Behind the Scenes in Set Design & Construction with Soft Goods Manager Mark Botelho

Every once in a while, we like to take a quick behind-the-scenes look at a department – its challenges, its products, its rewards.

Making Things Disappear

Our focus in this post is on Mark Botelho, the sewing specialist and Soft Goods Department Head, who’s been creating magic for clients with Chicago Scenic for more than 30 years.  

Chicago Scenic sports fans will quickly recognize some of Mark’s most iconic work – he’s created the sports jerseys that grace the 30-foot Brachiosaurus dinosaur overlooking Lake Shore Drive from the lawn of Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History.  

As you’ll hear in the video link below, however, much of Mark’s work is centered around the counterintuitive challenge of making things disappear. In that type of work, Mark will source and sew hundreds of yards of black masking drape to block out staging and theatrical equipment and ensure that audiences effortlessly direct their full attention to the stage. It’s a challenging task that, when done well, goes completely unnoticed.  

Mark also meets the challenge of working day to day with clients who are in process for deciding what they want. When that happens, questions – in fact, lots of questions –  are most important. Developing a Plan B or a Plan C – and a good deal of tenacity – ensures that Mark – and client – arrive at a rewarding solution.

Fabric, Foam, and Fur Prototypes 

Mark says one of the biggest challenges in soft goods projects is figuring out, through trial and error, how to do something that’s never been done before. There’s no exact science to turn to for solutions. The first step, Mark says, is using basic costume design and tailoring techniques. The second step is creating prototypes. 

It’s easy to think of prototypes as complex mechanical versions of technical interactives but prototypes are just as applicable to the challenges that fabric projects face. As Mark knows, the key to prototypes is making failure your friend, and learning from your mistakes. 

Mark’s solutions – for Aladdin, for Radio City Christmas Spectaculars, for the Mascot Hall of Fame - have pleased clients across the country, time and time again. We can’t wait to see what he does next.