labricoleuse: (design)
Today brings the second half of my interview with Randy Handley, head of wardrobe for the Cirque du Soleil production Zarkana, currently running in Madrid, Spain. Zarkana travels to Moscow, Russia, in February, then returns to the US for a NY run in the summer of 2012.

Randy is a 2010 graduate of our Costume Production MFA program at UNC-Chapel Hill, and took time out of his busy schedule to respond to my questions. And without further ado, here's part two!

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labricoleuse: (Default)
Super excited to share a new installment of the interview series, this time with Randy Handley, head of wardrobe for the Cirque du Soleil production Zarkana, currently running in Madrid, Spain. Zarkana travels to Moscow, Russia, in February, then returns to the US for a NY run in the summer of 2012.

Randy is a 2010 graduate of our Costume Production MFA program at UNC-Chapel Hill, and took time out of his busy schedule to respond to my questions. He also sent SO many excellent pictures of his shop and the show that I'm splitting the interview into two installments. Here's part one!

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (ass head mask)
I'm super excited to have another new interview to share, this time with Jeanette Hawley, the costume shop manager at the American Repertory Theatre, the LORT theatre in residence at Harvard University. In the interest of full disclosure, Jeanette was my manager for the four years i worked as the staff crafts artisan at the ART, and before that as an overhire draper when she managed the shop at Emerson College. I'm so pleased she was able to take time out of her busy schedule to share all this great info with [livejournal.com profile] labricoleuse!


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labricoleuse: (ass head mask)
I do have several excellent how-to project posts in the works, but I'll have to finish the projects themselves before i can share them, so in the interim, I'm pleased to share a new interview!

Today's participant is Eric Abele, a guy who wears (and makes!) a whole lot of hats at the Lexington Children's Theatre of Kentucky. LCT is a professional company serving young audiences, founded in 1938; Eric is their Costume Director, a resident designer, costume shop manager, and builds quite a lot of their puppets! I've never actually met Eric in "real life," despite having a whole host of friends and colleagues in common, and sharing an alma mater (UT-Knoxville). Someday, we'll remedy that! But, thanks to the internet, we "know" each other and he graciously agreed to this interview.

Q. For a bit of background, would you describe the shop at the Lexington Children's Theatre--how many employees, what different positions there entail, etc?

A. I like to describe my shop as “The Little Shop that CAN” to anyone who asks. We don’t have the traditional roles that many professional shops have; we try and keep it pretty fluid. In addition to me as Resident Designer/Costume Director I have an Assistant Costumer, who takes on many leadership roles for me and with me. Rounding out the team, I have two full-time Resident Professional Interns, over-hire stitchers and guest designers. Together, we take care of all the costume aspects for a busy eleven-show professional season of plays. It’s a non-stop whirlwind of FUN! Seriously. I love this place so much. Usually I assign projects on each show, and later (for their resumes) we try and assign a title. If we’ve done our job right, then many of us can “claim” the same project, because we’ve all had a hand in it along the way.


Q. What are your responsibilities as Costume Director? Read more... )
labricoleuse: (macropuppets!)
Anywhere you've got costume stock to pull from, you are pretty much guaranteed to have storage issues--how and where to store everything you own, methods for making it easily searchable, easily organized, how to fit everything into the often-limited space that you have. If you have a costume storage at your facility, like me you are probably always on the lookout for new and innovative storage ideas.

I've mentioned it before, but it bears a second look: Dickinson College hosts an online database of costume collection storage images--basically, pictures of how different facilities store costumes, all over the world. The archive includes all sizes and types of costume facilities, from universities to community theatres to rental businesses to professional companies, all kinds of stuff! This is a wonderful resource for those looking to overhaul their existing storage, expand their storage, or build a new facility. You can see how others deal with different storage issues, and adopt ideas that you like! The site allows guests to view it, but if you want to upload images of your own you need to contact Sherry Harper-McCombs at harpermc-at-dickinson.edu about getting a password.

To search the site though, go to ICON, Dickenson's virtual media center (choose Guest Account) and click on "Browse Collections" in the sidebar. You will be given a list of categories with radio buttons. Choose "Costumes." This will take you to the primary search page. You can search based on article of clothing (for example, if you want to see how other facilities store difficult items like hats, boots, or armor), on construction material (if, say, you have a bunch of unused pegboard wall and want to look at ways others have utilized pegboard for storage), or on the type of facility--university, rental house, etc.


Culling Overflowing Stock!

You are, like us, probably also concerned about what to do when you simply have more stock than you have space or use for, especially if the clothes are still in wearable condition! What with incoming donations and ongoing productions using newly-purchased or -made attire, we take in far more costumes and clothing items than we wear out.

I know that many theatres who operate without state-sponsorship raise a lot of money through yearly costume sales (especially in October!) or by running ongoing eBay auctions as a means of dealing with stock overflow. However, theatres like ours that are in residence at a state university often are restricted from such sales by legal SNAFUs. As such, we've always got to look for other ways to deal with overstock. Donation of clothing is our primary means of removal. We've got several stock-culling projects underway right now that i'd like to highlight.


Denim culling

One of the coolest things we've done this fall was participate in Access Cotton, sponsored by Cotton Incorporated, the "fabric of our lives" people. They've partnered with Habitat for Humanity to collect and recycle old denim into home insulation for HfH houses. Our stock manager and several student workers and volunteers went through our denim stock (jeans, overalls, jackets), culled out things in odd sizes/styles or too damaged to keep, and hauled them over to the drop boxes on campus. This program is especially great because it doesn't matter how damaged the denim is--it's getting shredded anyhow. If you don't have a participating organization in your community, maybe it'd be worth contacting the local Habitat for Humanity chapter and seeing whether they want to get involved with hosting one--could be not only a great way to cull your denim stock, but also to gain some great visibility for your theatre, AND to give back to the community and help some folks in need!


Fur culling

Most theatres have far more fur coats in their stock than ever would be used onstage--it's one of the most commonly donated articles of clothing. Furs are also hard to store properly, take up lots of space, and quickly become rotted when stored improperly (as they often have been before being donated even). Culling your fur stock frequently is a good idea, but what to do with them?

Start by calling local animal shelters and wildlife rescue centers, and ask if they'd like them for bedding. Or, if you live near the Humane Society headquarters in DC, they take old furs through their Coats for Cubs program--if your theatre's within a day's drive, see if a local chapter might want to co-sponsor a fur drive and deliver the results of the collection. The same goes for PETA's headquarters in Norfolk, Virgina, who collect still-wearable fur coats for the needy. College campuses are a great place to find animal rights groups who may help with fur recycling.


