The week that was…7 – 31st March 2017
Singapore, weekend 1st-2nd April
No travel for me this week and not surprisingly it is the calm before the storm as they say…from next week onwards I will be travelling continuously till June, including my annual monthly break away in France later in May. I enjoyed the relative quietness in our Singapore office by getting prepared for the upcoming meetings and catching up with existing and new potential clients…a necessity to solidify our existing client relationships and look out for new projects to assure continuity in our practice. While most of our work comes from word of mouth and referrals we can’t take our existence for granted and need to make sure we remain relevant on all levels. This week we also laid the final touches to our corporate video and website which should be launched later this month.
This week we shift our attention to the Australia team whose turn it is to blog. And who else to start with then my most loyal, trusted and senior member Stan. While initially reluctant to write he later admitted it was fun to do, which is precisely one of the aims of the blog, a light hearted look at our life as a lighting designer.
Blog…funny name, must have been a funny person who coined it. Forget that Martin is the boss; I am the most senior member of the KLD staff, and by a long shot. I have to admit that I have lived (and am still living) a truly amazing life. Following my school years I spent over thirty years working in mechanical and industrial engineering including industrial air pollution control, starting off as an apprentice and working my way up to managing a company of 30 to 40 staff, lecturing to graduate engineers and environment protection agencies locally and interstate, writing chapters of educational books on the subject and being recognized by my peers at the time as one of the top five experts in my field in Australia. Deciding to follow my heart, I abruptly left it and the house I had designed and built on four hectares of land in the hills surrounding Melbourne and moved to Western Australia and tried to gain employment in a job involving theatre. Spotting an advertisement for a company providing lighting to theatre, television and performance, I applied and was successful.
My theatre years
While this gave me entrance to theatre to enjoy performing as well as directing and production, I quickly got hooked on the amazing transformations you could make on stage by the way lighting and its colour was applied.
Lighting could become a powerful amplifier of a scene sense or mood and could significantly add to make a particular moment of theatre so much more memorable. I remember increasing the drama of the Nazi soldier’s song in the stage production of “Cabaret” by up lighting the soldiers in a lime green. Their faces became more grotesque and threatening and almost made you feel disturbed just looking at them. It was an incredibly powerful addition to the threatening mood. Then the time I backlit the lovers in “West Side Story” with a strong amber tint, the audience saw a radiant glow outlining their heads and faces amplifying the feeling of their romance. Many opportunities to use lighting expressively came my way by people asking for advice on how to light surroundings for special occasions and I vividly recall having fun lighting backyards for weddings. One in particular is memorable for the odd result. The groom asked if I could light his backyard for his wedding and reception and include his bride’s name somewhere.
He had a lawn area with a path and rotary clothes hoist, garden beds with shrubs on the fence line, and a garage with a pergola covered in a grape vine. We were able to transform the backyard and, being in Perth, we were able to be confident at the time of the year that we would not have to contend with rain. I obtained a few rolls of 75mm wide gauze bandage and tied it in strips from the top to the outer edge of the clothes line and lit it by tying ultraviolet fluorescent lights to the upright of the clothes hoist. The effect was a glowing tent in the middle of the yard. The grape vine was lit with gel 181 which manages to turn the outside of each and every leaf a deep purple while turning the underside of each same leaf light pink. The brides name was written on the side of the garage in flexible neon and different bright colours were chosen to light the bushes in the surrounding garden beds. Overall it became a truly magical setting. So, you ask, what was the odd result? The following morning I arrived to remove the lights and was confronted by a groom who told me he could not get his bride to go to bed – she wanted to sit up all night in the magic garden!
Move to lighting design
From stage and events I moved to lighting buildings and lit the West Australian Museum for its centenary by changing its colour every fifteen seconds. This installation lasted twelve months and was chosen to be included in the daily closing segment of two local television stations as it was in the days prior to stations remaining on air twenty four hours a day, (gives you an indication as to how long ago this was, doesn’t it?). I also won an international award for the lighting of a MacDonald’s restaurant and its surrounds and was asked to present a lighting concept for the Sydney Opera House. I joined a consortium as the specialist lighting consultant for the City of Perth into the new millennium with the Lighting Images team. It was about this time that I first met Martin as he had joined Lighting Images and was involved in lighting Burswood Casino. The following period of my life included continued work in the lighting industry here in Perth interspersed with leading companies out of administration and involved saving companies in Victoria and Queensland in both the lighting and Air Pollution control industries.
I then moved to a five hundred hectare wheat and sheep farm as caretaker some two hundred kilometers away from Perth and happily entered into retirement only to be rudely interrupted some three to four years later by Martin asking me to help out by consulting to BHP for him at Port Hedland, and so, after a couple of spurts involving different projects and an amazing experience consulting for him on ensuring the lighting at a mine site did not disturb turtle hatchlings, Martin asked me to move back to Perth full time and help set up an office to expand the Australian business of Lighting Images. When Martin decided to create Klaasen Lighting Design it was a no brainer that I would continue.
Thanks to Martin, who shoveled me off my bed into an ambulance to be taken into intensive care at hospital, I was bought back from the brink of not being here, so even though I am now sort of retired, he is stuck with me :). I continue to venture my opinion every now and then (whether it is asked for or not), and am grateful that I still get to be involved in wonderful opportunities to exercise my talents in lighting buildings such as with His Majesties’ Theatre here in Perth which we recently completed and is a now contender for several lighting design awards.