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Nightmare Festival Staff Interview: Rania Peet

Here is the full interview, in follow up to our spotlight on the wonderful Rania Peet that we ran last Friday. In case you missed it, you can check that piece out right here.

Badass Raves: What’s your background/experience in art and installation pieces? How did you start out?
Rania Peet: I have been creative since I was a small child, building miniature cities, life sized props, whatever I could get my hands on. I went to a technical high school so I got a bit of education in subjects like wood shop, hot metal and mechanical drawing. They were always my favorite subjects.
I started working in special event design in my early 20s when I found the rave scene. I was fascinated by the visual production and knew I wanted to be involved immediately. I got involved with a local promotion crew, decorating smaller parties which then lead me to building décor for Buzz on a weekly basis. That opened lots of doors and I just took all the jobs I could handle.

BA: What major companies/events have you worked for?
RP: Back in the day it was Buzz on a weekly basis. That lead to the Ultraworld raves when they were producing big events in the DC Armory. Then it was almost every rave for all the promotional crews and nightclubs in the DC/Baltimore area, various events up and down the east coast and then into corporate events and galas. I took some time off to start a family in the early 2000’s, came back for an incredible opportunity to decorate a few cities on Dj Sasha’s Fundacion tour. Then 2 years ago, my friend Ian from Re:magine talked me into coming back to le rave scene full time. That led me to working for Badass Raves consistently. They have been keeping me mad busy!

BA: What type of training did you have you undergone?
RP: Every creation I make is a new learning experience. Every job is training for the next. I never really know what I’m doing until I’m doing it. I have basic carpentry skills and know how to use power tools. I just learn along the way but I get wonderful help from people on my team, ones who have stronger skillsets like structural knowledge or engineering skills. But yeah, training is getting in the workshop and building!

BA: How would you describe your work/creative process as an artist? Where do you find inspiration?
RP: I have to be honest here. It really is a love/hate relationship. I love the challenge of coming up with original art installations but it can be really difficult when presented with huge spaces to fill. Everything has to be affordable, transportable, storable, lightweight, weatherproof and quick to install and load out. Oh and it needs to look amazing. I always think to myself, “Sure! Let me just whip that up for you real quick!” You have deadlines, so often you are in a forced creativity situation. That in itself can be incredibly life draining. Not to mention, the work is physically taxing and utterly exhausting. I get pretty stressed out through the process but I always have Eureka moments and that’s when I get really excited. I am happiest in my workshop, creating. It’s euphoric and fulfilling. I learn a lot about myself. I push myself to the limits and always raise standards for myself. I love being presented with a challenge, overcoming it, and seeing it enjoyed by patrons. The experience I give them inspires me to do it all over again.
Inspiration also comes from other artists, listening to music and my imagination. When I get an idea, I search for it online and if I can’t find it, it just gives me the push to be the first one to make it, document it and share it for others.

BA: Do you have any artist that you admire or inspire your own work? Whom might they be?
RP: My biggest inspiration is Eric Lowther from Haunted Overload in New Hampshire. He and his team build enormous props, breathtaking scenes and over the top structures. It is otherworldly. I also look up to a lot of the designers doing these massive stage builds at places like EDC or the installation artists at Burning Man and all the other beautiful festivals around the world. I love what has happened to the rave scene. The art being produced is absolutely mind blowing.

BA: What do you believe is integral to being an artist?
RP: Having a passion for what you are doing, constantly wanting to improve yourself and your artistry. To always be humble, learn from others, share, love and truly enjoy creating. Whatever medium it is. Just enjoy yourself, that’s what life is all about!

BA: Throughout your career, what has been a seminal experience or moment for you?
RP: I had some life changing moments back in the day when I used to visit Twilo in New York city for the Sasha and Digweed residency. Their décor and lighting design was so out of this world that I never saw visual production the same again. It influenced me for many years. Recently, I would say it has been Big Dub Festival. That place is just magical. My most recent pirate ship installation is probably my favorite build of all time. I keep doubting myself before builds like that but then it all works out and I exceed all my expectations. It definitely keeps me going.

BA: What is your favorite art piece you have created?
RP: My giant mushrooms. Those were super challenging to figure out how to make, but they are still awesome every time I turn them on. If only I could fit them in my house.

BA: Your website tagline states, “Don’t forget to stop and eat the roses”. Can you explain the meaning behind this?
RP: Right, so back in 2005, shortly after I stopped freelancing for special events, I got a full time job as a creative director and home staging designer at a real estate firm. I was commuting an hour in traffic daily, had a small child, a new mortgage, lots of bills and an absurd amount of stress. I felt like my soul was dying. I was miserable. I couldn’t handle it all, so I quit my job, moved to a farm in West Virginia and decided to get crafty again. I started the blog as a way to share my designs and builds. The name came from a Far Side cartoon of a cow giving a rose to his cow friend telling him to always make sure he stops to eat the roses. It’s clearly a play on words, but it resonated with me to always go after what makes you happy in life, even if it means going against the grind that we are all programmed to do. For an artist, that’s pretty important. Art comes from a free mind, one that always stops to smell, or for cows, eat the roses. You know? You cannot create in a closed, programmed, environment. Free thy self!

BA: Professionally and/or personally, what are your goals as an artist?
RP: To get the job done and always go above and beyond my client’s expectations. To create beautiful environments for people to enjoy. To open minds and show people something unexpected, amazing, life changing, eye opening and awe inspiring. And to always learn and be better than I was before.