Coat/Jacket/Sweater/Pullover culling

Fall and winter are the perfect time to cull your sweaters, coats, jackets, and pullovers from stock. Churches and community groups are spearheading clothing drives for the needy at this time, or you might elect to head up your own warm-clothing drive! Here, we're going to be taking ours to the "anything warm" clothing drive sponsored by our local YMCA, but organizations like One Warm Coat can provide you with all the tools you need for either hosting your own drive or finding one nearby to drop your culled items off.


Business attire culling

There are many organizations all over devoted to the intake of business attire donations--suits; shirts/blouses; dresses; slacks; ties; skirts; briefcases; dress shoes; coats and accessories (purses, scarves, jewelry, belts). Often they are part of larger community organizations who help low-income men, women, and at-risk youth in learning to interview for employment and better their economic situations. Some examples are the many different local organizations in the US that make up the Women's Alliance (many of which also provide clothing and training for men), and Dress for Success, who have chapters all over the US, UK, Canada, the Netherlands, and New Zealand.


It does take some time and labor to deal with stock culling, but if you have folks in the shop put in just one hour a week toward sorting and culling a box of stock, you can quickly get together a pile ready for pickup or drop-off, free up some space and feel good about where the culled items are going--to reuse, rather than a landfill.
labricoleuse: (macropuppets!)
There's a buzz right now in the theatre blogosphere about "greening theatre," as evidenced by its gaining mention in the theatre pages of the Guardian. It's an interesting topic, vastly multifaceted, and one i often ponder myself.

Childrens Theatre of Madison's production manager Mike Lawler writes a blog dedicated to the topic called ecoTheater. (In order to more easily follow future posts, i set it up as an LJ syndication, [livejournal.com profile] ecotheater, in fact.) He's got a pretty interesting debate started over the amount of air travel that design staff have to do in the current regional theatre paradigm, which crossed blogs into Scott Walters' TheatreIdeas and Praxis Theatre's blog posts as well.

The thing that came out of this that most got me thinking was the idea of a "generalist" theatre professional. (Incidentally, aren't we already generalists, in the tech side of things at least? How many TDs out there are able to step in as carps, welders, run crew, set designers, draftsmen, etc. as needed? How many costumers have built soft goods for props or run wardrobe or functioned as designers, managers, shoppers, dyers, etc.?)

That sort of suggested approach, the "multitalented theatre artisan," is workable for a certain kind of theatre company--it makes ultimate sense for smaller-budget or traveling companies. The problem i have with the concept of the theatre generalist is that it doesn't work for professional theatre companies in residence at a university, where company members have a responsibility not only to the resident theatre, but to the training program that exists alongside it.

To use myself as an example, my duty is first to create all the costume crafts for PlayMakers Repertory Company, but the singular condition of my employment is that i teach in the Costume Production graduate program--one of the best in the nation. In order to be qualified to teach my courses in the program, i need to be the best specialized artist and artisan i can be. What's more, after i've done all the craftwork for the company and taken care of my academic responsibilities, i have literally NO more time to devote to some other aspect of theatre. PRC is certainly not alone in its status as a LORT theatre in residence at a university with theatre staff doing "double-duty"--off the top of my head, it's in good company with the Huntington Theatre at Boston University, the Clarence Brown Theatre at the University of Tennesee-Knoxville, the American Repertory Theatre at Harvard University, to name a few.

It has been my experience that, due to the collaborative nature of theatre, people are willing to work outside their area of primary responsibility as time and need and skill set allows (examples include a costumer dyeing fabric yardage for scene shop scrims, a propmaster casting ornaments for costume armor, a scenic carpenter creating decor for a fundraising event). I'm not so sure we need to write this into our hiring requirements though. As we've seen trying to fill our existing openings in staff this season, it's hard enough to find qualified applicants for positions as it stands--if we then demand that our actors also be drapers or carpenters, and our administrative staff be singers or painters or choreographers, i think the hiring pool only shrinks further til we're parched by professional drought.

Another issue to consider is that this "generalist" concept alienates those artists who are in production careers by discounting the degree of study and expertise they need to function at the top of their field. Certainly, actors pitching in to build flats or run wardrobe is necessary and valuable for theatres functioning in non-union paradigms, for example, and the theatre made can be transcendent and brilliant. Where though is the place in that for the scenic carp whose goal is to work for Cirque de Soleil building highly-engineered circus sets? What of the costumer who dreams of working on technically-challenging, huge-budget productions like new operas, Broadway, or Vegas shows? Because in many of the university programs, these are the students we are teaching in the tech departments.

I wonder if the generalist model isn't something that's emminently workable in the realm of the actor-director-administrator, but less workable when taking the technical fields into consideration. Within our company, many of our professional actors also direct, write, produce, carry full teaching loads, and/or work in other outreach and development capacities. If i were working as a dramaturg, i might welcome an actor as a research assistant. If i'm building a set piece, i don't think i want an actor who can swing a hammer over a career carpenter who can throw the whole thing together herself/himself without hand-holding. We already collaborate--i talk with the scenic production folks when i need something welded or some carpentry project done--but let's not stretch demands beyond the bounds of what's reasonable and safe.

In the course of browsing links in these blog discussions, i came across a couple other sites that spawned some mixed response on my behalf as well. Mo'olelo's Green Theatre Mission and GreenTheaters.org. Both of these sites advocate costume-related "greening" measures that strike me as limiting, short-sighted, or ignorant of costuming as a field. Specifically, here are some quotes, with my responses after:


From Mo'olelo:
  • Rent costumes from other theaters and actors, or purchase from thrift stores before purchasing new items
  • When possible, using thrift shops for costumes


From GreenTheaters.org:
  • Consider reusing costume pieces rather than building new ones.
  • In the laundry room, strive to do laundry as rarely as possible, perhaps giving actors the option to some items [sic] less frequently. Hang-dry, if possible, to reduce the huge amount of energy used by electric dryers.


Renting

Renting is certainly one means of costuming a show, but when a company invests its costume budget in the rental of a show, it receives exactly no return on that money--none of the costumes go into its own stock for potential reuse on future pulled shows, and all of the shop's labor goes into alterations, upkeep, alterations reversal (because anything you do to the rentals, you must undo), and cleaning of another company's property, as well as the expenditure of transportation costs--costumes are heavy, particularly period costumes, and incur high shipping and insurance charges, nevermind the fuel expenditure, whether shipping or driving to pick them up.

