How we built a massive string art installation

How we built a massive string art installation

I love a challenge.

I love the satisfaction of working really hard on something and then seeing it all come together.

Even more, I love being part of a team of people who all bring different strengths and talents to a project.

This weekend, I was blessed to get to do all of those things when our church leaders launched a two-year vision to the congregation. This is something that our staff has been praying out, processing and working on for about two years. Almost from the beginning, as we began talking about where God was leading us in the next phase of our church, one word kept coming up: Together.

Our church has grown in many ways during the last few years. We’ve grown in numbers. We’ve grown in age groups and diversity. People drive farther distances to attend. We are no longer a small church where everyone knows each other. We have become a medium-sized church in which it’s natural for people to break off into groups of people who are like them. Our staff and elders really felt that to move forward we needed our entire church to rally around a common vision, which we are calling “Together.”

As the communications director, I’ve been blessed to work on many projects to get ready to launch this two-year vision. I’ve had my head buried the past couple of months as I worked on print material, signage, video stories, web site stuff and more. But the point of this blog post is to explain how we created a very large focal point in our auditorium to set the stage for the “Together” theme.

This weekend, we got to unveil our 18-foot-wide logo, created in string art on the stage of our auditorium. So many people have asked me HOW we did it! So, here’s how it all came TOGETHER!

THE BRAINSTORM

I was part of a Together planning team that has been working for several months on all aspects of the initiative. My partner in crime is a friend named, Craig, and he came up with the idea to use string or cord as a visual to communicate the idea of people joining “together.” He began researching how other churches have used string art to convey that message. He created a concept in Photoshop of what this could look like in our auditorium.

(This is Craig’s inspiration board. Isn’t it amazing?!)

PROBLEM SOLVING

I was absolutely convinced we could pull this off, but really didn’t know HOW we would do it. I pulled together a team of people with skills ranging from general craftiness to creativity to construction. Together, we had to try to solve these issues:

  • We wanted to create the string art on the pallet wall at the back of our stage. But we didn’t want to pound hundreds of nails directly INTO the wall.
  • We wanted to be able to move the string art at the end of the “Together” sermon series to display it in another location.
  • We needed it to be light enough to install, and it needed to be created in a way that we could move it. The last thing we wanted to do was to create some amazing artwork and then realize it was too big or too heavy to install.
  • We also needed to figure out how it would be installed. The pallet wall is actually curved, so we realized hanging the sign directly on the wall wouldn’t be possible.

At first, we thought maybe we would build a second pallet wall in front of the permanent wall. This seemed like a good option, but also a TON of work! It would be heavy, difficult to move, and it would also take up a lot of space.

Someone mentioned actually cutting out the letters, which sounded like a cool idea. But HOW would we even do that? That’s when my husband, Kent, stepped in with his many hidden talents. Just as I had no idea he was capable of building that coffee bar I wrote about last year, I didn’t know he could cut huge curved cursive letters!

LAYING OUT THE LETTERS

When we first started this project, I was mainly focused on how we would string the letters with yarn. As we progressed, I realized that all of the steps leading up to the actual string art were the real challenge. The first thing we had to do was figure out how big the letters needed to be. My husband and I made the letter “t” as a prototype. We made it three feet tall, and took it into the auditorium to determine if it was large enough. Several people on our team came by to take a look and we all decided it needed to be BIGGER!

I used my Silhouette software to design the logo even larger. This time, the tall letters would be more than 4 feet tall. This meant the entire word would be 18 feet wide!

Next, I needed to cut out a template for the letters and lay them out on sheets of plywood. I used contact paper to cut out the template. My Silhouette machine can cut material up to 12 inches wide. I cut strips of contact paper that were 20 inches long. That meant, I need to break down the design into strips that were 12 inches by 20 inches. (The little square that you see in the image above shows you the small square that I was able to cut at each pass.)

On the largest letters, I had to cut as many as nine strips of contact paper to create the design just for that letter. For all eight letters, I probably cut more than 40 strips of contact paper.

I then took the contact paper into the garage and tried to piece the letters back together to create a template. Reassembling the puzzle was surprisingly more difficult than I anticipated. My Silhouette leaves a margin of about one inch on each side of the material. That meant, I needed to overlap my strips to cover the entire letter. It took me a while to get this right.

 

 

As soon as you lay down the contact paper, overlapping with another sheet that is already on the wood, it would stick. This created lots of frustration of trying to peel it back up to lay out everything just right. At times, I would get a bit off and this would just amplify as I added more contact paper to build the letter. Eventually, I would be so far off that the bottom of the letter wouldn’t meet up with the top.

At times, I had to give up and re-cut everything with card stock. If I had to do the whole thing again, I would have used card stock from the beginning!

