Ken Gelbach

Owner - President

Ken started this company 30 years ago after graduating with a BA in Technical Theater from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and an MFA in Theater Design from Ohio State Univeristy. A talented designer and artist himself, Ken has brought together an impressive array of artists and craftsmen who all bring extensive experience and talent to the company. The parent company of– Gelbach Designs has designed, built, and installed trade show booths, television studio sets, and custom projects all over the United States and in many other places around the world.

Tonya Gelbach

Co-owner - VP

Tonya worked for Belk Store Services heading up special events. She took a few years out of the corporate work force to raise her children. Now she is back working with Gelbach Designs.
Tonya has impacted Gelbach Designs with her laughter. She brings donuts to our staff meetings. If she cannot be there with the donuts, then we do not meet. She brings everyone their favorite donuts.
She has greased the wheels of change making our processes more streamline, cutting out unnecessary steps and has sped up our efficiency. She has organized our shop.
Tonya is a co-owner. Her style and artistic decisions are visible in the beauty and simplicity of our sets. And if we want her to put a bug in Ken’s ear– we go to Tonya. She says. “I’ll take care of that.”

Tonya is part of the Gelbach Safety Committee. She goes beyond legal requirements to ensure best conditions for the people who work here.
Tonya tends to tackle the tedious tasks tenaciously with a tantamount tolerance for tedium especially on Tuesdays.

Kathy Karmondy

Office Manager

Kathy Karmondy began working with Ken long before this website was created. They both worked in the Charlotte Opera Shop building sets when they were teenagers. She has a BA in Acting from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. Since Gelbach Designs ( parent company) was created, Kathy has worked in just about every area. She handles payroll, job costs, shipping, materials, and company logistics. She has helped build countless sets and traveled the country supervising installation. She can still pack a truck tightly. Her favorite projects are the Billy Graham Museum, the Blue Planet Water Museum, and renovations to St. Peter’s Cathedral in uptown Charlotte, NC.

Fair warning: Kathy can get a little worked up at times. A couple of us used to hide around corners and scare her, but had to stop. The screams were so bloodcurdling that production ceased and everyone in the building ran toward the source of the sound.

michael balbi panthers

Project Manager

Michael Balbi has been with our company longer than any other craftsman. His extensive skill set is the result of decades of television production and set design. His earlier career included time with the now-defunct PtL Network. Balbi (as we call him) is in oversight of project management, and will be the first one you talk to about ongoing details, logistics, and scheduling.

Michael works in the print shop, runs the laminator, whines, supervises the Tech Installs, and works on load-ins and strikes. During his free time he works as an Assistant Camera Man for the Carolina’s Panthers, works as a Lighting Assistant for Speed Chanel (FOXSports1), and provides freelance set design for numerous TV productions. His favorite projects have been the Billy Graham Museum, ESPN, and the VISA commercial for the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Michael has worked with our company for over 25 years.

Being an innovator in off-color comments, Balbi has defined himself in a unique way. “That’s what she said”, is beneath this cunning linguist.

henry shannon russell dynamo

Technical Director

Shannon Russell is our resident genius. He delights in figuring out how to build the most difficult projects. He is an expert in wood, mechanics, metals, electronics, CNC routers, drafting, and more. He installs theatrical sets in cruise ships all over the world.
He is a taciturn curmudgeon with a dry sense of humor.

His accomplishments list and experience is beyond the scope of this document.

william buck rackley

Art Director

Buck Rackley is a remarkable artist with a wicked sense of humor. He is a master at designing sets and running the printers and creating the website and photographing projects and supervising installations… you get the idea. Buck is an accomplished photographer and artist. His digital art has been shown in numerous galleries in Charlotte. His favorite jobs have been the ACLJ set and a recent show in Germany for Custom Polymers. He has been with our company for over 17 years.

I would say something snarky about his character flaws, but he’s just too awesome.

Greg Weston our custom welding and metalworking expert

Master Welder

Master Welder Greg Weston runs the metal shop. He has a BFA in Art with a concentration in Sculpture from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.. He excels in every area imaginable: drafting, mig and tig welding, plasma cuts, and steel bending.Greg is comfortable working with steel, aluminum, stainless, bronze, and copper. He is also a gifted artist creating impressive pieces in wood and metal. He majored in art at UNC-Charlotte with an emphasis in bronze casting. His fastidious attention to detail ensures that everything he does is pretty much perfect. A few of Greg’s favorite projects have been for Dell Computers, NASA, and Red’s Apple Ale. He has been with us for over 12 years.

Greg has a fair bit of OC going on, and looks like ಠ_ಠ when someone dares step foot in his work area. He made walls around this area because of the “light from the welder”.

ben ross gagged

Master Techinician

Ben Ross is a Master Carpenter with a BFA in Art with a concentration in painting from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. He excels in CAD, is accomplished in the fabrication of plastics, metal and wood, and has created some pretty impressive custom projects as well. As a Technician Manager he coordinates the work flow from design through construction. Sustainability is very important to him and he constantly works toward maximum efficiency in his projects. Ben’s work ethic, creativity, and versatility are evident in every project he undertakes. His favorite jobs have been sets for NASCAR, NASA, and ESPN. He has been with us for over 5 years.

In his picture, you see what seems to be a roll of tape in his mouth. It is actually a well designed, humane looking gag. Things are better this way.

ricky mcwaters

Shop Foreman

Ricky McWaters’ prior experience is working for Retail Store Fixtures for 35 years as their master craftsman. He’s one of those people that knows a lot about eveything, and can find a way to improve any situation, project, or workflow. He’s been a big part of our company’s team for the past 5 years as the master craftsman and shop foreman.

josh gilleland


Josh Gilleland worked as a carpenter for 6 years through high school and college. After graduating with a two year associates degree in engineering, he went on to do construction design drawings for the next 9 years. He’s been with us for 3 years now, and we’re very happy to have adopted him.