Waterfall/rock stage design

In January, along with our “Essentials” sermon series, we created a hiking environment for our stage, complete with a waterfall.

The series was about the spiritual tools God has given us for our life journey and was about the basics of our beliefs. Our sermon bumper had a backpack in it.
We decided to make our stage like a trailhead of a path… actually, it was more like a destination, but who are we to quibble about the details?
I used some photos to make a collage in Illustrator. I also stuck in clip art of trees and bushes. This helped me get a sense of scale.
january stage
I also made a top view of the planes so we could know how deep the structure should be.
We used some frames made of 2x4s that we keep around the church for our summer day camp sets. Our amazing construction volunteer thought of a system to make these frames so they can be disassembled and stacked out in the yard between uses.
My brother-in-law Steve was a total boss and helped put these frames into a structure for us to build the waterfall.
Then Peter helped staple chicken wire to the frame. (You can see the roll of it in the back of the photo below.) Meanwhile, Ashley, one of our volunteers helping, played with my cute little nephew.
The stage construction was a family event. While Daddy put the frame together, the boys had snacks brought by Mommy.
We ended up having to rent scaffolding because of the large amount of hours that would need to be spent up in the air. I crumpled up brown butcher paper and hot glued it to the chicken wire. I crinkled it along the length of the paper so that the rocks kind of had a “grain.” It looked more natural this way.
It was really a scary experience. I am terrified of heights… three steps up the ladder was about tops for me. The scaffolding was like 12 or 15 up in the air. I had to do a lot of praying and go up one step at a time while the team cheered. Then I finally crawled in and lay on the floor in paralysis. Meanwhile, Peter and Glen, who are totally not afraid of heights, just about skipped up the tall standing ladders and perched on top and chatted with me while I clutched onto the railings for my life. I was so totally jealous.
However, it got easier over time and I really must say I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. 🙂
Then, using paint, I painted in highlights and shadows. Putting the paint in cups and a cake pan really helped.
I used really rough swipes of paint because the set was going to be seen from far away. I tried to vary the shadows and use the rusty color as streaks of sediment through the rocks, with black and blue more as the shadow areas.
This picture gives a little better idea of the texture.
We draped white voile cloth over the top. It really just fell into a hole in the top. Also, I placed silk plants and bushes in various nooks and crannies. Everything was held in by friction… no glue or tape anywhere. I did have to safety pin the fabric on the back to keep it from falling down, though.
Here’s the side view to show you how the rocks turned out.
This picture looks deceptively like I am barely off the ground. In reality, I am quite far up!
Up close you can tell these are not rocks at all… but I knew the set would not be shown in bright light.
Here is the view from the inside of the frame. What a mess!
You can see how the set was worked from the top down. The entire top part was completed and then we could lower the scaffold and work on there next section. The chicken wire is stapled to the frame. The hot glue did a good job sticking to the chicken wire. In fact, we had plastic spiderweb-like threads from the glue hanging around for a long time!
Here’s the set, halfway done.
Josh came along and helped too. He and Peter stapled the chicken wire onto the lower section. Once I got lower I also looked up and saw holes in the set, so I glued those closed before we dismantled the scaffolding. This picture gives a much better idea of the sense of scale and how tall this thing was.
I plundered our church and my home for every silk plant available. We used ivy, grasses, flowers, and even the dried moss-like stuff from my silk plant in my office. I ended up rejecting anything too tropical-looking.
I used a pole with a nail on the end to put other silk plants up higher. The set protruded so much on the bottom that I would not have been able to reach these locations even with a lift. It was a precarious balancing act, but once they got up they stayed in place.
You can see how we used plants in various locations. I also wrapped paper around the base of the trees so you couldn’t see the planters. It looked like bushes growing out of the rock. It looks pretty impressive but what people didn’t know was that some of those plants were balancing in holes in the paper and if anyone pushed them, they would fall right in!
The inside had a huge piece of fabric hanging down between the upper and lower falls. This was to get rid of all the excess fabric we had because I didn’t want to cut it. I had to safety pin the top of the lower falls to the rock paper to keep the fabric from slipping down.
Then we put colored lights on the waterfall and it was like, wow!!
The colored lights added drama and reminded me of Niagara Falls at night.
From far away, the set looks amazingly realistic.
We also made a sign. The paper was printed at Kinkos and the frame was made with leftover wood and styrofoam backing.
The sign was placed on the side because we use our whole stage for our worship team. Trees helped it seem like the sign could be found on a trail.
The original design had a roof for the sign, but we ditched it because it was too much work and didn’t add that much.
Peter adjusted lights. We also lit the cross to counterbalance the waterfall.
I found out later that people secretly came up to touch the waterfall because they didn’t know how it was made. Then they were shocked to find it was paper and their fingers could easily push it.
It was kind of funny that after service one couple came up and the wife said, “My husband is a geologist and we were admiring the set and had to go see what it was made of!”
I said, “I was trying to go for a sedimentary look, but it didn’t really work.”
He said, “It looks more like metamorphic rock.” I agreed. (I used to love studying rocks when I was a kid, but I am no geologist.)
Here’s how the rocks looked under the lighting.
We put a second set of lights on to change the look. Now it looks more like night.
The only things we bought for the set were paper and paint. All other materials were things we had on hand.
The set looked huge but once we put all the band members in front, the stage looked kind of cramped. Unfortunately, we did not have enough lights to light the band well. The poor drummer was kind of in the dark! Also, I left the sides darker so that it wouldn’t be so obvious that it was a rock feature in front of a curtain. Couldn’t do everything… had to prioritize.
We ran out of time, but I would have loved to do an element in the lobby. I wanted to make a sign post and stack sleeping bags and backpacks around it. However, we just plain ran out of time. At least we got the waterfall done in time for services!

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