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Fabricating an art-filled forest

Features, Landscapes | May 1, 2013 | By:

Finding a way through the woods via fabric gateways.

GuildWorks: Architecture of the Air, a team of creative types based out of Portland, Ore., makes their client’s life easier by designing all manner of fabric installations for spaces and events, large or small, temporary or permanent.

One project of note is GuildWorks’ fabric installation for the Electric Forest Festival held annually in Rothbury, Mich. Launched in 2008 as the Rothbury Music Festival, the event changed its name in 2011. A four-day event, it features a variety of music genres in a wooded setting northwest of Grand Rapids and not far inland from Lake Michigan. Each year, GuildWorks was charged to create easily navigable connecting spaces through the woods so attendees could find their way from one stage to the next.

“Through our fabric installations and the addition of awesome lights that give the forest an electric feel, we essentially helped transform the festival experience into one beyond that of any other current festival in America,” says the GuildWorks website.

A complex dynamic and theatrical installation, Electric Forest is comprised of vividly colored and dynamically shaped fabric forms anchored to trees and posts that swoop low and rise high through the forest. For the 2012 Electric Forest installation, GuildWorks custom-dyed woven polyester in multiple colors including vermillion red, deep purple and vibrant gold—approximately 595m of the material.

According to GuildWorks founder, Mar Ricketts, the biggest challenge each year is the timeframe. “The whole thing has to go in quick. We arrive less than one week in advance of the event. Another challenge is making complex designs of many panels linked together in our production shop, pack them up and ship them out then unfold them on site into the correct shapes.”

GuildWorks also has worked their creative magic for corporate showrooms and conferences, theater productions, weddings and even backyards. Work includes projects in Oregon, Toronto, Las Vegas, Arizona and Saint Paul, among others.

Contributing editor Mason Riddle regularly writes about art and design for national journals.

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