Santa Fe Opera – 2019
Director: Mary Birnbaum
Scenic Designer: Grace Laubacher
Props Master: Randy Lutz
This was a project I planned, engineered and drafted/taped out by myself but worked with a fellow artisan to build. While I received a reference image with dimensions in front and top view, the layout of the branches had to be transferred by eye and intuition so that they matched in both, then extrapolated into real scale. I did this by creating a grid with an x and y axis on the floor of the shop that match one I drew on the reference, then plotted each point of each branch and connected them with tape. I then welded four angle irons onto the rolling steel plate platform the scene shop made for us that bolted to the floor to hold the piece secure.
At this point I was joined by another artisan who acted as my hands since not only did it require two people to hold the lengths of steel in place while welding them to the center pipe but I was also down a hand due to injury. I measured and drew out the main branches from my extrapolated design, and the other artisan cut the angles I drew and helped weld them in place. We then added more branches to fill out the tree using my eye and the advice of our boss Randy Lutz.
Using an oxyacetylene rig, I heated the steel branches and then advised the other artisan where and what direction to bend each piece. We did this process for each of the big branches, then returned to the original drawing out, cutting and welding for the smaller off-shoots. We then bent each of these with heat as well. To create girth we tacked, cold-bent and then tacked again 3/8” rod around the branches and covered it in chicken wire. I had done multiple samples for our painter before hurting my hand so we knew that this would work well for all departments.
Finally, I welded on a recessed skirt that allowed us to mask the casters and gave us multiple levels for the foam that we cut to fit around the base of the tree. All in all it was a wonderful, fun and challenging collaborative project.
Labor Hours: Approx. 70