Often the companies renting them require them to be packed in particular ways for protection of their property, such that for some specialty items (like hats) it makes no sense to rent, since you could make the item on-site for much less time, money, and effort than the packing and shipping and dealing with red-tape of rental. (Or, i could, at least.) It seems to me that if an organization wants to avoid the transportation costs of flying in NYC or LA designers, they'd feel the same way about flying in their costumes.

In the long-term view, a company is better off investing in well-made costumes which they will retain in their stock after the performance, as the more costumes a company owns, the more they can pull from for future shows. It's been my experience that a well-made costume can typically be utilized in at least five productions at your typical regional LORT theatre before it needs major overhaul, or moves into a second life as a decon/reconstructed costume or distressed/beggar-class costume.

Here's a real-life example: we are not renting any of our costumes for Pericles, a huge show which has probably around 50 costumes in the version we're doing. We're making about 8 costumes, which will go into stock at the end of the run, and the rest are pulled from stock, altered, reconstructed, and/or dyed/painted or otherwise embellished. We could have rented the whole show and spent all our time and effort on doing reversible alterations on rental costumes; at the end, we'd have had to undo all the alterations and spend another few days after everything came back from the cleaners (since rental companies usually require confirmation of dry-cleaning of all items before returning them) packing them up and shipping them all. Instead, we make a few, alter the rest, and keep everything. I won't say NO labor is wasted--it's theatre, things will get cut--but far less labor goes toward something that has no longterm benefit to the company. After all, if you make it, even a costume that gets cut during tech still goes into stock.

Perhaps it's better to look at this rental issue from the other way around: might a company reap the benefit from establishing a means for conducting rentals of their own stock? Oregon Shakespeare Company is a great example of a company that's made this work very successfully--they are a primary rental source for theatre costumes and take in a certain amount of revenue from their rental department. Opera and ballet companies who build on-site also often operate with a rental component--they invest in making a whole opera or ballet, then reap the benefits of renting it as a batch to other companies staging the same show later on.


Thrifted costumes

Thrifted costumes can be the only option sometimes for student groups, church theatre, no-budget productions, and if you are making theatre on a shoestring, you make do with what you can. However, in terms of professional theatre, in my experience, 9 times out of 10 when a costume designer brings in some clothing s/he has purchased at a thrift store for costumes, the amount of labor that goes into alterations and making them stageworthy is comparable to that of having gone ahead and made the item from scratch.

Thrift store clothing is already secondhand--it's already been worn in someone's everyday life, laundered, sometimes damaged. Thrift store clothing is also most often mass-manufactured clothing and has not been constructed with alterations in mind--picking apart a seam sewn with a five-thread overlock machine is maddening, and there's nothing in its seam allowance to let out if the garment is too small. When thrifted costumes go into your stock after the run of a show (provided they survive it), you can count on them to hold up through perhaps 1-3 more shows, as opposed to the 5-8 shows you can expect with a new item. Depending on the state of the item when purchased, thrifted costume pieces make more long-term sense than rentals do, in that you do wind up with a certain number of costumes that go into your stock afterward, but often what you save in materials costs you spend and then some in labor.


Reusing costumes

Now here's one i can get behind...to a degree. I mean, actually, to a great degree, because pulled shows mean crafts-heavy labor, which means yay, work for me! But, that's something to figure into your evaluation when you decide to costume a show largely or entirely by pulling from stock.

Stock consists of all the costumes in still-wearable condition, from all the shows a company has ever done and then some (i.e., including donations). These things are every imaginable shape, size, and color...but the trouble is, sometimes the thing that fits or can be made to fit is not the right style or color so something has to be done to accommodate that. Whenever a show is designed from stock, a large part of what makes it a visually-cohesive show falls to the crafts artisan--costumes get dyed to conform to the show's palette, accessories are constructed to "pull together" the look of a chorus or collection of characters, distressing or toning or other paint effects are the "glue" the holds the show together design-wise. It's not just crafts--stitchers and first hands add trim and appliques, refurbish or decon/reconstruct things and deploy other tricks to make these disparate costumes from a dozen previous unrelated, unconnected shows hang together as a whole--but the point is, a pulled show still requires labor and expenditure of resources, often more than people think. There's a lot you need to do beyond pulling your reused costumes in order to mount a professional show with them.

Or, you don't do any of that and it looks like you rag-picked your show from a dumpster and a dress-up box. Which is maybe what you are going for, but 9 times out of 10, it doesn't stop with a pulled costume as-is. I'm just saying, with reuse comes a whole new set of costuming issues, and particularly if you are thinking about conservation, dyeing is a big one to weigh, in the scheme of things.


Laundry minimizing and hanging-dry

With all due respect to whomever wrote this, it's not even a valid suggestion. Actors Equity won't allow wardrobe to just "skip" laundering costumes--if you aren't operating an Equity house, okay, ask your actors if they are willing to wear sweaty, dirty, rank costumes for several shows running. Good luck with that. The rest of us are required to do laundry of launderable items after every performance. As for hanging dry, if you have a sunny day and a clothesline and the time to sit and watch over the costumes to make sure someone doesn't run off with the lead actor's pants, okay, give it a shot. As a general rule though, Equity houses have to do lots and lots of laundry, and that laundry is done in washing machines and dryers. Use responsible laundry soaps and softeners, buy energy efficient and low-water appliances, but don't tell me NOT to do laundry in my wardrobe department; it's naive at best and downright absurd.


I don't mean to suggest that i am against making the theatre industry more ecologically responsible--i'm saying that there are no simple solutions and that more consideration and weighing of impact is necessary than simply making a list of brainstormed ideas and implementing them without further investigation.

You can't pull shows if you don't also invest in adding valuable items to your stock.

You can't run a union house without laundry appliances.

You can't rent entire shows and feel proud of how ecologically-sound that decision was, nevermind what it does in terms of pissing away your budget.

You can invest in quality, well-made costumes that can be used again and again.

You can run a dyeshop with a mind to water and energy conservation.

You can impress upon your designers the impact of their decisions (for example, "Every time you purchase a fabric to be custom-dyed, that utilizes up to 200 gallons of water in the process," or "If you spend your entire budget on rentals, we will not be investing our costume budget back into our own stock.").

I think the most ecologically sound theatre is street Butoh in trash-picked attire. Theatre done in the actors' own clothes on grassy clearings in public parks is the next rung up, and then there's what we call "sweatsuits in a black-box by ghostlight". If we're going to do theatre with any kind of advanced production values though, we've got to compromise and make sensible, well-thought-out long-term choices, and we've got to include everyone in the conversation. It's clear to me that these costume-related suggestions listed by these organizations are either aimed at theatres who do not aspire to high technical production values, or were dreamed up by people who didn't run them by an actual costumer first.

