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Turning the world into a fairy tale with Ivy Orth ahead of Tribal Village’s 10th Birthday Anniversary Presents: The World Lounge Project

Reported by Tara / Submitted 14-12-22 13:45

Magic is descending on London on the seemingly inauspicious date of Friday 13th January 2023 to transform The Steel Yard into an enchanted psychedelic wonderland. It’s going to be an anniversary of epic proportions to celebrate Tribal Village’s 10th Birthday, with London veteran party people World Lounge Project staging a rare reunion for WLP/Atom party crew main man Simon’s 50th, plus it’s also Bom Shanka Records rock star headliner Nuky’s birthday.

Alongside these extraordinary milestones, an amazing international musical line-up has been curated over two rooms, with artists representing all five continents converging on London. But what’s really going to make this super-special is the production, as local crews Dan LeCatt, Geomatrix Design, inOrbit and Urban Tribe are being joined by global décor goddess Ivy Orth, lead designer for LunoSol Design, who’s flying in fresh from decorating Japan’s New Year at Mt.Fuji (Powered By ADMC).

With the countdown to this spellbinding celebration well underway, we spoke with Ivy about the incredible journey that’s taken her from London squat parties to kitting out some of the world’s biggest music events…

Hi Ivy, welcome to HarderFaster! Thanks for taking some time out to answer some questions for us ahead of your trip to the UK in the new year for Tribal Village’s 10th Anniversary Presents: The World Lounge Project!

Firstly, for those who don’t know you, can you please tell me a bit about your background? How does an arts student from Hungary become based in the US working on some of the biggest music events in the world? It sounds like a bit of a fairy tale! Growing up in Hungary, did you ever aspire to work in the creative and events industries?

I’m happy to share some information and give you a bit of a history on what brought me to where I am now. I was born in Chicago, but moved to Hungary when I was two years old. After the wall fell and the real estate industry grew, it paved the way for my father’s career in real estate valuation. I grew up there, besides a five-year return to Chicago after my parents’ divorce. I was returned to Hungary at 13 years old, and only a year late met what was then only known as ‘Goa Trance’. There was a cassette tape being shared around my school; a clandestine treasure meant only for the open-minded. The strange noises and sci-fi sounds were instantly addictive. This was a tape of Infested Mushroom's The Gathering. My first psytrance party was called Halásztelek, where Ticon headlined.

I’ll never forget that night. We took buses from downtown Budapest to the outskirts of farmlands. Playing Goa on the bus’s speakers and throwing spliffs back and forth was my first true renegade ninja experience. We were offloaded from the bus on a dark road with little direction. The gaggle of ravers excitedly following each other, only using the distant base as a beacon and eventually far away lasers guided us in. Once the trees cleared and our new reality was revealed to us, I was met by giant mushrooms towering over my head and luminescent butterflies soaring above, welcoming me to wonderland. This was the moment that I knew I had found home. And yes, this was the moment when I was inspired to create realities to transport others for years to come.

Was there a moment of inspiration when you knew you wanted to become an international décor artist? Or is it something you gradually grew into after helping produce some incredible events?

As I said, that first introduction to the decor world was my inspiration and I knew it was for years to come. My first few years working in party scenes, I never dabbled in any mind-altering substances. I remember my answer whenever someone would offer me a substance: “I plan to do this for the rest of my life. I’ve got to take care of my body and mind”.

You recently said on FB that: “The strong rooted foundation for the rest of my life was built in dirty cold squats, transformed by love into magical playgrounds of fairy tale dreams.” Having been at many of those dirty cold squat parties that you turned into magical playgrounds, I can confirm that it was indeed an electrifying and inspirational time to be in London! Can you share with us how you first got into the squat scene and what led to the start-up of Global Village Productions?

