Tag Archives: 3D

The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Links about Props

Last night finally brought us to the opening of Tony Kushner’s new play, The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures, which we’ve been in previews for since March (and rehearsals since February!). I was the assistant props master on the show. There’s been quite a stir with Mr. Kushner this past week as well; first, he was set to receive an honorary degree from John Jay College, but then the board of trustees of CUNY voted to deny it; Mr. Kushner wrote an eloquent and biting response asking for their apology; finally, Ben Brantley of the New York Times wrote an editorial on the matter and opened it up to reader’s comments.  Last night’s opening even saw some protesters show up in support of Tony Kushner.

Kushner supporters outside the Public Theater, photograph by Jay Duckworth
Kushner supporters outside the Public Theater, photograph by Jay Duckworth

It’s a fascinating (and important) story if you are involved with theatre. But if you read this blog just for the props, don’t worry, I have some links for you to finish off the week:

  • Here is an absolutely fantastic inside look at the Office of Exhibits Central for the Smithsonian Institute, which fabricates the displays and exhibits for their various museums. Besides more traditional materials and methods like mold-making and fiberglass, they have also made a huge push into new technologies like 3D scanners and printers, CNC routers, fabric printers and more.
  • No Tech Magazine has posted the table of contents from an 1837 book titled The Panorama of Professions and Trades. It proposes to show all 87 types of jobs in existence (I think there were far more than that, even at that time, but I digress). What is interesting is how many of these trades remain essential skills for the well-rounded props artisan.
  • Jean Burch has posted a list of project management skills over on her Technical Direction Tidbits blog. I fell a Props Director is similar to a Project Manager in many respects, and this list shares many of the skills which a props director also needs.
  • Do you like pencils? Here’s a whole page dedicated to pencils. You can peruse hundreds of photographs of different pencils while learning their history, as well as view some classic pencil advertisements.

Maker Faire 2010

Rocket Roundabout
The retro-futuristic sculpture at the Rocket Roundabout

This past weekend, I attended Maker Faire in New York City. For those who don’t know, Maker Faire is an event begun by Make Magazine. This year was the first time it came to New York City (or anywhere on the east coast for that matter). Though not strictly prop-related, it has a lot of overlapping areas of interest to the props community, and a lot of props people are interested in a lot of things here. Imagine if a science fair and a craft fair had a baby and it went to Burning Man for an episode of Mythbusters.

The New York Hall of Science and Flushing Meadows Park could not be a more ideal setting for this Faire. There is a retro-futuristic rocket sculpture in the center, and off to the side is a Gemini Titan II rocket and a Mercury-Atlas D Rocket; two of the rockets that first shot Americans into space.

Knitfitti on a real Space Age rocket.
Knitfitti on a real Space Age rocket. That sums it up.

Outside were several very dangerous looking carnival rides set up by a Brooklyn art collective called the Madagascar Institute. They had also set up the World’s Largest Mousetrap, a reference to the classic kid’s board game, not an actual mousetrap.

Life Size Mousetrap
Life Size Mousetrap

Later in the day, they hosted a chariot race, featuring all sorts of home made vehicles racing around the Rocket Sculpture in a truly dangerous and hilarious spectacle.

Swimming Cities in the chariot races
Swimming Cities in the chariot races

The Faire had a few tents devoted to fabrication technologies. In the first were the familiar commercial brands, such as ShopBot CNC machines, Epilog laser cutters and engravers, and a slew of similar devices. Another tent was set up with MakerBots, RepRaps, Fabbers and the like. These are 3d printers designed to be made-yourself. Some, like the MakerBot, can be purchased as a complete kit which you assemble, while others, like the Fabber, you can build solely through blueprints and instructions available online. Most of them have various intermediate possibilities, where you can purchase the electronic parts as a kit but construct the physical parts yourself, or vice versa. The common thread between them is that they are based on an open-source community, where individuals make modifications or improvements and tell everyone else in the community how they did it. None of the technology that goes into them is secret or hidden.

Fire, danger, and awesomeness at Maker Faire
Fire, danger, and awesomeness at Maker Faire

The Faire offered a number of events, talks and demonstrations. I attended one called “Turning Pro: Becoming a Professional Maker” presented by the husband and wife team of Because We Can. They talked about the lessons they learned and mistakes they made in their journey from full-time jobs to running their own design and fabrication shop for interiors and events. It was very interesting; like many other prop-makers, I frequently do outside projects, and occasionally consider breaking away and making that my full-time job (especially during meetings or tech!) Their talk was based on an article they wrote called “Venturing Out…” if you’re interested in hearing what they had to say but couldn’t make it.

I watched the Fashion Show by Diana Eng. For you Project Runway fans out there, you may remember her from season 2. Since then, she’s remained busy in the fashion design world, incorporating all sorts of technology into her pieces. I wanted to see some of these in person, so I figured I’d check it out. A lot of other people had the same idea, as the line to get in was very long. Still, it was interesting to see clothes with LEDS and other lights, inflatable dresses, and 3D printed fabrics.

Diana Eng Fashion Show
Diana Eng Fashion Show

One of the things which surprised me was how many children were there. I follow Make Magazine and a lot of the community online, and just kind of assumed the attendees would be the same set of people. It wasn’t a bad surprise; it was actually very heartening to see kids who were even more excited and knowledgeable about these things than I am. If Maker Faire was around when I was a kid, I would probably be a bigger (and better) nerd than I am now. One might not think kids should be in the same space as anarchic arts collectives like the Madagascar Institute, but then again, this is New York City; if parents have their kids pose with topless mermaids for pictures at Coney Island’s Mermaid Parade, than seeing guys wearing nothing but gold lamé short-shorts is downright pedestrian.

One of the golden girls of the Madagascar Institute
One of the golden girls of the Madagascar Institute

At the end of the day, I attended a talk by Mark Frauenfelder, founder of Boing Boing, editor of Make Magazine and author of Made by Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World. He talked about his book, which describes his efforts to take a more DIY approach to his life rather than just buying a solution. It’s a great inspiration to props people (I’ll be doing a full review at some point in the future). At the end, I introduced myself and got my copy of the book signed. It was a nice way to end a long and tiring, but insightful and inspiring day.

So if you’re into props, I highly recommend you check out the next Maker Faire that comes near you. Outside of USITT and SETC, it’s one of the most relevant get-togethers for us, and certainly one of the most fun.

Friday Link-topia

It’s been a busy week, and it’s going to be a busy month. Here’s another quick list of links I wanted to share, until I can find time to write something for reals.

  • Jesse Gaffney, a freelance props master in Chicago, has a new blog. Theatre Projects details the process behind some of his more challenging props projects. I’ve also added a link to the blogroll column on the side.
  • Art of Manliness has a wonderfully illustrated article on the various types of hammers and how to use them.  And if you’ve never been to the Art of Manliness before, take some time to look around; there’s a large archive of articles and forums to explore.
  • Popular Woodworking magazine has posted 3D models of some of the projects featured in their magazine. I don’t know if any of you props people ever use 3D to help you build, but if so, this is a great repository of early American furniture and workbenches.
  • Finally, if you have time, watch The Story of Stuff. It’s a 20 minute film showing how products go from raw materials to the store. It examines the social, environmental, and political aspects of production and consumption, but it’s also interesting for props people who are interested in objects and where they come from.