UNLIKE PROPS MADE from heavier materials, lightweight soft-sculpture products and backdrops save planners money on shipping costs while dramatically dressing up a venue.
At San Diego-based Dream World Backdrops, backdrops are hand-painted or airbrushed on polyester cotton instead of traditional heavy canvas. “A 20-foot-high-by-40-foot-wide backdrop weighs approximately 25 pounds and is very easy to hang using pipe and drape,” says president Bev Pamensky-Murray. As a result of the lighter material, “We can ship these backdrops at the last minute to the client's doorstep.” New favorites with clients are backdrops painted with specialty paint that glows when lit with ultraviolet light, Pamensky-Murray says.
At Baltimore-based Everything Spandex, Twisters — lightweight, stretch-point spandex designs in varied shapes — are company best-sellers. Another top design is a backdrop constructed from a white scrim covered by a black curtain that is pulled back in strategic spots to reveal diamond-shaped scrim illuminated with colored lights. “It's not high-tech; it's just lighting and drape,” says vice president Dawn Cermak, “but it's very effective.”
Using light in conjunction with soft sculpture and backdrops is an easy way to change the look of a venue.
At New York-based Rose Brand, ShowLED Drops are fabric backdrops embedded with frosted light bulbs that emit a blue-white light, creating the look of a starry night sky. The control box that manages the lights is lightweight, making the backdrops “ideal for rental because [it] minimizes the cost of shipping,” notes Josh Jacobstein, marketing director. As for the company's dimensional soft goods, “It's all in the lighting,” he says. The popular Hoop Columns, which are available in 30-foot-tall and 15-foot-tall sizes, are made from white, flame-retardant spandex that creates a blank canvas for color washes or gobos.
Mary Carey, vice president of sales and marketing at Gorham, Maine-based Transformit Inc., notes the current trend for companies to brand decor elements with their corporate logos. The new Dynamics collection, which consists of rectilinear components that can be mixed and matched, has been designed to allow for this graphic printing, as well as for use with lighting displays. “The three layers of fabric in each structure allow us to integrate a lighting program at the base so that in between the layers we can use computerized LED color changers to change colors, thereby changing the environment during the event,” Carey says.
Experts also note the importance of taking good care of fabric decor items to prolong the life of the products.
“Continual maintenance of soft goods and decorative fabric is an absolute,” says Christina Vicente, director of sales and marketing for ASI Production Services, Orlando, Fla. “There are inherent issues such as shrinkage and damage due to humid or dry weather.” She notes that proper cleaning, storage and preservation of flame retardant “are absolutely necessary [to] providing a professional and safe product.”
Jan Rocco, president of Houston-based Party Props Inc., notes that as with any product, designers need to be aware of potential limitations. “[Clients] need to realize that when they're dealing with an item like a large backdrop, they need to have the space to hang it,” she says. “Some people want to hang it in front of an exit door, which is a fire hazard.” She adds, “We've done a lot of outdoor events recently, and we constantly have to find something that has an open weave, or else we have to cut it. You don't hang backdrops outside — they become big sails!”
ASI Production Services, 407/240-8080; Dream World Backdrops, 800/737-9869; Everything Spandex, 866/232-6326; Party Props Inc., 713/868-5433; Rose Brand, 212/242-7554; Transformit Inc., 207/856-9911