I actually started working in parties after making a relationship with a shop in Camden town. It was called the FarCyde. Here they resold my UV paintings on canvas and had me redecorate the shop and the tunnel entrance that led to the now transformed Stables Market. I also painted signage for many other stores around this area which no longer exists. This got me into doing festivals and working as a vendor, but what made my approach different, is that I decorated the booth as an environment as well.

I started selling fairy wings and poi, and my best friend at the time, Poppy, and I started doing face painting. We called ourselves the “Face Painting Fairies”. We wore fairy wings and floated around parties offering people tea and embellishments and a comfortable place to sit and relax and come down from overwhelming experiences. It was really a nurturing environment, and was always held in the chill out spaces. We used our costumes and decor to create an Alice in Wonderland themed environment.

I met my now ex-husband, Jason, at the New Year’s Eve party in 2005 which was hosted by Marlon Edwards’ Acid Monkey, and One Tribe. I happened to be decorating the healing area and Jason was doing the main stage. He already had Global Village for a few years from when he started it in South Africa. We met that night, and my world was forever changed. Shortly after, we joined forces and took Global Village to the next level.

The chapter between 2005 and 2011 was one where my whole world was a whirlwind of back-to-back squat parties, constantly creating, always trying to imagine new worlds and help to refine promoters’ brands. At that time there were so many different crews putting on events. We helped to forge different brand identities by creating custom set designs for each of them, so that all the parties felt unique and very enriched in their environments. This would always change based on what was available to us, but this helped us to refine our technique. At that time, we didn’t have heavy equipment like boom machines and scissor lifts. So, we had to figure out how to get decor very high in the air using just our wit. We also sometimes only had a few hours to set up because buildings would be open to us just a few hours before doors. I remember waiting parked in the car filled with decor, no idea where we were going to go, until we will get the call and drive somewhere in London to quickly put up decor, hoping that we would not be seen or followed by the police.

The energy was truly electrifying as we were always off the edge of our seat, constantly with police on our tail and the uncertainty of if the event would happen. Soon as people would start flooding into our fairy tale arenas and we saw the lights turn on in their eyes. The rush of gratitude and a job well done would inspire the next 12 hours of energy when we all danced as one.

Unfortunately, however, that work ethic of maintaining sobriety in order to maintain this as a career for the rest of my life was not one that was realistic. The intense pressure and short recovery periods between events, well, eventually it led me to drug use. That was the only way to maintain the workload and it seemed to be commonplace amongst production people and party goers alike. I don’t regret any of the days or the months that ensued however, I only realised many years later what a detrimental affect it had on my physical and emotional well-being.

At the same time, you were also studying at the University of the Arts London, graduating in 2008. Arts degrees have been getting a bad rep from the current UK Tory government who are trying to close down any courses that they don’t see as having immediate financial gain or value, yet in reality the creative industries contribute billions to the UK economy. How did studying at UAL London help you develop as an artist, maker, and professional designer?

It was while I was studying at university that the growth of Global Village was exponential. I was not as focused on my schoolwork as I was on the parties, but I always was able to tie the two together. I find immense value in the education that I got because it did force me to maintain discipline, but it also taught me how to think outside the box. I was able to correlate my fabrication jobs for parties to my school assignments. My teachers thought it was very avant-garde of me to conceptualise the dance floor as a storybook. I happened to be studying book art and design and had dreams of being a children’s book illustrator. What my dreams materialised as was in fact an illustrator of adult fairy tale worlds, manifested through dance and decorations.

In all honesty, if it wasn’t for my university schooling, I feel like I could have gone down a darker path and fallen for the hedonism and dangers of the scene. However, my commitment to my schooling kept me honest, as well as responsible to the commitments I made by taking on that bachelor’s degree.

In 2011 you moved over the pond to the US, embarking on a truly global adventure. Was it a tough transition or did you find the scene in the States welcoming? Now that you’ve been there over a decade, you must have well and truly settled in?!

