Back to the future….

This post comes to you from the EcoMuseum

Identity: yours mine ours is well on the way to an April launch, but it’s not just the multicultural community who have a keen interest in the exhibition. The project team’s open-minded approach to innovation has cultural and environmental organisations eager to investigate the exhibition’s environmentally sustainable build and finish.

One of the more experimental and highly successful decisions the project team made was to use a signwriter instead of traditional large format printing. Identity has been designed by graphic designer Gina Batsakis to be visually stunning, with a contemporary, highly artistic style. One thing visitors will immediately notice is the unique linework throughout the exhibition. The linework which is an original creation of Gina’s exclusively for Identity, is designed to express faces and features without the stereotypical ethnic identifiers we commonly recognise.

Gallery 3 is where the Identity linework truly comes into its own. Each wall is covered with many layers of line-faces and the design calls for a crisp, well defined finish. To produce this graphic treatment in the traditional method, scores of huge strips of self-adhesive paper would need be printed off and wrapped around 3mm MDF. The MDF graphic would then be laminated to take increased wear and tear. This method involves the depletion of a number of natural resources, like land degradation from MDF production and the coal extraction for the making of electricity used to power the printers and laminator. In addition the negative effects from toxic inks and ink off-gassing, and the excrement from coal-fired power stations are well known.

Graphics produced in this way suffer from heavy traffic – in the Immigration Museum’s case up to 1.3 million people will pass through Identity. The slightest scratch to even a single panel necessitates the entire panel’s replacement – meaning more electricity and materials. In 10 years time, when Identity completes its run to the public, those graphics would be consigned to landfill, where they would take hundreds of years to degrade, leeching their contents into the earth.

Using Bec (pictured in the gallery), our signwriter from Synthesis Design and Display, there is no printing, laminating, MDF substrates or inks involved. Bec is using water based low VOC paint, human energy and a brush. The only electricity she is using is to power a light projector onto the wall, where she traces the linework with chalk. The project team, and especially Gina, are thrilled at the high quality of the blossoming design on the gallery walls. The Immigration Museum is also thrilled because any scratch large or small can be easily touched up with only a brush and a lick of paint – barely any cost or effort at all to the museum. In fact the project team was surprised to find that using a signwriter cost no more than using the traditional print method, and this is what finally won them over and convinced them to experiment with Bec’s amazing skills.

We hope that this encourages the re-emergence of artistic signwriters, which are hard to find — in fact Bec is one of a kind, and herself is re-learning the skills she perfected a long time ago before signwriters became victims to large format printing. Hopefully the resource-hungry complexity of large format printing will be used with more discretion within the cultural organisations of Australia after they see the success of the Identity graphics, and signwriters from the old days will be brushing up their skills just as Bec has done.

the EcoMuseum, is a project of Carole Hammond, Exhibition Manager and museum professional: combining the complex ideologies of aesthetics, culture, objects, entertainment…and environment.

Go to the EcoMuseum

Childsplay Theater’s Sustainability Survey Notes & an invitation

Thank you to the 40 theatres that participated in Childsplay’s sustainable materials survey. Here are the results:

  • The majority of respondents (20 theatres) purchase 100-500 sheets of luan plywood per year…that’s roughly 75,000 linear feet of wood that is sourced primarily from tropical rain forests.  If only 20 theatres are using 75,000 linear feet, imagine how much our entire industry consumes on an annual basis!
  • 58% of participants throw away most or all of their scenic material at strike.  At our summit, most shops estimated filling at least one large container per strike…added together, that’s quite a landfill.
  • Not surprisingly, the most common reasons for not saving materials are lack of storage space and the labor costs associated with dismantling/moving materials.
  • Of those theatres that send materials to external recyclers, steel and aluminum are far and away the most common choices.  Steel and wood are the materials most frequently saved for re-use.
  • 30% of participants are already researching or implementing “green” material alternatives: using MDF in place of luan wherever possible, looking for less toxic materials, etc.
  • 66% of participants report re-using at least some stock pieces.
  • 50% of participants would be willing to budget 5-10% more to purchase sustainable materials.
  • 55% of participants would partner with other theatres for bulk purchasing of sustainable materials; another 42% would consider it for specific projects.
  • Less than 20% of participants recycle wood during a strike.  There is a common mis-perception that the wood and steel from flats or other structures cannot be recycled unless they are dismantled and stripped of hardware.  We learned from a regional recycler that not only could we recycle our flats without completely dismantling them. Paint and fasteners were also not an issue for recycling. These are new developments (at least in AZ) that have occurred within the last three years. Many recyclers will actually send a container to your site, reducing both labor and transportation costs.

Since sending you the survey, we have made a contact at a bamboo product manufacturer who is willing to take a look at our needs for the luan replacement.

On February 26th, we held our first sustainability summit. You can read about our first meeting at the TCG blog:
Childsplay will be recycling or keeping the majority (if not all) of the scenery from our final show of the season. I’ll report back to you all about how stage-to-recycling goes at the end of May.
And finally, we have two more days of sustainability meetings coming up in May. We will explore the production process from the initial idea stage through opening night. The focus will be on opportunities for open and synergistic communication between production staff and designers.
anthony runfola
production manager | childsplay
480.921.5721 (o) | 480.921.5777 (f)
Sybil B. Harrington Campus for Imagination and Wonder at Mitchell Park
900 S. Mitchell Dr., Tempe, Arizona 85281

Waste Wood as a Bio Fuel

There are significant issues with widespread adoption of bio-fuels from energy crops (i.e. growing wood or oil seed specifically to burn it). See for example the Friends of the Earth campiagn (

However this does not mean that we cannot make better use of waste materials. Effectively we are considering incineration of selected wastes to produce useful heat.

There is some excellent information on this subject at:

We are specifically interested in using:

  • Untreated wood -,18712&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL
  • Fibre Board (MDF) -,18712&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL

Note that there have been changes made to the categorisation of Waste to allow the use of untreated timber and SOME wood composites as bio fuels. In preparation for using redundant set materials (which cannot be re-used) we need to consider elimination of materials which cannot be cleanly burnt (ply is probably one of these).

Go to Arcola Energy