And honestly, the first nail in the coffin of any regional theatre company is a lack of communication and mutual respect among departments. Which is weird, because talking's free, and so is demonstrating respect for one another's art and artisanship.
labricoleuse: (macropuppets!)
One of the things i always try to impress upon those interested in a professional costume production career is the importance of management skills and an understanding of workflow. I talk to my students about this in classes, and to assistants about it in professional jobs (where appropriate, of course). I mention it whenever people ask me what kinds of skills they need to work on in addition to the obvious sewing, patterning, etc.--i always say, read up on management and workflow techniques, and learn a few basic words and phrases in Spanish. Seriously.

My current job provides a great example of why this is so important.

I'm on a team led by a single draper. (So, most of our MFA students major in draping; this is the position to which they someday aspire.) Under him are three full-time first-hands--myself and two other women--and a fourth part-time first-hand. Work responsibilities flow from the draper to the four of us and on down the line.

So what's down the line on our team?

First up, we have two operators. Operators are sometimes called "stitchers" as well--they operate the industrial machines. Operators typically only do machine sewing, and they are very, very fast. Generally, it takes the draper and at least one of the first hands devoting all their time to cutting and setting up work to keep those operators busy. If they are idle, you lose them to other teams, so it's a pretty breakneck race to make certain you always have work for your operators to do.

Next, we have four finishers. Finishers do hand work--attaching closures and labels, hand-sewing elements of the costume, pinning, basting, etc. Finishers work slower than operators, obviously, but they work a lot faster than you might think.

In addition, we have two floaters, who are people that do both machine and hand work. One of our floaters is in-house, and one is outsourced (meaning, we send boxes of work to her and she does it in her own shop). For the past four days, one person's entire day has been spent just generating work for the single outsourced floater.

On top of this, we have three interns--two highschool sophomores and a retiree--who work around 7 hours a day as volunteers. The interns are very diligent and enthusiastic, but they require a bit more consideration than the "pro" workers when assigning responsibilities. The two young women are just learning the skills they need for this job, and the older woman has some of the handicaps of age (poor vision, slower energy level, special physical accomodations such as work that can be done on a flat table while seated).

If you've been keeping count, yes, that's a total of sixteen people on the team, with eleven of them looking to the other five for their workflow. Each of us on the "steering committee" level is responsible for keeping two people busy for 100% of their workday. When you recall my statements about how it takes one person per operator just to keep them working, you realize that it shakes down even more disparately than that, so that some days, two of our first hands wind up supervising the other nine workers on their own.

Of course this is a very particular case--not every draping team has sixteen members, and we're doing this at the top level of Broadway production. Most places, certainly, you have a much more sanely manageable team--one or two first hands, a stitcher or two (or a stitching pool that serves all drapers sometimes). Still the point holds: brush up on your managerial skills!

Here are some basic things i always keep in mind when i have a team to work with, whether it be a single assistant or a team of six or more:

1.) Hand stuff off like it's going out of style. By this i don't mean, be lazy and pass stuff off on poor sods reporting to you. I mean, try your best never to do anything yourself that could be done by someone less skilled than you are. If you are a draper or first hand, don't spend your time, say, stitching in a label unless it's the last day of work on a project. There's plenty of stuff no one can do but you--correcting patterns from fittings, cutting out particularly fiddly stuff, etc. Always ask yourself when you pick up a job, "Can anyone else on my team reliably do this, or be taught quickly to do this?" If the answer is "yes," consider handing it off.

2.) Show an interest in those working for you. This one is what i think of as the grease that makes the team machine run. Talk to your teammates. Make small-talk, ask about their lives, not to excess but enough that shows them you see them as a person with a life outside of work. If they speak English as a second language, ask them a few basic phrases in their language (Spanish being the most common [1], but at my current work, Russian and Greek are close seconds.), such as "good morning" and "thank you." If you connect with your team on a human level, even in just the most basic of ways, they will appreciate it and feel happier about working with and for you. What's more, you can find out conversationally about their skills and be more informed about how to best hand off work. For example, if you ask about someone's hobbies and they say they like making wire jewelry, then if you later have to make a wire bustle cage, you might consider getting them to help with that since they have a background of working with wire already. If you find out someone used to work in an alterations shop, you can consider handing off a pant hem to them later without setting it up and explaining every step. By asking about their lives, you get to know their skill set and can better direct the workflow.

3.) Respect their knowledge. You may be generating work for the team, but always acknowledge their experience and don't be too proud or "big" to defer to them at times. For example, i always ask my operators their opinion on the amount of seam allowance needed when cutting--they sew all day every day; they know what's going to be too much or not enough. I ask finishers for their input on how they think something should be best hand-sewn for a couture finish; it's their job, they know! Everyone's got something to contribute, and when appropriate, i do ask others for input.

4.) Always stay flexible. I start my day with a basic outline, planning out a short task list for all the people reporting to me. I don't enforce it like a drill sargeant though; things come up, things go faster or slower than you think they will, unforeseen setbacks happen and crazy productivity cranks into overdrive; at any point, i'm prepared to completely rethink my plan for the day, for myself or for my part of the team. I'm willing to bargain, trade off workloads, swap jobs, whatever it takes to get what needs to be done done in as efficient a manner possible. By starting with a plan though, i always have a list to look at if i need to come up with a job for someone quickly. Without a plan, things are hectic and scattershot. So, i always make a plan, but remain prepared to deviate from it!

5.) Never let them see you sweat. By this i mean, don't flip out publicly. Don't bitch to those reporting to you about how screwed the team is, or how huge the workload is, and if you are concerned about anything regarding the job at hand, pass that up the ladder, not down. Talk to your draper or shop manager, don't whine to your stitcher or complain to your intern. They look to you as the bellwether--if you seem okay, they feel okay. Okay feeling workers work more efficiently and screw up less.

That's it, my overview of the staff demographic of your average Parsons-Meares draping team creating a whole messload of showgirls in crazy trick costumes. And i didn't freak out once about the fact that Shrek ships out Tuesday! GO TEAM DRAGONETTES!


[1] I have a whole forthcoming post on this in fact.
labricoleuse: (silk painting)
This morning I did a color-match dye process for a student of mine. Our third-year graduate students do a project called Strapless Foundation, whereby they make a dress from a rendering or research image for which a bra is not an option. The dress is constructed over an interior foundation garment, kind of like a boned bustier, with supporting bones, bust cups, and underwires if necessary. They make the foundation and the dress for a specific model (in this case, me). The foundation for my dress is to be made from cotton satin, which i had to dye to match my own midriff's skin tone.

