Building Custom Curtains for Stonover Barn

I’ve got an upcoming wedding this season for which my client requested ivory-colored curtains to frame and decorate the rustic sliding barn door entrance into the big barn at Stonover Farm, similar to the curtains pictured here, but in a different fabric. Though I specialize in lighting design, my technical theatre skills do include soft goods construction and rigging know-how, so I gladly took it on.
Stonover Barn viewed through burlap curtains

Here’s a wide shot of this beautiful barn completely unadorned in the middle of winter:
Stonover Barn in winter
…And here is a shot of the barn with my lighting and with flowers and décor by florist Crocus Hale, a friend and colleague with whom I collaborate frequently.

Burlap curtains and Chuppah at Stonover Barn
These burlap curtains, designed and built by Crocus, are a popular choice at Stonover, as their rough, natural jute-colored fabric feels very down-on-the-farm. My clients, however, are after a slightly more refined look, using a palette of clean ivories and creams. I did some swatching of various fabric options at Rosebrand, B&J Fabrics in the garment district in NYC, and at a few big box discount stores, to give them a broad range of options at various pricepoints.
Swatches of various ivory fabrics

ivory swatches closeup 2

We settled on a simple medium-weight muslin that is a perfect match to her linens and chair cushions. It’s an unbleached cotton fabric that has naturally occuring dark brown specks throughout. I bought 20 yards and got to work.
Bulk muslin
A nice bonus of selecting a fabric so commonly used in theatre, and purchasing from a theatrical supply house: It’s available already pre-treated with flame retardant, saving me quite a lot of work on my end. The law requires that all décor materials used in a public assembly space be either inherently flame retardant or treated with a solution to make them so, and at events held in a barn with no fire suppression system, the fire chief often shows up to check up on you!
Muslin Curtains Flame Cert

My loft in the Eclipse Mill, a former textile mill in North Adams, Massachusetts, has a huge open studio space that is perfect for large custom construction projects. Fortuitously, during the week I wanted to build the curtains I had a curious and industrious 16-year-old on loan from extended family during his spring break. When we weren’t trotting around the Berkshires looking at small liberal arts colleges he’s interested in, I put him to work on the curtain project.
Trevor laying out our first curtain

Sewing a giant curtain is actually not too hard when you’re working with a fabric that is user-friendly–not so heavy-weight you need an industrial-grade sewing machine, not so stretchy you can’t control it, not so fragile you can easily damage it–and they don’t get much more user-friendly than muslin. Cutting to size, hemming the edges, reinforcing the top and sinking grommets every 6″ was well within our capabilities. It was definitely nice to have an extra pair of hands managing the fabric, especially during the sewing work.
Prepping bottom hem for sewing
Grommeting the top edge

We rigged up an aircraft cable with a turnbuckle between the exposed beams along the wall of my studio, and… voilá! A 16-foot-tall, 110″ wide muslin panel–the first of four.
Seitel Lighting LLC Custom Muslin Curtain 2 jsfwSeitel Lighting LLC custom muslin curtain jsfw

This beautiful Aleko heavy duty benchtop grommet machine is my new favorite shop tool. (Well, actually, Trevor is. But this tool ranks #2.)
Aleko benchtop grommet machine

Unfortunately I had to ship the 16-year-old back to his mother in Florida so I’ll have to do the remaining schlepwork myself… but that’s okay. Building soft goods is very zen.

More pics to follow, when I install these in the barn in June….

Installing Vines of Light in Stonover Farm’s Weeping Willow Trees

Posted by on August 12, 2016 in Special Events, Tools and Methods, Weddings | 0 comments

Stonover Farm’s two giant weeping willow trees create a gorgeous visual focal point for the duck pond area of the property.  For my recent clients Josh and Emily I upped the wow factor of these trees by installing dangling vines of twinkle lights throughout their branches. I used a Genie S-65 boom lift from NES Rentals in springfield to do the installation.  It’s a four-wheel-drive self-propelled diesel lift with a telescoping boom that extends to a max of 65 feet.  The articulating jib can pan, raise/lower, and tilt the bucket...

