Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Developing a Prayer Room III: Faux Stained Glass Windows

Today's post focuses on the construction of the windows for the prayer room. I wanted to create a feeling of sacredness in the room, while eliminating the outside distractions, and so I turned to the idea of stained glass windows. Real stained glass was obviously out of the question, so I began looking for a way to create a stained glass appearance on the windows in the room. My initial plan was to use cellophane behind cutouts in posterboard. I talked to one art major student from Wheaton who suggested the use of tissue paper or vellum paper over the cellophane for cost effectiveness. She informed me that the JPUSA use windows like these ate their worship space. So I headed down to the craft shop and found a massive stack of tissue paper. I designed and made the first two windows by myself, and then turned to two other people at camp for help, when I became afraid that all my designs would be too similar. Krista Pancone, a fellow GPA at HoneyRock, designed the Cross/sunrise window. Kimmy Tolbert, a recent graduate of Wheaton's Art program, designed most of the three piece window, that seeks to illustrate Christ at work in the scenery of HoneyRock.

Step 1: Designing the Windows

I needed a piece of posterboard at least 28x40 to fill the space of the window, and larger to be able to fasten them to the window frame. The largest posterboard I could find was 22x28 so I had to resort to gluing to pieces together. This meant I had to have a 2-3" section in the middle of each window that could not be cut out. This meant that some of my designs had to be altered to fit the new panes. I sketched a few designs in a sketchbook, and settled on two final designs to begin work on. Later Krista designed hers, and Kimmy and I put a few hours into designing the three piece window. All designs were then transferred to the posterboard. It is important in the design process to look at how Stained Glass widows are constructed, and how your piece will work structurally. Large sections of tissue paper will have little structural integrity, and may rip before even hung. If in doubt, add more lines.

Step 2: Cutting the Design Out

For this step I would suggest using an X-acto knife for cutting out the pieces. I did not have one, and used a utility knife. Be very careful, and approach this task slowly, as more can always be cut away, but you can never add more material back once its been cut. During this process I often added more lines in areas where there were large pieces of tissue paper. Its also wise to either have a reversible design, or draw a mirrored design on the back of the posterboard, so you can just flip it over after your done. Both designs I made with letters, were made on the front of the posterboard and later the lines had to be erased.

Step 3: Attaching the Tissue Paper
The method I found to work the best was to put the paper in the hole it was to fill, and lightly trace the outline. I would then cut around this leaving a quarter to half inch to glue. Then I would use Mod Podge to glue the paper to the posterboard. Designs with straight lines made this step much easier. Keep this in consideration when designing.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Developing a Prayer Room II: Building a Prayer Kneeler

So one of the first ideas to be implemented in the prayer room was to build the prayer kneeler. I decided on a simple shaker or early American style for the design. The kneeler is a simple construction, and was based on a few pictures I found online. It is simply a large box for the base, two sides, a top, and a shelf. If one were to attempt this project I would suggest the use of 1x8s. The lumber we used was milled here on site, and added much time to the project. I would plan three days to tackle this project, but it may take more or less depending on skill level, amount of detail, and wood selected. Ours took three days, but the majority of the first day was spent preparing the rough cut lumber.

Step 1. Create a Design
Our kneeler design was simple to not be a distraction. It was also crafted from wood from the camp, pine, to fit with the aesthetic of a Northwoods cabin. We looked online and found a few designs, and decided on a basic design. We then went to our back to our prayer room, and measured the area so the kneeler would both fit and fill the space. We fist designed the kneeler to be longer, so it would fill the entire space from the wall to the fireplace. This was later cut down as the kneeler looked to fit about three people, and I thought that would fight against the intimate feeling we were trying to create. Depth was based on what felt comfortable for an average height college student. (We brought in a few to get feedback.) Height was based on the window directly above the kneeler where the stained glass would be installed.

Step 2. Material Selection and Preparation
We decided to use on site materials both for aesthetics and price. I had no budget for the room, and tried to use as many recycled or on-site items as possible. One resource I did have was a large amount of lumber we had milled in the winter, and some lefter over half logs from some cabins I had built. These milled pieces we used were actually the pieces we had thrown away when milling, because they were barked or too short. This added much more time to the project than I had anticipated, but there's no satisfaction like building a project from a tree you cut down and milled.

Step 3. Construction
The base was built first, and dry assembled. Then we cut the sides, and checked the height. It was at this time that we decided to cut down the width of the project. After feeling satisfactory about the dimensions of the kneeler, we began sanding and assembling. The we began on the two half logs which compose the top, and the art on which one rests their knees. The logs were planed to an agreeable thickness, and we ripped the bottom log. The the bottom box was notched with a band saw to accommodate the log. The top log was attached with screws toe-nailed through attached 2x4 scraps. I would suggest an L-bracket for this job, but gain we decided to use what we had on sight. Lastly a shelf was cut and screwed on, and the back fitted with 1/8" plywood. We disassembled the piece and finished sanding, and the stained it with a penetrating natural stain.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Developing a Prayer Room

So my job position is worship coordinator at HoneyRock camp. HoneyRock is a Christian camp owned by Wheaton College, and the sumer staff is almost exclusively Wheaton College students. So the last two weeks I have been developing a prayer room for the camp. This room is to be a place where camp counselors and other staff can escape to a sacred space to pray and study scripture. I first began by talking to others around camp to find out what their spiritual needs were, and if we even needed the room. I then began to tailor the room around the responses. One thing I found was that while HoneyRock is designed to be "A Place Apart" it is often a place with busy hectic schedules. I also found since most people live in cabins with many other people, the have to place of privacy, and often find themselves surrounded by distractions.

I decided to try and make the room as free as distractions as possible, while giving it a sense of sacredness, without other wordliness, all the while trying to make it a slow, relaxing atmosphere. I began by cleaning the room and rearranging the furniture, to make it less of a makeout spot, as I had heard the room had been lately. After cleaning out one corner with a solitary window, my friend Richard (who was visiting for the week)and I decided to build a prayer kneeler facing the window, and faux stain glass the windows. For the bench we decided to make a simple, but meaningful construction. The kneeler was constructed mainly of timber that I had milled here at he camp this past weekend, along with two logs that were left over from a newly constructed cabin at the camp. I will write a separate blog about the construction of the kneeler, for anyone interested in building their own.

The stain glass window idea, was to help minimize distractions outside the window, while adding to the overall aesthetic of the room, and helping to create a sense of sacredness to the windows. For three of the windows I created a more protestant use of Christian symbols, and the other three windows were a representation of Christ in the environment we are in at camp. I will also have a seprate post of the windows and pictures, and give details on how to create your own.

Finally the room was given a couple of candles, bible verses and historic prayers were hung on the walls, and some other visual elements were added.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

More to Come

After quite a hiatus, I'll be returning, starting tomorrow. I will start posting about creative worship ideas, and a few other things I've been working on.