Skin tone matching is (I find) a difficult proposition. Skin tones are complex and varied, with undertones, highlights, mottles, and variations. On the same actor, skin tone can vary drastically from forearm to midriff to leg. When i am called to take a color-match swatch for a skin tone dye request, i always make sure to ask where on the performer's body the match-dyed fabric or notion will go.

When i came to this job, i inherited a skin tone swatch-wheel, comprised of random little swatches of fabric dyed various skin tone shades, interspersed with various flesh-toney paint chips from a hardware store. (I say "wheel," but it's more like a Pantone color book or a hair-color swatch-ring really.) I've seen these kinds of cobbled-together swatch-wheels in other dyeshops as well, and they can be of a certain usefulness. However, what i find far more useful is to compile a corresponding recipe book linked to the swatch-wheel, so that if you do find a direct match, you have your recipe right there, and if you know you are close to a given swatch but need to alter the hue a bit, you have a starting-point recipe to troubleshoot with.

I have a binder which i am slowly filling with mixing tickets, cross-referenced to swatches on my wheel. Recall if you will my shared file, the mixing ticket document:

Download mixing ticket.doc

This is my dye project record form (Word document filetype). Anyone who dyes anything for a mainstage show (me or one of my assistants) fills out this form, attaches swatches, and puts it into the notebook for the show (or "Crafts Bible"). That way if anyone else needs to reference what was done and how on a given dyejob, it's right there on record, type of dye, sample swatches, etc.

When i do a skin tone color match dyejob, i fill out one of these forms, recording my recipe and attaching test swatches, etc., but I also cut a swatch for the skin tone swatch-wheel to which i assign a number, and i mark the form with that corresponding number. That way, when i take the swatch-wheel into a fitting, if one matches directly, i note that number and can look up the original dye recipe. A good skin tone swatch-wheel and recipe book is something you continue to add to over the course of your entire career as a dyer; it takes a while to build up a really effective one, but it can be an indispensable time-saving resource!

The students who take my dyeing and distressing course get a start on their own swatch-wheel and recipe book; in one of the projects, each student does two skin tone matches in enough quantity to distribute a swatch to the entire class. In this way, everyone winds up with a dozen samples and corresponding recipes as a starting point.

On a related topic, there's a fascinating article in the Raleigh News & Observer today about Chuck Stewart, head of the custom couture dye studio Tumbling Colors.
labricoleuse: (safety)
A recent query about MSDS records from a colleague inspired this post--i figured, perhaps i should share my response with my readership! I know these posts aren't as fun to read as parasols and masks and hats, but i feel they are just as important a part of this blog. And you never know when some bit of safety info might just save your life, or your fingers from amputation, or that of a colleague.

Here's her questions:

I am in the process of updating our MSDS sheets so that our new craftsperson can be certified for her respirator. I am tracking down sheets for all the products that we use in the shop and putting them into a binder. My question is about how to organize them. Are there classifications that appear on the sheets that I could group them by? Or is it acceptable to have everything in one binder and alphabetized. Also these products are in about four different locations/rooms within our shop. Do I need to have a separate MSDS binder for all these locations, with only the relevant sheets inside them?

Also one last question, if, for example I have the sheet for Bounce, but what I actually have is the Wal Mart brand is that acceptable, or should I track down the one from Wal Mart.


When you are assembling or overhauling an MSDS file, you can organize it several different ways. The idea is that it is organized in the most intuitive way possible for looking something up. Mine is completely by alphabetical order by the name of the product. I have seen them organized in categories (glues, paints, solvents) and then alphabetically within each category, but I think that is more confusing. Sometimes you wind up having to look up an MSDS in a high-stress time-sensitive situation (like if a coworker has gotten a product in a cut or eye or something), so usability is of the utmost import. I highlight the name of the product on each sheet as well, so that it is easy to quick-reference, and if an MSDS is several pages, they are stapled together before they are put into the binder, so that i can flip through them easily.

Our MSDS collection is so extensive it actually takes up two binders (A-K, L-Z). I have been debating whether to put ours instead into a file of folders, but i think there are pros and cons to binders and file folders both. Up to you! We have one MSDS collection for the costume department, which is kept in the dry crafts room bookshelf. Scenic has a separate MSDS file of their own. If your facility is spread out, you can post signs in other costume areas that say "The MSDS for the costume facility is kept in the dye room," and that’s sufficient notice. I believe though if you are extremely spread out (like, the wardrobe area is off-site in another building, or if you have multiple workshops on different floors of a building) you would want to put a copy in each general physical location, by floor or whatever.

You do have to have an MSDS for every single product in your facility, so if you have the Wal Mart dryer sheets and Bounce dryer sheets and Snuggle dryer sheets, OSHA requires you to have the MSDS for each brand. This is why our MSDS file is so large. Our costume and scene shops have the biggest MSDS files our OSHA inspector has seen, according to him, but he also commended us on how well ours was put together (alphabetized, highlighted, prominently displayed in my dry room), so I guess we have done it correctly!

Good luck with it! It can be a tedious project, but IIRC our Safety Officer’s assistant got ours completely put together in a week or two, then once it’s done, maintenance is easy. Every time you get a new product, you file the MSDS. Every time you throw out the last of a product, you chuck the MSDS in the recycle, easy-peasy.

A good reference to have in any shop for questions like these is The Health and Safety Guide for Film, TV, and Theatre, by Monona Rossol. Ms. Rossol is head of the watchdog organization ACTS (Arts, Crafts, and Theatre Safety), which answers specific safety questions via their various hotline contacts.
labricoleuse: (silk painting)
First, some new-news:

There's a great story in Sunday's News & Observer on the progress out at The Lost Colony on rebuilding their costume shop, which was lost to a tragic fire on September 11th of this year. I particularly liked reading about how folks at HBO and in the NC film industry have pitched in with donating production surplus on period projects that have wrapped.


And! It occurred to me that it might be useful to share some of the spreadsheet and form templates i use for labor tracking in my subdepartment with you guys. So, i've created an account on Filecrunch.com (a free hosting service) with some of my frequently-used templates. Here are the first three i've uploaded for open-source sharing.

