Making a Table Runner – Out of Book Pages (Oct. 2017)

This past October, Just Buffalo Writing Center asked for my assistance on a little project. They were co-hosting a banquet event with the Read Seed Write project, and what they wanted me to make were the table runners for the banquet table. Only these would not be ordinary table runners – they wanted them to be made from the pages of old gardening and herb books.

Inspiration Image

Naturally, I was intrigued and delighted to work on such a project, so I quickly agreed!

Now unlike the inspiration image (above), JBWC needed the table runners to be more slender and a lot longer, as these were going down the center of expansive banquet tables. We ended up deciding to make each unit about 2 ft wide, and 70 inches in length.

What we would do is take two book pages, and have them face away from each other to the width amount needed. We would do that all the way down until it became the length for the unit. This is the back of the unit, so we made sure to be aware of what images were facing on the upright side.

We would then place one page in between the two pages facing away from each other, and do that continuously down the unit. After that, we would take packing tape and place it on the two long sides of each of the center pages. We had to make sure the packing tape was placed straight on, for any wrinkle would show easily on the table runner, so we would use double sided tape to keep the pages in place as we went down with the packing tape.

It would then be time to flip the unit over, which had to be done super delicately to avoid ripping it. We would then add some pages over top to help add some chaos, and to cover any center pages that might be showing from underneath and ruining the aesthetic of the unit itself.

And that would be it! We would get empty paper towel rolls (or similar devices) and tightly (but carefully) roll them up, so that transporting it would be easier while also keeping it structurally sound.

In total, I created 13 units, which would be approximately 75 ft of table runners.

I had so much fun working on this project, even though dismembering books hurt me so! I absolutely love all the opportunities JBWC gives me to grow – as an artist, writer, theatre designer, and teacher.*

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Writing Blog: Brenna Renée Writes

Theatre Design Meets Storytelling: A Workshop

When I was doing my undergrad at University at Buffalo, I heard many colleagues in my program refer to their job as being a “storyteller”. It makes perfect sense. The stage, in my mind, is an entire novel, and each person’s job in that space is a piece to the story line. The director and playwright work together as writer and editor, the actors are the characters, and the designers create the descriptive imagery. Everyone aids the story through collaboration, which makes it such a beautiful, fascinating experience, especially for me as a writer.

Now, since graduating in 2015, I have been trying to figure out where I want my career to go. What kind of work do I want to do? What content do I want to create?

Finding the meeting ground between me as a writer, and me as a designer and artist, has been something I have been struggling to find. I have also been wanting to teach workshops. I really want to get hands on with people, have them express their stories to me through their words and their mighty pens.

In September 2016, I started volunteering at Just Buffalo Writing Center. The workshop coordinator, Robin Lee Jordan, was actually my Writing I professor at UB. It’s been so great catching up with her. Not to mention one of her assignments changed my life, so I am grateful to be able to work with her and all of the wonderful, talented students at the center. 

Originally, I had sent in some prompts on theatre design to be used to start off youth workshops, but they actually had a workshop slot open. Robin offered it to me, so I taught my first workshop EVER this past January!

Excerpt from Play (by JBWC students)

In order to design a story, you need…well, a story. I decided to have the students write the plays that they would be making design theoreticals for. I had them get into groups of 2-3 people and gave them the following parameters:

  • 2-3 pages front and back, with minimal stage direction
  • Keep the amount of characters to the amount in the group
  • Make sure to include at least one of the following – a meal, a midnight stroll, after school, during a snowstorm, or travelling somewhere new
Brainstorming, and basic concept statement

After they had finalized their plays, I asked them to tell me what they thought lighting, set, and costume design each did for the story. We then discussed which out of their suggestions were the most important to keep in mind when designing any story.

To show the students what goes into creating each design, from the initial concept statement and inspiration, to the final product, I used my realized designs as examples.

Also included were these two awesome videos on lighting design – the first having famous lighting designers Natasha Katz and Howell Binkley discussing what goes into lighting design, and the second by Opale actually showing how light changes someone’s face.

It was then time for them to create their theoretical designs! In the real world, you don’t usually get to design your own content, so I made everyone switch plays and design the ones they were given. The students chose to create inspiration through collage. We did presentations for each and then ended the workshop with performances of the plays themselves sans designs.

Below is what was created for one of the plays the students wrote. The play was about two love-struck turtles going on a new adventure.

I am so proud of myself and so grateful that I got the opportunity to do this. I think the students really enjoyed it. I can’t wait to teach another workshop in the future!

Click here to see the piece I wrote about this workshop on Just Buffalo Writing Center’s blog! Also check out my writing blog here.