Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Everything right turns out wrong

As promised, here is what didn't work.
Let's start with these pretty easy and cheap flowers.

It is pool noodle with a chip tray glued on. I had pool noodles, the trays were at Dollar Tree. I was going to nail this for a mere $1 per flower. The problem was how to make them stand. Pinterest calls for toilet plungers. I wanted larger clusters of these. I didn't have a dozen plungers, nor was I going to buy them. I did have a large supply of foam board that could be cut and repainted.
Lesson 1: Spray paint (or spray anything really) eats foam board. Like acid, eats it. Bubbles up. Dissolves.
Lesson 2: You can use low temp hot glue on pool noodles or foam board, but not if you are attaching them to each other. It melts the material and has nothing to bond to.
Lesson 3: Super glues also eats foam

What worked: I filled the grooves made by the glue that eats with liquid nails, I placed toothpicks in the bottom of the noodles to have an anchor while the liquid nails dried, and I stuck a wooden rod down the middle of the noodles for more support. Even with that, they are shakey and 2 ended up just being propped in corners because even with all that they still fell.

The tree stump was another get internet idea. Take a 5 gallon bucket, cover it with spray insulation foam, and paint it brown. Instant stump.

More like instant pile of elephant poop.
The fix: I carved down some of the more bubbly and swirly parts, made some crepe paper flowers on floral wire, added a butterfly, and baked some tiny clay mushrooms on toothpicks that would stick into the foam. The tiny mushrooms are probably my favorite thing and will be coming home with me. I also placed in on some fake grass I found, which also helped.

The palm trees are the one that almost broke me. They were actually a zero cost project. The church had a large stack of paper bags that no one needed. The trunks are made from pool noodles and those sacks with the bottoms cut off  and smushed down. The cut bottoms went to the snack staff who used them as little trail mix trays. The leaves were bulletin board paper we already had with bamboo skewers as support, glued to spray can lids that would fit onto the noodles. The problems started again with the base and getting them to stand. Glue and foam board just don't mix. I had to use a heated cutting tool for foam to dig a trench for a tube to set into. Then the noodles would set into the tubes, and the cap with leaves onto the top. Fishing line would make it all stand.
 The plan was for each backdrop to have an 8 foot double noodle palm and a 6 foot palm on either side. That is 8 total.  When I started putting them up I realized that the backdrop supports were the same height as the trees and offered no support for the tall trees. There was a period in there where I just sat down and stared at it all, seeing my whole plan crash and burn because the large trees would not work no matter what I tried.

In the end, I transferred bags onto some cardboard carpet rolls we had in storage. Those could stand in the base unsupported. My short trees were now the tall one and my tall ones got cannibalized for random other spots, such as by the piano waterfall in the chapel.

The flowers:
For these I actually bought a kit at Michael's. The kit had four, which I used as templates to make the others. The kit came with pre-cut pieces and lots of sticky tape. Foolproof! Yeah, after 24 hours the provided sticky tape un-stickyed and the flowers popped apart like a jack-in-the-box. I remade them with glue dots. Same result. Regular double stick tape. No luck. Actual glue. Nope. 

What worked: I stapled each petal together, then stapled the petals to each other and the base as much as I could. For the spots I couldn't staple, I used red tape. If you aren't familiar with red tape, it is a crafter's ultimate double sided, serious stick, tape. It made my titanium coated, sticky resistant scissors gummy. Hardcore.
To hang them, I was taking no chances. On the backside I used a small hole punch to make a hole that I reinforced with tape, and then strung twine through it so that I could tie it to the railing upstairs. The key to them staying has been hanging them where no one could touch them.

The backdrop was my sure thing. LifeWay makes pretty backdrops to suit the theme. I agreed to take this on because I was just dressing up the backdrop. Easy peezy. Except, the backdrop was smaller than I thought it would be. I don't know why I didn't measure it out before we put it up so I would know, but I didn't. When we set it up it in the large worship center it was dwarfed. Lucky for me our church has a closet of flower arrangements which included some that were just greenery. I grabbed every one I could find and then filled them with the most tropical blossoms I could find at Dollar Tree. The effect was perfect. It all came together so well.

I'd post full tutorials, but the honest truth is that I am just not that good. When people ask me how I did it or what is holding something together I tell them it is prayer. This wasn't me alone. It wasn't even just me with the people who helped. This is way outside me and my skills. This was God. The things I needed were always there. From the carpet rolls, to a can of black spray paint, to fake grass strips in just the right size. When things fell apart, I prayed over them, and a new way presented often with better things to go with it. When I wanted to give up on something, encouragement came. And, when I was certain that it was going to be a disaster, it came together better than I could have imagined. It was too much to brush off as anything else other than God's guiding hand for me. Some might question why I'd post about what went wrong because no one would know if I didn't tell on myself. The way I see it, if I didn't tell, people would give me all the credit when the real glory belongs to God. 

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Wrong turned out right

I knew that I needed to post pictures of how the VBS decorations turned out, but I felt like the pictures made it look all perfect and brilliant, which is really only half the story. Through this I learned several ways not to make palm trees, that Pinterest pictures can be kind of evil, and that the LifeWay idea book may have very good intentions, but is extremely unrealistic without a design team and a large budget. In the end, I am rather glad I didn't have the team and budget. Instead, I had  a couple of awesome friends who would take an hour or two here and there to cut stuff, hand me things, and listen to me talk out my plans. I got to rummage through every storage closet and supply room in our church finding things I could re-purpose. It was like a crafting treasure hunt.
Okay, pretty first.
Our church divided our VBS into two parts. The elementary aged children start the day in our main sanctuary and the preschool starts in our chapel. The church purchased a backdrop panel for each one, and I was tasked with dressing them up and building off the backdrop.
This is the chapel. It is actually a very old church that the rest of the church grew around. I love the chapel.

To get to it you go through a small hallway. I lined one side with vines made of plastic tablecloths, tissue paper butterflies, and small crepe paper flowers.

The other side has a bulletin board, which I covered with a themed mapped.

One the way out of the chapel you pass a piano that we didn't want little fingers playing on. It became a waterfall. Nix had a brilliant idea to use one of the failed palms as a rock pool border.

One of the other ideas that worked well was the signs I made. These were part of an old VBS project where another brave soul with more talent than me had painted foam board to look like wood. I trimmed down pieces, touched up the paint, and then painted the middle with chalkboard paint. After this year I realized that the more reusable I can make things, the better. I made a bunch of these things and put them all over the place. This also has reused yard sticks for the post.

Now for the big one. This is also where we do pick up and where the family night program will be. Everyone sees it and I wanted it to be magical.

Main stage

 Waterfall complete with tree house and rope bridge.

The large painted animals are again reused from the aforementioned talent that came before me.  I just gave the frogs a fresh coat of paint in more jungley colors.
I really love how the vines and large flowers turned out. The flowers were not a pinterest idea, so that made them different from any of the flowers in the classrooms. They were hung all along the balcony. I made a dozen flowers in total.

I had some extra palm leaves (because I can't do math during summer vacation) and this garland I saw in the Oriental Trading Catalog. I knew I'd use it, I just didn't know where until it came in. It fit perfectly in the foyer on the half wall upstairs. It was one of the things I didn't plan but worked (as opposed to the things I did plan that didn't work)

Okay, That's the pretty. Later I will give you the ugly of it all. I didn't want to taint this image of lovely by pulling back the curtain just yet.