(Sorry for Photo Quality, these are iphone photos. I’ll update these as soon as I have access to better quality shots)
It was a huge privilege for me to be a part of the Planning Team for Next Generation Leadership Conference (Check out the awesome website, which was made by my Tech-Nerd-Husband Ryan), which is a conference for leaders of Kid’s Ministries & Student/Youth Ministries.
Besides for sitting at an oversized conference table with some amazing dreamers and talented people, meeting-after-meeting of dreaming, imagining, debating the details and ironing out what we believed could be a phenomenal event (which I believe it was), I had the exciting and daunting task to arrange the set design for the conference. It was an honour to have been asked, but I was afraid I wasn’t up to the task as I saw it in my head. I have high standards, and would hold myself to nothing less (I psyched myself out a little).
I took a lot of time browsing around one of my favourite websites: Church Stage Design Ideas. I knew I wanted to do something significant with lighting, and found a lot of sets there that inspired me. I was given what I consider a sensible budget to get the job done, but how fun would that be? One bright lady suggested that since we are hosting a conference to equip leaders, and fuel the imagination, why not create something that’s ‘simple’ enough for them to reproduce at home? I liked this idea a lot, and considered how I could do this for as little money as possible (some odd obsession of mine, keeping things cost effective).
I found this design on Church Stage Designs that I thought magical and loved the potential it had for lighting. I have been a fan of paper chains for a very long time. It’s such a cheap resource, easy to make (children make these at school), and when done correctly (with a keen eye and colour story) can have a great effect. I just had to sell the NGLC team on it. It wasn’t too hard, they liked the idea.
I had three challenges that I faced. First, the venue was 4 hrs away. I didn’t have an opportunity to go visit the venue until a few days before the conference. I had a huge fear that when I got there, my ideas would have been wildly unrealistic and that the venue staff would not go for it. Secondly, I wanted to incorporate a typography element with the theme of our event ‘imagine’. I wasn’t certain where these letters would be able to fit, or how to hang them (when in doubt I’m armed with fishing line and a glue gun). Thirdly, We had to compete with the need for a band on the floor of the stage and a projection screen in the middle of the stage. Where would I find space for screen, band, chains and the letters for the theme? I prayed for a miracle and forged forward, I would deal with what ever situation I faced when I got there.
I called a print shop that was local to the area of our conference, Stagg Signs and secured sheets of foam core board for the ‘imagine’ letters. This is sturdy enough to be hung without cracking, lightweight and easy enough to cut with a utility knife. I love this material. Some great volunteers projected the letters onto the sheets and cut them out. The letters looked fantastic, sharp and clean.
I had asked print shops (Good Tidings Press and Transcontinental) close to my home for any recycled white paper trimmings that would be suitable for making paper chains. These were completely free, ‘green’ and cut to size for us at no extra charge. I was worried about how much I would need. We left for the conference with three large paper boxes tightly packed with recycled paper strips (we only used one full box… a Music teacher who liked the set design took the remaining two boxes).
It was a huge relief walking into the venue. Large curtain/backdrop pipes suspended with pulleys were perfect for the paper chains. The staff were amazing and very accommodating. We quickly got to work with an army of amazing volunteers, about 20-30 staplers and around 80,000 staples.
It seemed to work in our favour that there were several different widths of paper strips, we intermixed thick chains and thin chains together. It gave a fun texture. We chose three pipes to put chains on. The venue’s lighting guru placed large LED lights (that’s as technical as I can get about that kind of thing) at the end of each pipe and directed the light to catch as much chain as possible.
On the front pipe we hung chains that were nearly uniform in length. On the next two pipes we hung them in a curtain effect, where the swept all the way to the floor on either side. We staggered the lengths of the chains just enough to prevent it from looking ‘uniform.’
The venue staff used a cherry picker and staple gun to adhere the foam core letters to the black edging around the stage. This couldn’t have worked out better. We had room for the letters, the chains, the projection screen, and the band. Whew.
Lighting is everything. Here is the set unlit.
The lighting guru let his imagination go. Setting up LED’s to shine specifically onto the ‘imagine’ letters, and various lights among the chains.
Here is one light setting (Sam Luce speaking)
Another light setting.
The beauty of this set was that the lighting made it come alive, and varying settings kept it fluid and changing. For someone who get’s bored easily, this was great.
I am very pleased with the outcome, and happy to say that the only cost (besides the venue rental, which included the amazing staff and lighting), was a good supply of staples (maybe $8-10 worth) and the foam core board for the letters (total of about 4-5 sheets at $25 each) a total of about $135 (plus the amazing help of numerous awesome volunteers!).
Depending on your needs and resources, a variation of this set would be a cost effective way to amp up your Children’s program, or special Children’s weekend. Have less lighting? Use coloured paper instead.
Thanks for reading!