At that time, it was one of the hardest periods of my life, leaving my new marriage and the party scene I knew and loved. America was a foreign country to me, and I went through serious culture shock. As far as, was the scene welcoming? There was no scene. I could not find the psytrance family that I knew. I resorted to underground raves for decor income and felt alone and misunderstood. It took several years to find my family in America.

How does the scene in the States differ from the UK and Europe?

I could write an essay, or more appropriate to our time, do a full podcast series, on that question.
For one thing, the psychedelic trance scene is minuscule in comparison. My personal opinion as to why, is based on seeing the difference in culture abroad to here. The word psychedelic in itself is an immediate taboo to a country whose war on drugs is still constantly ongoing. The rave scene here is EDM, popularised by social media and glamor culture.

Very much on the contrary, the psychedelic trance scene is one that was born in the underground, and for my experience, underground is accepted in Europe as a thriving and recognisable force. You can live your life as a nomadic hippie traveling from country to country, sharing experiences and unite with different cultures through shared visionary psychedelic moments. In America, I have found people to be less open-minded and accepting of other cultures and perspectives. Keep in mind that America is separated from the rest of the world by massive oceans on either side, whereas Europe is surrounded closely by multiple cultures, languages and a much longer history of war. In my experience, any culture who has been ravaged by war has much more of a willingness to live life to its fullest as there is an uncertainty of how long that will last.

You’re now the lead designer for LunoSol Design. What does this involve and what does a typical day look like – if such a thing even exists?!

A typical day used to be spending hours in the studio doing airbrushing and sewing, and then frantically preparing by packing everything into suitcases and rushing off to the next show. In recent months we have become more organised and professional, and I am working with more people. This allows a more streamlined flow and balance. A lot of my time is spent behind the computer, it’s doing design work, budgeting, contracts, or accounting.

When we are on site our workdays are typically 10 to 12 hours long, and my crew anywhere from four to 19 are all working diligently at their task installing wire rope, building trussing, installing fabric or wood. Most of the events we work at now are EDM; I don’t find myself on dance floors very often. But when there is a DJ that I’m particularly fond of, I will certainly make my way there to experience the atmosphere, and even if it’s not music that I prefer, I like to walk through the event to experience the characters and the vibe that’s been created.

How has your style changed and evolved over the years? Have you also got involved in the 3D mapping side of things, or do you still prefer to create your work by hand?

I do miss the airbrushing by hand; I plan to do more of it this winter. But the demand for work has been high and the subsequent transfer to digital has been the only logical way to move forward. I still do airbrush when I can, and I get immense joy from it.

As far as the 3D video mapping, I have outsourced the VJing work most of the time. This year I think I only VJd twice myself. Truth is there are much more talented VJs than myself, and by working with the best artists in each of their fields, we’re able to collectively create a much higher quality stage design. Also, I simply don’t have the energy to sit through a full night behind the computer, in addition to managing the business.

You’ve led on the décor design and production of some incredible events around the globe. What have been the highlights for you so far?

EDC in Las Vegas is by far the most spectacular of the events we’ve done. Due to its sheer scale and 185,000 attendees, it’s the Mecca of EDM in America. We had the pleasure of installing three different arenas including the Trance Stage. There have been many other amazing moments, but I know that every year this will be the most impressive from a production point of view.

And what goals do you still have to tick off your bucket list?

As of right now, my goal is to return to the airbrushing and find a way to balance the amount of workload with the time and patience that it takes to do things by hand. I also hope to do more stage design work for concerts and not only for music festivals.

As well as leading on the décor design of some massive events in the US you’re frequently travelling to some of the biggest festivals around the world. I know what goes on the road is supposed to stay on the road, but what’s your craziest story from the international festival circuit?

I think the craziest story isn’t one I should be sharing… Lol. But these days we keep it kosher. The craziest story that I can share would be the time in Morocco when we witnessed a terrorist attack. I was in Marrakesh for TranSahara in 2010.

