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Once upon a set build, we sliced up the forest.

In one of those, “well this is a thing now” moments, I recently had the adventure of running point on a new set build at church.

Prior to this project, my thespian friends had joined me to plan an entire year of set designs, blending various styles and budgets to create a seamless flow through 2018...but that left us with awkward timing and minimal money for a 2017 fall/winter combo.

As I often recommend when faced with a design dilemma, we looked to research for inspiration.

We fell upon this little photo:

We were sold! The sliced wood panels offered a modern take on a traditional feeling and would allow us to transition from Thanksgiving/fall into Christmas/winter with the addition of a few evergreen trees and twinkly lights and then removed after the holidays to stretch into early spring. Planning done, next came the build and load in.

We commandeered many dead tree limbs and sweet-talked Rae’s husband Louis into slicing them uber thin. This took a while, and is not for the faint of heart, but the result was a fabulous design that remained light-weight when glued and nailed to half-inch plywood. The slicing was finished a few days before install, which was key to allowing the wood time to dry out a bit. Here’s the average size of our slices:

Each 4x8 panel took approximately four man-hours to complete and we used every tree slice we had. We’d originally envisioned five panels to float around our back screen. However, in one of those happy-accident occasions, we were given several very large (and very heavy) tree stump slices during the collection phase. We knew we’d never be able to hoist them onto the sliced panels, but when arranged across the back fencing, they elevated the design and offered a great focal point.

Installation was handled by a team of willing men...Rachael, and I. Just imagine that life for a second...oh wait, you don’t have to because I have a photo of how we all looked after successfully hanging the first panel from our ceiling girders with airline cable. Don’t we look carefree?

Carefree or not, the whole set went from idea to installed in just a few days, it was relatively painless to plan and execute, and the results were well-received by our church members. The different slice depths create a fun texture that can be teased out or muted by the various lighting-scapes we created and the wood tones give the church a cozy feeling that can be played up for the holidays or down for a rustic winter vibe. A win for the power of inspiration and ingenuity – I guess worship set designing really is a thing now...because we’ll do it again in March. ‘Til are a few photos of our launch Sunday!

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