CUTTING THE LETTERS

I’m guessing it took me around 15 hours to lay out all of the letters. (Crazy, right?!?) At that point, my amazing husband stepped in. He used a jigsaw to carefully cut out all of those curvy letters. He then sanded them and stained them.

(This is a photo of the letters with the marble-printed contact paper still adhered. At some points, I had to recut the template out of construction paper, which is what you see in the photo.)

ADDING THE NAILS

When we did the prototype, we realized that pounding the nails was going to be a big job. Thankfully, our friend, Bryan, stopped by and took half the letters home with him. Bryan and Kent had been playing around with the spacing of the nails and decided they should be one inch apart. They each created their own measuring system to map out how they would place the nails one inch apart along the entire perimeter of each letter.

Bryan enlisted his four sons to help him pound nails. Kent ended up doing the last four letters on his own.

STRING ART

Finally, it was time for the fun part of this project — the string art! I had asked a bunch of crafty, creative women to help me do the string art. Only a few of the ladies had ever done string art before.

We had so much fun doing the string art. With seven of us working together, we were done in about two hours.

 

We wanted to layer the three colors from the Together logo to wrap and intertwine. We felt this was a creative way to visually communicate the key verse for our series, Ecc. 4:12.

“Though one may be overpowered. Two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

THE INSTALLATION

The final step in this process was the installation of the word on the wall. Bryan and Kent constructed a system to hang the letters with wire from a pole they installed in the ceiling. The letters look like they are floating in front of the pallet wall. The letters are so large that they were cut from six pieces of plywood. They used brackets to attach the letters in back.

Bryan then had the genius idea to add strips of LED lighting to the back of the letters.

The lights can change color so when the auditorium is dark, the word takes on a completely different look and feel.

I’m so thankful for the amazing team of people who helped make this project happen! It was so fun to create it TOGETHER!

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Sharing my story at Autoimmune Wellness

Sharing my story at Autoimmune Wellness

A few months ago, I was contacted by Autoimmune Wellness to share my story as part of their series called, “Stories of Recovery.” The web site has been a huge source of help to me since I began my autoimmune journey more than a year ago. I faithfully read their blog, use their resources and have listened to every episode of their podcast.

By the time the deadline rolled around a few weeks ago to submit my story, I was feeling less than adequate to write a “Story of Recovery.” The autoimmune journey can be a roller coaster, and I’ve been at a low point the past month or so. I’ve been struggling with some recurring issues, and even trying to sort through some new symptoms.

The editor of the blog encouraged me to write my story anyway, so here it is. It’s my hope, as always, that perhaps by sharing my journey I might be able to help someone going through something similar.

If you are new to my blog, here are some links to the back story on my journey with autoimmune disease:

The mystery of Celiac

When the news is difficult to hear

Part One: A new view of food

Part Two: The start of my journey

Part Three: Malnourished in America

Part Four: Solving the gluten free puzzle

Part Five: The Isolation of autoimmune disease

Part Six: From Whole 30 to Paleo AIP

Part Seven: What do we eat?

Part Eight: A year later

My journey: From “impressive” to “beyond awesome”

Listen to my story on the Energy Edge podcast

 

Thank you for stopping by! I would love to know you were here. Please leave me a comment to say, “Hello”!

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Enjoy the day you’re given

Enjoy the day you’re given

Now that our three older kids are entering the stage of going to dances and parties and special events, I get almost as excited as they do about any opportunity they have to get dressed up and do something fancy. I love taking their photos, and I usually start planning a few days in advance for some fun photo ideas.

Our oldest son went to homecoming on Saturday, and he and his date asked if I could photograph them before the dance. They had gone to his homecoming three weeks ago, and we got some beautiful shots. We were all excited about the chance to shoot more photos before the dance at her school across town.

We all agreed it would be fun to shoot photos of the two of them on a big bridge that’s not too far away. Then, we hoped to get some group shots with her friends by the river. Now that the sunset is a little earlier, the timing would work out perfectly to get silhouette shots of them framed by the sunset. I had the whole photo shoot planned out in my mind.

But when Saturday arrived, Mother Nature had other ideas. The rain started in the middle of the night. It was coming down in sheets, with intense lightning and loud claps of thunder. The rain continued all morning. I convinced myself that by mid-afternoon, we would get a break. I envisioned the clouds parting to wow us with a beautiful backdrop, just in time for our photo shoot.

Finally, by mid-afternoon, I had to concede to the weather. The rain was only getting more intense, coming down in thick waves. Just when you thought it might slow down just a little, another round would hit. Torrential downpour would have been an understatement.

