aspen Music School) and I put the leaves in their crates. Monday at 7am the truck arrived. 

The load-in for Aspen Ideas is one day. 

It did not go without incident. I made a huge mistake trying to place the leaves before driving rebar stakes into the ground. Up came the wind down went the leaves. I reglued a lot of these on the spot. That's another reason for bringing everything with you in the "kit". 

Here you see the mirror pieces reflecting onto the sidewalk
The prototype went into the Doerr-Hosier building since it couldn't be secured outside.
Even inside "stained glass" effect seemed to be work well.

It gave a festive feel from many angles.

Ten days later the crates are back in the shop. 

Will the "stained glass leaves" come back next year?

No idea. 

I just know I have some plans for making them better if they do.

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