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Interior Design/Decor, Stage Design

Suffering snowflake stage

My teenage kids and their friends use a term — “suffering.” In teenage slang-speak, it means something is really unpleasant or tedious, as in “That homework was suffering.”

Usually I like working on stage designs, but I must say this one was “suffering.” You know it’s kind of bad when you’re working on a project and think, “Who came up with this dumb idea, anyway? Oh yeah. That would be me.”

Yes, it was a lot of work. However, the results were worth the labor!

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I got the idea when I saw this picture on Pinterest that showed cotton balls hanging on string, and I thought, “What if we made it look like snow was falling from the ceiling?”

It seemed very doable. I like to sew. How hard could it be to string together a bunch of cotton balls?

Normally, probably not that hard. However, the factors I failed consider were:

  • We ended up sewing up something like 2,000 cotton balls.
  • An outside organization was coming in and we needed to be off the stage by Wednesday afternoon.
  • We couldn’t start until Monday because Sunday we were decorating the lobby.
  • We also had to decorate Christmas tree and make wreaths for the worship center.
  • I had to go to a conference on Thursday.
  • The facility was booked for Friday and Saturday.

This meant that the entire job needed to be done in like two days… and not too many people were available to help.

But none of that was on the radar when we first started the project. The main concern at the beginning was how to make random-looking snowflakes in a 3D area 30 feet wide, 12 feet high and 5 feet deep.

I really had no clue!

To start, I measured out a space that was about 30 feet wide and 12 feet high, which is how large the view is if you are sitting in the audience facing the stage. Then I threw out the cotton balls all over the floor randomly. I felt like a farmer sowing cotton balls on the stage floor. For good measure, I also threw paper snowflakes in the mix too. Why not? The more the merrier. The piano was on the stage and I threw stuff under there too.

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Sabrina, Jon, and Bonnie then helped fluff and clump snowballs together and sew them in a line with fishing string. I told Jon, one of our Protege interns, “Bet you didn’t know that you would be sewing cotton balls when you signed up to be an intern, did you?” Good thing Jon has a very easy-going and servant-hearted spirit! (Our interns are awesome!)

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We tried to keep the cotton balls spaced approximately where they fell on the floor as we strung them on fishing line.

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Once we strung all the cotton balls in a line, we picked one up as a test and they all fell to the bottom. Now instead of randomly spaced snow, we had one big monster cotton clump on the bottom of the fishing line.

This would not do. We had to go and glue gun all the cotton balls to the string on the bottom to keep them in place, as Glen demonstrates here. Glen took pity on me after everyone had to leave and I sat on the stage floor by myself, sewing cotton balls and feeling discouraged. Quite pathetic. He jumped in and helped out.

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There was a lot of sewing and gluing. After a while I got an idea of how random the snowflakes should look on the string and didn’t need to do the throw-the-cotton-balls-on-the-floor method any more.

Random people who came into the worship center throughout the day all said the same thing. The first thing was, “Is that supposed to be snow?” And then, “Wow, that looks like a lot of work.” Everyone said the exact same thing.

Then I dragged each string over to our poles, keeping them lined up to where they had been lying on the floor. I tried to imagine where they would be hanging in midair and because it was a 3D type of thing, I had to tie some strings in front, some in back, and some in between.

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I tied black strings from front to back between the front and back poles and then tied the fishing line on the black strings at different depths and between the black strings.

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It was quite a mess.

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Each string was pulled up so that the snowflakes were all lowered into one big pile under where the string was tied. Each paper snowflake had its own individual string. Soon we had piles of snowflakes everywhere.

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This was one of those stage designs where you have no idea if it is going to work and just pray that it all works out. There was a bit of nervousness as we raised the poles… how would it look? I had no idea!

Then they went up. Yes! It did look like snow!

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It actually did help that each line had its own clump because they did not get tangled when they went up.

Peter raised them all to the ceiling and there was a moment of rejoicing as it we celebrated that it worked out. There were some that were too long so I had to go around cutting off the long pieces. The left side was shorter than the right side. We had done that last and I guess we just went shorter as we went along!

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Peter lit the snowflakes with blue gels and lit the cross. The view was different depending on where you stood because the strings were arranged in a 3D space.

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The icicle lights above brought a nice touch.

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It was a nice backdrop for our Sunday services. (Here Alex is introducing Annie and Ashley, who are getting baptized.)

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It made for a wintery backdrop in Davis, where it just about never snows. (Jamie honors Deanna for her 16 years of service.)

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We decorated the Christmas trees with blue ornaments and blue fairy lights and the wreaths on the sides had blue ornaments and blue and white ribbon. The fairy lights were a bit bright for my taste but I didn’t have time to shop for other lights.

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I was surprised how good everything looked for the Christmas concert as everyone in the concert wore red. I think it really helped that there was a lot of red. Those primary colors of red and blue brought a nice contrast.

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In the end, the work was worth it. We sewed over 2,000 large-sized cotton balls and the stage setting added to our advent focus for the month. The only sad thing was it was only up three weeks because then we had to take everything down for our Christmas Eve services! That was another bad decision I made as I look back… coming up with such a time-consuming stage design when it was only going to be up for three weeks because Christmas was on Monday (meaning we had to take the set down a week earlier so we would have time to put up the new set for Christmas Eve.) But I guess I will chalk it all up to a learning experience and I am thankful for the Lord’s strength to persevere through the stress and discouragement.

I am very thankful for people like Sabrina, Bonnie, Jon, Glen and Peter, for their infinite patience and awesome help!

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7 Comments

  • Reply Carmen Lin

    This is the first time I went to UCC every Sunday in December except one when I was sick and stayed home. (This was also first time in many years that I stayed home on Sunday.) So I’ll say how I feel about all the decorations.
    I think you and your team did a great job! Every Sunday during the worship, as well as the Christmas concert, the decorations really helped to add blessings. Yes, I can see what a great price you and your team had paid for it, but I’m sure the Lord remembers all this labor of love!

    December 28, 2012 at 11:47 pm
    • Reply Angela Yee

      Thank you for your encouragement! The greatest blessing for me is to hear that the stage designs help people to better worship God. That is the best reward!

      December 29, 2012 at 10:37 am
  • Reply Laurel

    Angela,

    this is just beautiful!!!

    I’m getting married in December and was daydreaming about making some sort of hanging snowflake-esque fixture from the 40 foot ceilings at our venue in West Sacramento. Some google searching on “cotton snowflake chandelier” resulted in your masterpiece. I’m not a set designer but I understand wedding decor is often about staging.

    Just out of curiosity, how much do the strands weigh? I’m thinking about the logistics on hanging and probably need to start with how much weight will be put on everything. And did you light from above or below?

    So glad I saw this!

    Laurel

    March 31, 2013 at 7:47 pm
    • Reply Angela Yee

      The strands are super light. It’s basically fluffy cotton balls on fishing line and hardly weigh anything. We lit from the front and slightly above.

      Congrats on getting married and best wishes!

      Angela

      April 2, 2013 at 7:41 pm
  • Reply Debbie Bradford

    This looks awesome. What is blue gels and where do u get it. I would like to use this for vbs

    May 29, 2013 at 7:12 am
    • Reply Angela Yee

      The blue gels are colored plastic sheets that go over our lights (in this case, we used Fresnel lights). We get them from the local lighting supply store, and they are also available from Amazon.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:44 pm
  • Reply Suffering Snowflakes | Church Stage Design Ideas

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