That’s when it hit me that I needed to stop trying to create the perfect photo-op out of impossible conditions. Instead, I needed to think of a way to capture the beauty of what we’d been given. So, how do you take outdoor natural light photos of people who are dressed up and don’t want to get wet when it’s pouring down rain?

With an umbrella, of course!

As I was driving to the home of my son’s date, I noticed several covered pavilions in the parks by her house. This might work!

We ended up with some really fun shots of the two of them standing under an umbrella together. You can’t tell from the photos how hard it was actually raining, so I thought I would post some other shots to show the whole experience.

Here’s my son trying his best to keep his date dry as they walked up to the pavilion.

I edited the photos to look like they were standing outside, but they were really covered by a small section of roof.

I was actually the one who got soaked because I had to stand outside of the covered area to get far enough away to take the photos. Thankfully, my son’s friend’s mom held an umbrella over me to try to keep me from getting too wet!

With a little help from Photoshop, I was able to delete a random picnic table and crop out the top of the pavilion to create some cute photos of the two of them “outdoors”.

Can you see how hard the rain is coming down as we rushed back to our cars?

Well, these two had amazing attitudes on what was probably the worst weather imaginable for homecoming. We also created some great memories of taking photos in that crazy storm! And I was reminded of a lesson that’s often hard for me to remember. Instead of trying to create a perfect experience, just find a way to enjoy the day you’re given!

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A blog post about clothes, reunions and other random stuff

A blog post about clothes, reunions and other random stuff

So, this time last week, I was standing out on my front porch waiting on my two boys to get home from high school.

Before they could even get out of the car, I greeted them with a warm and friendly cry of: “NONE of the clothes are right! ALL OF THE CLOTHES ARE WRONG!”

They looked at me with that look of, “Our mom has gone crazy, and we have no idea what to do right now.”

I broke out into a hysterical fit of laugh-crying and couldn’t stop for several minutes. I pulled myself together and begged them to please, please, please just watch their sister so I could go to the mall. I had been trying to find something to wear to our 30th high school reunion, and apparently, every single item of clothing in my overstuffed closet was completely wrong.

Why, oh why, are these jeans adding 30 years to my face? Why does this shirt seem to be reflecting light onto all of my wrinkles?! What is going on with all of these clothes?!?

Obviously, the clothes weren’t really the source of my nervous meltdown at that moment. It’s actually been a very crazy couple of months around here. I’ve been working a lot more than usual, and just trying to hold things together with the usual stress of getting into a new fall routine with four very active kids.

I had been half dreading, half excited about our high school reunion for… oh, about 19 years and 364 days since I went to our 10-year reunion. (JUST KIDDING!) I was very excited to see some friends I haven’t seen for a long time. At the same time, I was scared silly that it might kind of feel like… you know… HIGH SCHOOL!

I also seem to get very anxious these days any time I have to leave the comfort of my home-cooked food for more than a day. Two weeks ago, we went to Des Moines to celebrate my brother’s 50th birthday. It was super fun to be with my siblings, parents, nieces and nephews for the weekend. But I also got pretty sick from eating on the road, and then that makes me discouraged that my life has taken this turn that makes it so stinkin’ hard to just … EAT!

Anyway, the high school reunion turned out really great. I found a cute shirt and a pair of jeans to wear, and quite frankly, no one cared in the slightest about the clothes. I was afraid I wouldn’t recognize anyone or they wouldn’t recognize me. Instead, most people looked pretty much the same, and it was so fun to see how warm, friendly and nice everyone was. I was worried I wouldn’t know what to say to people I hadn’t seen in 30 years, but it actually felt very natural to just pick up right where we were.

Since my husband and I both grew up in the same small town in southern Illinois, we also got to drive by our old homes, the high school and some of our favorite hang out spots. (We weren’t actually friends in high school, so we have separate, but overlapping memories.) Everything was much smaller than how we remembered it to be, but it was super fun to see. Anyway, confronting all of my fears of returning to high school turned out to be quite therapeutic. I pretty much felt like I could run a marathon or climb a mountain or something after that.

As soon as we returned from our five-hour drive home, I had about 10 minutes to spare before I needed to go shoot some family photos for a friend. A few years ago, I started taking photos for people, and it kind of got out of control. I decided it would be better for my stress level to just say “no” when people asked me to shoot photos. But several people have asked me lately if I could take photos for them, and I just decided to say “yes” to a few people. It was really fun to get out with my camera for an hour.

The weather was absolutely perfect. The park we chose was gorgeous. The lighting was amazing. And my subjects could not have been any more beautiful.

On Monday, we went on our annual #forcedfamilyfun trip to the corn maze for Columbus Day. A few of the kids brought friends along, and it was really nice to just spend time together.

Now, I have one more really intense, crazy week at work to finish a bunch of stuff that has to happen by next weekend. After that, I’m finally going to clean my house and catch up on about 30 loads of laundry.