1.) Download mixing ticket.doc
This is my dye project record form (Word document filetype). Anyone who dyes anything for a mainstage show (me or one of my assistants) fills out this form, attaches swatches, and puts it into the master notebook (or "Crafts Bible"). That way if anyone else needs to reference what was done and how, it's right there on record. It is based on a form used by the Utah Shakespearean Festival in their dyeshop; they have some different categories at the top of theirs for tracking projects (since they have six shows in their shop simultaneously, thus making it more difficult to track what fabric goes to what draper for what show by what deadline). You can add or eliminate whatever entries you need, or devise your own completely different template.

2.) Download hat and mask measurements.xls
This is an Excel spreadsheet i generated for a comprehensive measurement sheet covering both hat-related measurements and facial-feature measurements. This way i was able to make matrices without face casts for masks *&* hat mockups from one measurement sheet.

3.) Download TLP mask tracking spreadsheet.xls
This is another Excel spreadsheet that i made for The Little Prince which tracks the steps of the mask-making process. I left some of the information in it so you can see how anyone could check at a glance on the progress made on any mask.

Feel free to take these templates, adapt them to your own uses for your own record-keeping and project-tracking!
labricoleuse: (CAD)
Our program director returned from the recent USITT Conference with a whole pile of great information, including a lot of literature on various computer programs. I thought i'd write up some brief overviews of them here for y'all.


The Costume Bible

The Costume Bible is a software package that contains a suite of cross-linked databases and form-generators designed to streamline the work of costume shop management. It's a FilemakerPro program that was developed by the folks at the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, VA. Barter runs year-round, producing an average of 20 shows a year, several of which run in repertory.

I'm no manager, but i did download the demo and poke around through it to see what i thought. It looked like it might be a bit hard to initially get your head around, but that once you had used it for a show or two, it'd be a great tool, particularly for managing multiple shows across the scope of a season or repertory run. I particularly liked the one-click budget reports and work lists and such, all consolidated within the same program.

TCB (ha!) isn't cheap at $300 for the software package, but it seems like if you are adept with computers, the time it'd save you once you get the hang of it might be well worth the investment.



PatternMaker

PatternMaker is one of those software companies i've heard about for years. It's a 2D CAD program designed to generate flat-pattern sewing patterns. It operates off of the Scandinavian fitting system, and you can read all about the measurements required here. You have to purchase the initial software, then suites of basic pattern shapes depending on what kinds of garments you want to make. This page shows some garments for a production of Twelfth Night made from patterns generated by PatternMaker software.

They offer a free 30-day trial version of the software that you can use to make a pair of pants and a bodice, to try it out and see how it works for you. After the 30 days are up, you have several options, depending on how much you want to spend for added features and new pattern sets. The minimum cost involved then is $99, the cost of the basic Deluxe Editor version.



Wild Ginger Software

Wild Ginger produces a number of programs that generate custom-sized patterns based on entered measurements. They're probably best-known for their garment software, Cameo and PatternMaster, and their digital range of basic patterns, Click-n-Sew.

Because it's targeted to my field, I downloaded their free "Wild Things!" accessories program and found it to be easy to use, quite intuitive in its setup for adjusting scale of various elements of the patterns. It generates what look to be CAD-drafted patterns for basic hat, bag, wrap, and simple shoe shapes. I'm not going to be doing any elaborate fancy millinery with it, but the next time i need to bang out a fast newsboy cap, this program's going to make my pattern for me, just to see how it goes!

They offer a more complex version with a wider range of vintage/20th century styles of hats/gloves/etc called Wild Things Vintage for only $40. I might invest in it, just as a speedy way to crank out custom glove and cloth-cloche patterns and the like.

Another of their programs that might be of use in a costume shop (and certainly for home-sewers) is Stitch-n-Stash, a database set up for inventorying and cataloguing your fabric stash, patterns, sewing-related publications, notions, etc. You can scan swatches of the fabrics and notions, and print out suites of project information from the database. Stitch-n-Stash is only $30 for the download.



Got any other recommendations? Favorite computer software you like to use? Do you use one of these and love/hate it? Tell me about it! I'd love to hear your feedback.
labricoleuse: (dye vat)
I thought i'd kick off 2007 with the final installment of my four-part studio setup series!

For those who haven't been following this series, Part One is here, which addresses the equipment and inventory needs of a typical dyeshop or "wet room," Part Two is here, which focuses on specific equipment and inventory utilized in leatherworking, distressing, and shoe-related areas, and Part Three is here, which is an overview of millinery equipment and various supplies used in hat and headdress production.

As for why i first sat down to develop these lists, some background:

The MFA program where i teach allows the students to focus in a range of non-design areas of professional costuming: draping, tailoring, craftwork, or costume shop management. The fall semester's management seminar topic was "Sourcing and Supplies"--this is not just how and where to find everything from a spoon busk to an industrial shoe-patching machine, but also strategies for addressing shop supply inventories, storage, etc.

I gave a guest-lecture in that course last semester on the appurtenancing of a crafts space. The thrust of the matter was, what if a managerial candidate was hired and coming into a space where s/he had to either set up a crafts shop from scratch, or analyze the existing inventory of a crafts area and do supply ordering for the beginning of a season with no aid from a staff crafts artisan. I am posting a brief overview of what i touched on in a four-part series:

Setting up a Dye Shop/Wet Room
Cobbling, Leatherworking, and Distressing Equipment and Supplies
Millinery Equipment and Supplies
Specialized Crafts from Parasols and Purses to Plaster Molds

This post is the fourth and final one. I want to touch on a variety of areas, not all of which will be applicable to all shops. A manager may just as easily find herself or himself working at a Shakespeare Festival shop (where armor is of great import), as at a LORT theatre that only produces shows in 19th or 20th century settings (not so much armor, perhaps, but potentially lots of parasols or jewelry). This is the "everything else" post, stuff that didn't fit under one of the other three topics but is nonetheless important to consider!


Jewelry--Whether you think your shop will actually custom-make jewelry in-house, your crafts artisan is guaranteed to have to repair it or alter it on occasion. Supplies include:

Findings--clasps (lever and magnetic), jump rings, split rings, chain
Ornaments--Bulk beads and pendants
Soldering iron/solder/flux
Polyclay & push-molds (useful to make your own cabuchons and the like)

If you think your crafts artisan(s) may be manufacturing high-end jewelry in-house, you might want to look into investing in some precious metal clay (PMC) and a mini-kiln, and perusing the catalogues of an industry supplier such as Rio Grande.


