Stage lantern design

The last week of May we put up a stage design for Celebration Sunday. This was more of a generic stage design, not really tied to a particular theme, but had the overall idea of glorifying God and letting His light shine out in our lives.

People have asked me where my stage design ideas come from. They kind of come from all over the place, inspired by the Holy Spirit! Most of time it’s in the morning when I’m lying in bed and an idea pops into my mind. This one was an idea I had as I was thinking about the lantern scene from the movie Tangled.

As is my usual procedure, I went to Illustrator and drew a quick sketch.

Dave Cripe, our amazing construction volunteer, did some research on lanterns and came up with some designs on his own. He spent weeks and weeks making lanterns by hand, painting them, and applying paper. The lanterns were made of plywood and the paper was vellum paper, which comes in rolls.

He tried to follow the sizes I had in my drawing but I told him to have total freedom in making the lantern designs. His finished products were amazing! (In this video, the project he is working on is actually the lanterns!)

The largest lantern was huge. What was a surprise was how noisy these things were when rattled. The paper acted pretty much like big drumheads. When Dave put them in his truck to bring to church, every time he went over a bump it was like a thunder clap.

He attached chains to the top and he and Peter added wiring for the lights. We used the light outlets they sell at IKEA and put in incandescent bulbs so the lanterns could be dimmed. we also got various shaped paper lanterns from IKEA.

We put the lanterns in their approximate positions on the ground. It was a bit tricky having to visual what they would look like up in the air.

Starting with the wooden ones, Peter installed the lanterns in the ceiling. The diagram I drew helped a lot because I could estimate approximate chain lengths. Peter would cut an extra foot or so and then go up the lift and tweak the height as I stood on the floor and told him to raise or lower them. Then he would install a hook in the ceiling. We were a little limited on where the lanterns could be placed because they could only go where the studs were in the ceiling.

Then I hung the lanterns from ropes from our cyc booms and raised them. It took a bit of adjustment but finally they were all up. Then we added different colored gels to light the lanterns.

The only bummer is that the painted color of the lanterns gets lost with the gels, but we did do a “natural light” option that doesn’t have the gels. (i.e., just use the lights in the lantern — we don’t have enough lights in our ceiling to add lights without gels.)

The lights are layered in different places front to back, which gives the set a 3D appearance. Depending on where you’re sitting, it looks different.

It was a very challenging but worthwhile effort. It seems like almost every stage set we have done so far is different and has a new element that takes forever for us to figure out! We took extra time on this one to make sure that it was safe, what with all those heavy lanterns hanging and tons of wiring. Peter did a lot of work on this, as he is our main lift guy. I really don’t see how this design could be possible without the lift.

It was so much work I think we will leave this set up all summer! I am already thinking about ideas for the fall…


A Yee

Angela Yee is a professional designer (graphic design, stage design, interior design — and teaches leadership skills at

3 comments to “Stage lantern design”

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  1. Carmen Lin - June 24, 2012

    This design certainly looks very nice! I’m glad I’ll soon be able to view it myself when I go back to Davis.
    It’s interesting how the Holy Spirit has inspired you. Years past when I had to prepare sermons, when I prayed for a sermon, sometimes the Lord answered right away by giving me a title or scripture passage or a story for illustration. Sometimes the idea came when I was doing some work and I recognized it as an answer from the Lord. Then there were times when that answer came into my mind the first thing in the morning as soon as I woke up, just as you had experienced.

  2. jennifer - August 13, 2013

    I was thinking of doing something similar. Your stage is wonderful, thank you so much for sharing. Do you think Peter would be willing to share his design drawing. I have some carpenters in the church who may be willing to do this for me if I can give them the plans. How much did the project cost?

  3. A Yee

    A Yee - August 14, 2013

    Hi Jennifer,

    Thanks for the kind words! I was not sure which design drawing you were interested in — Peter did not draw any designs. The original concept design was one I did. However, our carpenter David Cripe actually designed each lantern and custom-made them. I don’t know how much the cost was because Dave generously donated them. 🙂 Please let me know what you’re interested in!

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