In thinking about how to execute this challenge, a couple things had to be addressed. We wanted to make sure that the pattern matched up across all of the various scenic elements. We also wanted to keep any patching at the seams to a minimum. Touching up the line work would be easy but matching a gradient in a space where we cannot use pneumatic sprayers is not a fun endeavor.
As a result of all of the constraints, we decided to wrap all of the hard scenery in pre-painted muslin. This allowed us to more effectively bridge the transition between the scrim and the hard scenery and saved us a ton of time on layout.
This was my first time painting scrim by myself so I read up in my Crabtree text and tried to remember how we did it at Goodspeed Opera House. We laid down and taped our bogus paper. We then sized our muslin first and then after it was dry and dimensionally stable we pulled it up and then re-stapled everything in the correct place. We stapled the scrim in last.
We painted a base coat, did some layout and started to lay in our artwork. I picked the scrim as best as I could to avoid it sticking to the bogus paper. Everything was going according to plan and we were on track.
We laid in the rest of the highlights, shadows and finished it off with a Prussian Blue gradient. We let it dry over night just make sure all of the moisture was gone and we eliminated the chance of a moldy/mildewy drop. First we removed all of the moulding on top of the fabric. Joe, our Master Carpenter, made sure to label all of the pieces very clearly so they could put the puzzle back together when they loaded in the show. We then pulled up the muslin. After the muslin was folded and put away, we started to pull up the scrim. Unfortunately I didn't pick the scrim enough. In the places where the paint saturation was the heaviest it had pooled and fused the scrim and paper together. I spent a great deal of time scrubbing out the scrim to make sure all of the tiny holes were clear of paper.
A couple things I've learned when it comes to de-papering your scrim
1. Hot water with a couple drops of soap is your friend! I soaked rags in hot water and soap and let them sit on the paper side of the scrim. If you let them hang out for a couple of minutes it'll start to loosen up the bond between the paper and the scrim.
2. Scotch Brite Dobie plastic scrubby pads make quick work of the paper. If you aren't familiar with Dobie scrubbing pads, they are a sponge that is wrapped in a plastic scouring surface. Not only is it good for your non-stick cookware it'll remove paper on the back of your scrim post haste.
3. When scrubbing your scrim, scrub in the direction of the fabric weave. I scrubbed up and then across. It lifted the paper the best.
4. For those super stubborn holes that the paper just won't come out of, I suggest an embroidery needle. It's the perfect size for scrim holes.
It took me approximately 2 hours to scrub out all of the spots on my scrim but the overall result was successful. Even though I used some elbow grease and scrubbed the heck out the spots they kept their color well enough, and I only had to do minimal touch ups in the space. In efforts to avoid this inconvenience next time, on top of my bogus paper I will be laying out some scrap muslin before I lay out the scrim. The scrim won't bond as well to the fabric as it did to the paper.
All in all, though the scrim was more work than anticipated, the process of the back wall was a huge success. I learned a lot that I will for sure keep in mind next time I tackle a project with similar elements.
Have you worked on a project like this before? Did you find different solutions to your challenges? Questions about my process?
Let me know in the comments!