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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End of summer home decorating

End of summer home decorating

End of summer home decor

I’ve been writing about some serious topics the past few days, and I’ve loved interacting with many of you on Facebook, Bloglovin’ and through text. I guess I’m not the only one feeling the sadness of back to school, and I’ve also learned that many of my friends have been doing the happy dance now that they have a few minutes of peace and quiet each day!

Now it’s time to move onto something a little more light-hearted: home decorating.

I’ve mentioned a number of times here on my blog that I’ve really grown to love changing out my decor for the seasons. But the “back to school” time of year that we are in right now is the one “season” that has perplexed me in my decorating.

Let me explain.

I really look forward to rearranging my mantel and other decorations to match the mood at Christmas, spring and fall. It makes me feel like it helps me to savor the season. Around the end of May, I usually transition into summer mode by adding American flags and baseballs to my decorating.

I often forget to take photos, but here are a few shots of my July decor from last year:

Once July has passed and Independence Day is a memory, I can’t wait to move on. However, it’s too early to start decorating for fall. I want to hold onto the end-of-summer season just a bit longer.

This year, I was determined to decorate for August and September in some way, but couldn’t really every come up with a decorating theme. I can’t even express my level of happiness a few weeks ago when I found this sunflower wreath, which is exactly what I had in mind.

My decor is full of browns, greens and purples, so I was looking for something that wasn’t too bright. I also love how the texture and bow match the rustic feel that I’ve been trying to achieve with my decorating.

About a year and a half ago, I transferred some of the photos I’ve taken onto pieces of wood. I covered the photos in mod podge to create an effect that looks like a painting. For a while, I had a whole wall covered in photos, but then I had the idea for my husband to build these shelves to go over our coffee bar. I love that I can pull out one or two of my photos to match my current decorating mood.

This was the perfect time to use this sunflower photo, which is one of my favorites.

I still don’t have a lot of decor for this time of year. But I switched out my spring birdhouses for this globe and traded the spring flowers for a bouquet of prairie grass which I picked last year from behind our house.

You also know that I love changing the sayings on my chalkboards to match the seasons. I thought this was a good reminder for my kids as they go back to school.

Now, I can breathe a big sigh of relieve that my transitional end-of-summer, not-quite-fall decorating is done. 🙂

It’s the little things in life that make me happy!

**

What about you? Do you enjoy decorating for the seasons? Do you change out your decor half as often as I do?

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breaking it down

breaking it down

A month ago, a friend messaged me to tell me she had won a free session at a painting class. She asked if I would like to come along, and we could split the cost of a second class.

I have wanted to do this for a long time, so I jumped at the opportunity. We put the class on our calendars, and the date finally rolled around last week. She had thoughtfully chosen a class with a painting she knew I would love. It was a full moon shining brightly against a dark sky at dusk. A barren tree wrapped its limbs around the moon.

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When we arrived, we were among several dozen painters — many of whom seemed to be regulars at this place. We found our spots in front of our blank canvases. In the front of the room, the finished painting was displayed on a large flat digital screen.

It was intimidating to look at the beautiful piece of art that we were going to paint and try to imagine how we could possibly be talented enough to transform the large white canvas in front of us into the spooky fall scene. Should we begin with the tree or the swirling background? How would we make those craters on the moon? Look at all of those limbs! How would we possibly paint each one to look like the tree in the original?

My mind was racing to try to figure out what to do first, when thankfully, our instructor began the class. She gave us Step No. 1.

She told us to place a cup against the canvas and trace the opening with black paint. Next, we were to paint the entire canvas — minus our white circle — black.

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For the next two hours, she gave us our instructions one at a time. After each step, we would try our best to copy her work. We would look at the original and then back at our own. We would glance at the paintings of the people next to us, hoping maybe they knew the “right” way to paint. Every so often, we would get up and stand back to look at our own painting from a distance. Even as we added layers of silver, gold and bronze, it was hard to believe that we were creating something that might compare with the beautiful piece of art in front of us.

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Eventually, we got to the hard part. We needed to paint the tree. Thankfully, our instructor pulled out a white board, and walked us through it. We started with the trunk and the major branches. We added more branches and smaller limbs. We filled in the tree to make it thicker.

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Finally, we put the finishing touches on our tree. We added shimmering gold highlights on top of the black branches.

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It was tempting to compare our own paintings with those of everyone around us. But then we realized that each one was beautiful and still unique. It was so interesting that we all followed the exact same instructions, and yet our end results were our own. More than that, it was amazing that just by breaking down something that seemed like an impossible feat, we were able to create our own masterpiece.

I’ve been thinking about this concept a lot the past few days. One of my strengths is actually the art of breaking things down. When I feel intimidated by a big assignment at work or a challenging situation at home, I often start by writing down every step it would take to get to the end result. Then, I work my way backward, giving myself deadlines for the last step, then the second to last step and so on, until I’ve reached my starting point. I feel a great sense of accomplishment when I complete even one step along the path.