Craft-props, a.k.a. "Propstumes"--These items often fall to the crafts artisan's responsibility to make, since even though they are technically props, the costume designer is usually responsible for designing them. Potential supplies needed:

Purse frames
Parasol frames
Pocketwatch fobs and findings

It can be hard to find quality modern supplies in this area. For example, nearly all modern long-handled parasol frames have a six-paneled dome. What if your designer has created one with a ten-paneled dome? Sure, you can work out a way to alter the frame, but it's easier if you have an acceptable frame to start with. And what about unusual purse frames, like accordion-hinged reticule closures? I regularly check local "junk shops" and eBay for these items.


Masks, Moldmaking/Casting, SFX makeup--Masks may come around once in a while for your crafts artisan, but chances are, a craftsperson who can cast things will save your butt (and budget!) many times over, particularly if you need something like 40 large ornamental medallions or buttons or similar. Buy one or two and have her/him cast as many as you need. And, I always argue that production should hire a specialist when SFX makeup is required--prosthetics or extreme gore effects. However, all too often in theatre no one wants to budget for that and it often falls to the crafts department to come up with SFX appliances for stage use. These are some of the materials that may help out with these projects.

Alginate
Plaster
Gauze
Latex
Silicone
Oak tanned/kip leather (tip: bellies are often cheapest)
Phlex Glue
Thermoplastic sheeting and mesh
Casting rubbers, plastics, and foams
Mold release products

Be aware that many casting products have a definite shelf-life. It does no use to keep things on hand if they will be useless by the time you need them. Ordering these kinds of supplies needs to happen as projects come up, unless you are heading up the kind of shop that you know you will have several casting projects per season.


Bigheads, Walkarounds, Macropuppets, etc.--these are some supplies useful for creating extreme-shape frameworks in-house.

Skirt hooping
Steel slatting
Aluminum armature wire
Body-mount options such as snare drum marching mounts and backpacking frames
Head-mount options such as bike or hockey helmets
Acrylic rods/bamboo/dowels/etc.


Armor--these are some supplies useful to have if you plan on manufacturing stage armor in-house.

Industrial felt
Sculpt or Coat
Shellac
Backer rod (ethafoam tube)
Glover’s needles
“Apoxie” (2-part epoxy clay)

...Or, if you need to purchase-and-alter armor, check out the vacu-formed shapes sold by vendors like Costume Armor, and the metal helmets and pieces made by Windlass Steelcrafts (sold by a number of vendors).



Note that these lists are to be treated as suggestions, a jumping-off point. Also be aware that if the dimensions and ventilation of your craft space are limited, you may wish to avoid all products that would require the use of respirators. If you do use casting media, solder, and adhesives that require respirators, be aware that OSHA requires you to have a training program in place for all employees that will need to use respirators. When ordering these products, make sure you always ask for the MSDS. You need to have them on file, and they have a lot of good information that will help make decisions like what types of protective gloves and respirator filters to purchase.

And, that concludes my series on setting up a crafts studio! Hope it was of some use or perhaps at least interesting to read about in parts. Or, if you hated it, rejoice! It's over!

Now we can get on to all the exciting topics that Spring has in store, namely tons of hats and shoes, which i don't know about you, but hats and shoes are two of my very favorite things in the world, and i'm super exciting to be teaching seminars on both this spring. We've got some cool stuff coming up on our mainstage, too, so i suspect there will be more posts on distressing and painting/dyeing in that realm, as well.

Happy 2007, y'all!
labricoleuse: (hats!)
Here's the (long-awaited, i know) third part of my four-part studio setup series!

Let me first man up and acknowledge that yes, i know i haven't gotten the backstage-sneak-peek of The Lion King up yet--i'm still embroiled in legalese because i don't want to get sued for violating any nondisclosure agreements or illegal photo usage. Disney is big on that. I promise, as soon as i get it straightened it out, it's coming! (I did eventually come through on Cirque de Soleil, did i not?)

For those who haven't been following this series, Part One is here, which addresses the equipment and inventory needs of a typical dyeshop or "wet room," and Part Two is here, which focuses on specific equipment and inventory utilized in leatherworking, distressing, and shoe-related areas.

As for why i first sat down to develop these lists, some background:

The MFA program where i teach allows the students to focus in a range of non-design areas of professional costuming: draping, tailoring, craftwork, or costume shop management. This semester's management seminar topic is "Sourcing and Supplies"--this is not just how and where to find everything from a spoon busk to an industrial shoe-patching machine, but also strategies for addressing shop supply inventories, storage, etc.

Earlier in the semester I gave a guest-lecture on the appurtenancing of a crafts space. The thrust of the matter was, what if a managerial candidate was hired and coming into a space where s/he had to either set up a crafts shop from scratch, or analyze the existing inventory of a crafts area and do supply ordering for the beginning of a season with no aid from a staff crafts artisan. I am posting a brief overview of what i touched on in a four-part series:

Setting up a Dye Shop/Wet Room
Cobbling, Leatherworking, and Distressing Equipment and Supplies
Millinery Equipment and Supplies
Specialized Crafts from Parasols and Purses to Plaster Molds

This post is the third in the series.

Bear in mind that not all craftspeople do millinery; as with the Dyer/Painter, sometimes the Milliner is a separate position within the shop. Many crafts artisans do find themselves responsible for millinery, though, and it is a good skill to hone regardless--often the principles of construction you learn in millinery can help in any number of other area of costuming, whether it be constructing underproppers for ruffs or wire-frames for headdresses or patterning of "propstumes" such as parasol covers and muffs and the like.

The first thing to address is equipment. If you intend to accomodate in-house millinery projects, you will likely need the following:

Head forms/"dolly heads"
Hat steamer
Hat stretcher (manual and/or electric)
Sleeve-arm domestic sewing machine with a zigzag stitch
Crown blocks
Brim blocks
Wire cutters
Needlenose pliers
Pinking shears

You can do without the brim blocks if you don't intend to make felt hats "from scratch"--you can always buy untrimmed plain felt hat shapes from dealers such as Manny's Millinery Supply in NYC. You will still probably want at least a couple of the plain domed wooden crown blocks for stretching buckram or shaping Fosshape on and the like.

You can also use a regular clothing steamer or fiddle around with a steam iron if need be, rather than invest in a hat steamer, but they do make hat steaming far more convenient and easy. Dolly heads are as necessary to hatmaking as dress forms are to draping, and skimping by substituting styrofoam headforms can be disastrous, as some of the chemicals and heat-processes used in millinery can melt styrofoam! I like to have a sleeve-arm domestic with zigzag accessible because it allows you to do some of your construction by machine (particularly edging brims with wire). Traditional milliners would probably have a heart attack over that, but in theatre sometimes you have to sacrifice handwork for speed.