Thankfully, I have several new outfits to wear because I bought a few “spare” outfits, just in case I got to the reunion and whatever I brought to wear made me look too fat, or too thin, or too old, or too high school-ish. You know. It’s always best to pack five outfits for a one-night trip. Just in case.

Have a great weekend!

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Five kitchen staples to improve your health

Five kitchen staples to improve your health

I’ve always been a person who loves routine. Earlier this week, I was thinking about some of the foods, supplements and drinks that I ritualistically consume everyday, and I had to laugh. I get so used to doing things a certain way that I don’t even realize that some of the things I do everyday are pretty far out of the norm.

I didn’t even know most of these parts of my daily diet existed even a year ago! And yet, I rely on them to fill my tank and help me feel my best. I thought I would share five of my — rather unusual — kitchen staples that are part of my daily routine.

 

KOMBUCHA

I’ve always been a big tea drinker, but it wasn’t until earlier this year that I discovered Kombucha. Kombucha is a fermented tea that is rich in probiotics, the good gut bacteria (like those in yogurt) that have been shown to boost immunity and overall health. I first discovered Kombucha in the refrigerated produce section of my local grocery store. Some people claim that it can heal everything from digestive problems to arthritis to cancer. Kombucha has the most health benefits when it is unpasturized, which is hard to find in the store-bought versions. I started brewing my own about six months ago, and I’ve had some brewing constantly ever since.

It has a very distinct, sweet, but tangy flavor. Once it is bottled, it builds up quite a bit of carbonation, so it’s a great treat for someone like me who doesn’t drink soda.

To brew your own Kombucha, you need a SCOBY, which is a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. As the tea ferments, the SCOBY will grow in size. You can watch a funny video of my daughter and I picking up the SCOBY for the first time by clicking here. It takes each batch of Kombucha about two weeks to ferment, so be prepared to dedicate a good chunk of kitchen counter to the project if you decide to take it on!

COLLAGEN

One of the first things I do every morning is consume a serving of collagen peptides. (I get mine from Thrive Market.) During the past year, I have regularly struggled with intense joint pain. I love mixing collagen peptides into my morning green tea latte to give my system a boost. Not only does collagen help with joint pain, but it’s also known to improve skin, hair and nails, promote better sleep, keep bones strong and improve digestion.

Here’s how I consume my collagen:

First I brew a cup of green tea. In my blender, I add a scoop of collagen peptides, 1/4 cup of full fat coconut milk, a teaspoon of raw honey and the hot green tea. I hit the pulse button about six times on my blender to create a frothy latte. Not only does it taste great, but it’s also very filling!

BONE BROTH

I’m not as consistent with my bone broth consumption, but I have started trying to make bone broth as often as I can. Bone broth is one of the most healing, soothing and nutrient dense foods that you can consume. Bone broth is rich in gelatin, which is known to heal the gut. It also is a great source of protein, and helps restore collagen to promote healthy joints, hair, skin and nails.

HEALTHY FATS

If you are like me, you probably spent most of your life believing you shouldn’t consume fat. These days, I actually go out of my way to make sure I am eating plenty of healthy fats each day. These include extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil and MCT oil. I have recently started adding MCT oil to my hot drinks to create a “bulletproof” coffee or tea.

“MCTs” are medium-chain triglycerides, a form of saturated fatty acid that has numerous health benefits, ranging from improved cognitive function to better weight management. Medium-chain fats are digested easily and sent directly to your liver, where they have the ability to positively alter your metabolism. This is one reason many people claim that MCTs, including coconut oil, are burned by the body for energy, or “fuel,” instead of being stored as fat.

MCT oil is supposed to help you maintain a healthy weight, increase energy, improve your ability to think clearly, improve digestion, balance hormone levels and fight bacterial infection and viruses.

COCONUT EVERYTHING

If I ever get stranded on a dessert island, I am going to be well aware of the many benefits of the coconut! Because I don’t eat grains or dairy, I use coconut products in many forms throughout the day. I start my morning with full fat coconut milk in my latte or smoothie. I cook with coconut oil and use coconut butter as a topping on sweet potatoes or butternut squash. For a snack, I often eat coconut yogurt or coconut ice cream. And I often use unsweetened coconut to make treats.

One of my favorite snacks is to mix a ripe banana with 2/3 cup of shredded coconut and some cinnamon. Drop by the spoonful on a cookie sheet and bake for about 15 minutes to make a super easy and yummy cookie!

 

So, what do you think? Are any of the things I mentioned a staple in your kitchen? Have you tried any of them? Do you have any unusual rituals that have improved your health? Leave me a comment! I would love to hear about i!

 

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