But I’ve realized recently that I have several big projects on my to-do list that feel like that finished painting to me. I’m so intimidated by the image of the end result that I can’t even get myself to begin. I put these projects on my mental to-do list, but it’s like I really have no intention of ever getting them done. I’ve realized that getting started is the hardest part. What is Step No. 1?

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been thinking about how I could try to tackle one of these projects in a month, rather than a year or in some cases, a decade. That painting has really inspired me. With November right around the corner, what if I were to break it down? I could set aside 15 minutes each weekday to work on the first project. I’m excited to see how far I can get by the end of the month.

I’m going to hang up my painting as a visual reminder that I can do this. Just take it one step at a time.

 

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for the love of chalkboards

for the love of chalkboards

When I was a kid, our house had a large chalkboard in the family room. I remember spending hours writing and drawing on that dark green slate as we played games of school or house. I didn’t know any other kids who their very own chalkboard, so I thought our house must be cutting edge.

I have no idea where my parents found that chalkboard or what inspired them to hang it on the lower third of the wall so it was the perfect height for their children. I like to think they were on the forefront of interior design trends.

These days, I love decorating with chalkboards. I have so many of them that I’m going to be in big trouble when they are no longer a thing.

Like my other artistic passions — doodling, rock painting and using my Silhouette — I think I love chalk art because the expectation is that it won’t be perfect. It’s just a chalkboard! Plus, you can always erase and start over if you don’t like your first attempt.

I love chalkboards because it’s fun to update your artwork with the seasons. You aren’t stuck with one boring piece that never changes. You can get lots of ideas for chalkboard art on Pinterest. (That’s where I got this one!)

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You can write out whatever message is on your heart…

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Or leave someone a note or reminder…

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If I want my handwriting to look really perfect, I will cut out a quick template on card stock using my Silhouette and trace the letters that I want to write…

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There’s just something about a message neatly scripted that makes me happy every time I see it. I keep thinking that one day I will paint an entire wall in my house in chalkboard paint… Of course, that’s about the time it will go out of style. Or maybe I’ll just be ready for the next time it comes around.

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What about you? Do you love creating chalkboard art?

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fall decorating projects

fall decorating projects

During the past few months, I have had a ridiculous need to be creative. It’s almost like I must be creative for a certain number of minutes per day or I get jittery. It’s like going all morning without caffeine or fighting a craving for chocolate. I have to sit down and make something.

My husband thinks it’s because all of the gluten has been cleared from my system, allowing my creative brain to work again. I have speculated it might be because I have more time on my hands because I stopped watching TV shows. Most likely, it has something to do with a shift in my responsibilities at work. I’ve been able to try some new things this year that involve working more with people, but less time being creative on the job. I love new challenges, and it’s kind of nice that I’m not expending all of my creative energy at work. Instead, I’ve been craving to do something creative at the end of the day.

Whatever the case, it’s rare that a day goes by without me spending at least a few minutes working on a craft. Most of my favorite projects involve using my Silhouette Portrait. I’ve had so many people ask me, “What the heck is a Silhouette?” So, here’s a little explanation.

The Silhouette is a die cut machine that connects to your computer like a printer. Whatever you can design on your computer screen, you can cut perfectly with the Silhouette. It can cut a range of material, from paper to vinyl to iron-on transfers to chipboard. I typically cut out my projects on adhesive vinyl, punch out the letters and then and use the vinyl as a template to paint words. I just love that I can paint in any font, as long as I can cut it on my Silhouette first. It makes me feel like a real artist to be able to paint with such neat hand lettering.

I’ve been painting words on canvas…

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and wood slices….

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and fake pumpkins…

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It takes some skill to measure the object you want to paint and plan out how you want to place the letters. My Silhouette is the smaller model so I can only use paper that is 8.5 inches wide. This often means I have to cut several strips of vinyl to paint something. For example, our family date canvas in the photo above is 24 inches by 30 inches. It took me several hours to cut each strip of words, line them up neatly on the canvas and then paint them. Once I’m done, I usually have several spots where the paint seeps under the canvas. I can usually just touch up my mistakes with whatever color I used for the background.

While summer is still my favorite season with its long days and warm evenings, I absolutely love decorating for fall. I love planting mums and buying little mini pumpkins. My fall projects have been a fun addition for the season.

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This weekend, the girls and I even attended a Fall Fairy Garden workshop at our local garden store. We had a blast picking out mini pinecones and brightly colored moss to fill our fairy garden.

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I’m not gonna lie. Fairy gardens are a new obsession. We are already looking forward to going back to make one for Christmas!

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So what about you? Do you enjoy creative projects? Do you like decorating for different seasons? What have you been creating lately?

 

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