In terms of inventory of "consumables," things that are depleted and replenished as hat projects come through the shop, here is a master list to get started with:

Buckram and double-buckram
Baby flannel/domette
Icewool
Low-loft quilt batt
Milliner's wire: white/black, light/medium/heavy weight
Tie-wire or joiners for milliner's wire
Bias tapes
Millinery & curved needles
Premade linings (dyeable!)
Milliner's grosgrain (100% cotton)
Various trims (flowers/ribbons/feathers)
Combs/horsehair/toupee clips
T-pins
Milliner’s glue (Solvent-based, "MagnaTac" is one brand)
Felt and straw
Sizing
Fosshape/thermoformable felt

Most of these items can be purchased from online suppliers. I feed my inventory orders for icewool and domette into my shop's yearly master order from Whalley's in the UK, but that's certainly not mandatory practice.

Note that this list is to be treated as suggestions, a jumping-off point. Also be aware that if the dimensions and ventilation of your craft space are limited, you may wish to avoid all products that would require the use of respirators. If you do use solvent-based sizing and adhesives that require respirators, be aware that OSHA requires you to have a training program in place for all employees that will need to use respirators. When ordering sizing and adhesives, make sure you always ask for the MSDS. You need to have them on file, and they have a lot of good information that will help make decisions like what types of protective gloves and respirator filters to purchase.

Keep your eyes open for the final installment in this series, coming soon! It'll cover a wide catch-all range of topics, everything from jewelry supplies to purse-frames!
labricoleuse: (shoes!)
Here's the second part of my four-part studio setup series, but first i should give you guys a heads-up on a couple of very exciting things i've got coming up.

First up will be an in-depth report on the exhibit, What We Wore in North Carolina, a huge exhibit at the NC Museum of History in Raleigh, the first installment (of a planned two) of which just opened and runs through February 19, 2007. The exhibit covers over 200 years of fashion and reputedly has an excellent collection of antique pieces. I'll let you know all about it!

And second, admittedly exponentially cooler: I've swung backstage access to the wardrobe department of The Lion King. Reportage will be most assuredly forthcoming late next week. I'm so excited i might as well be doing the pee-dance. I did work on the rebuild of Julie Taymor's King Stag that the American Repertory Theatre did a few years back, and at that time i had the singular opportunities of being able to observe milliner Denise Wallace rebuilding those hats with the then-new thermoformable felt Fosshape, and myself refurbishing masks Taymor herself built originally around twenty years ago. Being able to see inside Taymor's TLK designs, particularly the ones that came out of the Michael Curry Design Studio...wow. I can't wait!


Now, to return to my series about setting up a crafts studio, today's focus is on shoe repair, leatherworking, and costume distressing supplies. Read more... )

Lastly, unrelated to upcoming posts here or setting up a studio, I recommend checking out Entwinements, the blog of the shibori studio of Karren K. Brito in Yellow Springs, Ohio. She's got a ton of really informative in-depth posts about her shibori artwear creations. Fascinating, creative, inspiring stuff!
labricoleuse: (dye vat)
The MFA program where i teach allows the students to focus in a range of non-design areas of professional costuming: draping, tailoring, craftwork, or costume shop management. This semester's management seminar topic is "Sourcing and Supplies"--this is not just how and where to find everything from a spoon busk to an industrial shoe-patching machine, but also strategies for addressing shop supply inventories, storage, etc.

I recently gave a guest-lecture on the appurtenancing of a crafts space. The thrust of the matter was, what if a managerial candidate was hired and coming into a space where s/he had to either set up a crafts shop from scratch, or analyze the existing inventory of a crafts area and do supply ordering for the beginning of a season with no aid from a staff crafts artisan. I won't replicate the entire lecture here, but i thought i'd post a brief overview of what i touched on in a four-part series:

Setting up a Dye Shop/Wet Room
Cobbling, Leatherworking, and Distressing Equipment and Supplies
Millinery Equipment and Supplies
Specialized Crafts from Parasols and Purses to Plaster Molds


Clearly the manager must evaluate the scope of the theatre's productions, the general per-show budget, etc., in order to determine to what extent crafts will be a component of the company's costuming. A huge, well-funded ballet company that builds several new pieces in-house each season will have entirely different crafts needs than a small theatre company that premieres small-cast modern plays. Shakespeare companies and children's theatre will often have larger crafts shops than regional serious-drama companies.

Assuming that one's company does have enough of a crafts demand to warrant the existance of a dedicated crafts space, the absolute bare minimum requirement is a separate "wet room" space for the use of dyes, paints, and adhesives--"hand" craftwork could be done on a cutting table in the main shop if need be.

These are the primary safety concerns of a dedicated wet room:

There must be adequate ventilation (size of room, windows, vent hood, fans?).
Food/drink must be prohibited in the space.
There must be adequate PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment) and dedicated PPE storage.
There must be safe flammables storage.

In addition, it's a good idea to have a crafts-specific dedicated washer/dryer, that only dye projects and other crafts laundry goes into. If there's space and money for an industrial steam-jacketed dye vat, awesome, but if not and your shop will have any amount of custom-dyeing needs, it should have at least a tabletop double burner and large (think like 20-gal) pot.


Dye Shop Equipment and Supply "Shopping List":

Dyestuff:
bulk Rit or other brand of union dyes
color remover
synthetic-fiber dyes
fiber-reactive dyes
thiourea dioxide
mordants/fixatives (soda ash, urea, etc)
bulk salt, bleach, white vinegar

Safety equipment/PPEs: check your dyes' MSDSs for requirements
aprons
gloves
goggles
respirators

"Hardware" equipment:
Gram scale
General measuring equipment (cups, spoons)
Binder clips
Clothespins

Note that this list is to be treated as suggestions, a jumping-off point. For example, some dyers don't like to work with union dyes at all, while other shops only stock them and nothing else. Also be aware that if the dimensions and ventilation of your wet room space are limited, you may wish to avoid all products that would require the use of respirators. If you do use dyes and chemicals that require respirators, be aware that OSHA requires you to have a training program in place for all employees that will need to use respirators.

You can get most of the hardware stuff at lab supply and restaurant supply distributors. There's a huge number of dye suppliers online, from small companies that sell only their line of dyestuff to huge clearinghouse type vendors that sell a wide range.

When ordering dyes and chemicals, make sure you always ask for the MSDS. You need to have them on file, and they have a lot of good information that will help make decisions like what types of protective gloves and respirator filters to purchase.

Keep an eye peeled--shoes and such will be the next in this series!

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