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Experimenting with my new LED PARs

Posted by on July 23, 2016 in Special Events, Tools and Methods, Weddings | 0 comments

LED technology as applied to stage lighting fixtures has finally gotten just good enough that if one invests in fairly high-end equipment, one can get LED fixtures that actually mix some pretty natural-looking warm whites and lovely light pastels… …in addition to the impressive saturated colors that almost all LED fixtures can produce. After a two-year search for an LED PAR fixture that is the perfect fit for my company, I finally found something that had almost all of the features I wanted, at a price that didn’t break the...

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Custom Muslin Curtains at Stonover Farm

Posted by on July 23, 2016 in Special Events, Tools and Methods, Weddings | 0 comments

The muslin curtain panels that I built in my studio this spring had their debut at Stonover Farm at a recent early summer wedding: The barn doors and transom window above are about fourteen feet tall, but I built the curtain panels at sixteen feet tall to allow enough extra fabric to drape the curtains open and pool them attractively on the barn floor to frame the doorway nicely.  The greenery tiebacks are by Michaela Hogarty of Days of May Florals. I made these curtains using flameproofed medium-weight muslin purchased from my favorite...

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Meeting Clients in my Studio

Posted by on April 10, 2016 in Weddings | 0 comments

Meeting Clients in my Studio

My 2016 clients Emily and Josh and their parents came to my studio this morning to go over revised layout drawings, see a sample of the hanging vines of light that I’m planning for some outdoor trees for them, and check out some possibilities for chalkboard signs. Thank you to Josh’s mom for snapping a few photos for...

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Me and My Skyjack

Posted by on March 28, 2016 in Tools and Methods | 0 comments

So nice to have a decent ride…....

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Building Custom Curtains for Stonover Barn

Posted by on March 27, 2016 in Theatre, Tools and Methods, Weddings | 0 comments

Building Custom Curtains for Stonover Barn

I’ve got an upcoming wedding this season for which my client requested ivory-colored curtains to frame and decorate the rustic sliding barn door entrance into the big barn at Stonover Farm, similar to the curtains pictured here, but in a different fabric. Though I specialize in lighting design, my technical theatre skills do include soft goods construction and rigging know-how, so I gladly took it on. Here’s a wide shot of this beautiful barn completely unadorned in the middle of winter: …And here is a shot of the barn with...

read more

Field Angle Math

Posted by on December 3, 2012 in Theatre, Tools and Methods | 0 comments

Field angle math: A lighting designer’s vital tool.  It’s how one decides what fixture is the right instrument for the job, and where to put it.   Sometimes I sketch out a drawing for just a single fixture, perhaps to illustrate the idea for the actors and directors who won’t have the real light to work with until tech rehearsal:       ..And sometimes I sketch out every system in the show on a single drawing:     I prefer this method to the old yellow-trace-paper-overlays.  Yes, I know, I just dated...

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Creating Renderings with SketchUp

Posted by on October 31, 2012 in Tools and Methods | 0 comments

Creating Renderings with SketchUp

During the early stages of the design process I often create a virtual 3D model to help my clients visualize what the space for their celebration will look and feel like.  Here’s a model for a wedding reception I recently designed, which took place in a small tent filled with white paper lanterns:   This process is especially helpful for celebrations that will take place in a tent.  For an existing structure, such as a rustic barn or a grand ballroom, it’s usually possible for me to meet with my client in the real space, so...

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How do I get up there?

Posted by on October 27, 2012 in Tools and Methods | 0 comments

How do I get up there?

I like to show off the height of the spaces I light by installing elements quite high up in tents and barns.  Guests at the weddings I light often ask me how I manage to get up that high.  Usually, the answer is: I rent a self-propelled scissorlift. Here I am using a scissorlift to install aircraft cable rigging up high at Stonover Barn.  The aircraft cable provides infrastructure between the barn’s columns and beams so that I can suspend lighting elements in the wide open spaces. For indoor jobs where I have a flat, weight-bearing...

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Remember hand drafting?

Posted by on October 26, 2012 in Tools and Methods | 0 comments

Remember hand drafting?

Ahhh… the old days.  We drafted by hand.  We coveted style and individuality as much as we worshipped clarity and accuracy. We tried not to drip sweat on the vellum while cranking out plates during NYC heat waves.  We lettered, erased, and re-lettered until the spacing was just right.  Our giant drafting tables, spiroliner parallel rules, and koh-i-noor mechanical drafting pencils (.3, .5, .7, and .9) were our trustworthy and loyal tools. Our triangles glided smoothly across our drawings, hovering above the surface via the magic of eraser...

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