Getting inspiration can be challenging enough at the best of times, but the last couple of years have been especially tough on artists, events and festivals. How have you survived the pandemic? And where do you turn to for inspiration when it’s hard to find?

During the pandemic I started making masks early on. It was very helpful because many of my seamstresses were out of work. Providing a service that was necessary was very fulfilling. I also was able to spend a lot more time refining skills such as my 3D modelling and graphic design skills. I also learned how to use the CNC machine. I switched my focus to doing public art and did a few installations for the city of Worcester in Massachusetts where my studio is based.

As soon as events started to open back up, the whirlwind of inspiration and creative energy that had been hibernating descended upon me and the back-to-back of events was almost enough to keep up with a creative energy that had been stored. Inspiration is never far; we just don’t have enough hours in the day!

What advice do you have for aspiring artists who would like to get into the wonderful world of décor design?

The best advice that I could give for someone wanting to work in production is to learn to be adaptable and fluid. You can prepare and plan, but you always need to expect changes. Event production requires the skills of thinking on your feet and problem solving within a limited amount of time. If you work well under pressure, this is the right job for you. The door is open when the door is open and despite the challenges that you will be thrown, you must make it work. Try not to hold too much onto the desired outcome, but rather allow yourself to go with the flow and find creative ways to swim through the waves of the chaos.

You’re going to Japan for the first time soon to decorate New Year at Mt.Fuji (Powered by ADMC), a festival on Mt Fuji itself. How do you approach preparing for an event like this? Do you travel with suitcases full of canopy and backdrops, or do your best to create it once you get there?

Like all events, we determine the decor that will best suit it in advance. Based on the party’s theme and the story that they’re trying to tell, we suggest, or we work with the client to create a design. I have some time to work in the studio now beforehand and I’m going to add some hand-painted touches to a set decor we have not used yet. Japan is a lifelong dream for me and putting extra effort into making something unique for this event. The decor is either going to be shipped ahead of time or will fly with us. You have to be determined and it’s always based on how much volume of materials we need to bring with.

After Japan, you’ll be jetting to London for Tribal Village’s 10th Anniversary Presents: The World Lounge Project on Friday 13th January at the Steelyard, which as well as celebrating a decade of Tribal Village is also Atom and World Lounge Project main man Simon Mee’s big half-century birthday. When did you first start working with Simon and what surprises do you have in store for his 50th birthday?

I started working with Simon in 2005. He was always a particularly fun client because he had as many creative ideas as we did. We enjoyed brainstorming fun, playful concepts. It was always a great pleasure of mine to help bring his imagination to life. My favourite set we ever made for him was the mad scientist’s laboratory, which involved eyeballs and lungs and brains in jars. I actually still have those backdrops.

I won’t tell you what we’re going to bring because as it is a birthday surprise; we are going to keep it that way! Just rest assured that his colourful animated cartoon personality will be reflected in the environment we build for his fairy tale.

Finally, what else do you have in the diary for 2023? Are you making any new year’s resolutions, or is it still too early to say?

I think I’m already planning the next year halfway through the previous. My goals for next year are to refine the design process and to enhance the installations with technology. Through collaboration, the environments are able to be their best. I hope to work with more talented artists to create out-of-this-world experiences. I do not want to lose sight of the soul that I began with, which is the hand-painted art. So, one of my main goals is to return to airbrushing, combining it with cutting its technology to keep relevant and modern.

Thanks so much for your time, Ivy! Can’t wait to see what you do with the Steelyard in a few weeks’ time!

Event info
LunoSol Design
Tribal Village

Images courtesy of Ivy Orth. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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Other Features By Tara:
A decade of dance music with Daniel Lesden
Telling Cosmic Tales with DJ Strophoria
Tom Psylicious aka EarthAlien takes 50 Spins Around the Sun: Raising Awareness Through the Power of Music
The Breakthrough interview with DM-Theory
Is This Your First Record? Khromata gets ready to make her UK debut at Tribal Village
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