As I was filling out the registration forms for my son and daughter for school this last year, there was a little blurb you were supposed to fill in about special ways your family may be able to contribute “volunteer-wise” to the school. (my words) Now, we LOVE our kids’ school, but I wouldn’t say either my husband or I are terribly good at volunteering, mainly because volunteering often involves being with people, and any time I am with people, I am internally reminded of the fact that I am a strange introvert that doesn’t know or understand how to make small talk. This grosses me out about myself, and you know… Ryan also kinda sucks in this way too. So I tried to think of a way we could be helpful, but, ahem… not on a regular basis. I wrote in something about having a little woodworking skills, and didn’t expect to get called in very often to prove it. But then in September of this year we received… an email.
dum dum dum.
The school was wondering if my husband and I would like to help with a little project. The project being new holiday lights display piece at Lindenwood Park. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it is a fundraiser for the FM Sertoma club. For a small fee, local businesses get a chance to set up a display. It’s always fun to grab a hot chocolate, and put on some Christmas music, and drive through the park at night and see all the pretty twinkly things. And proceeds go to a great cause.
This email was received about 2-3 weeks before the Junk Market, and for those of you who have the unfortunate “treat” of being around me during that time, you know that I am in no position to take on new projects. But the my creative wheels started speeding away from the logical part of my mind, and I sent a quick email asking if any ideas had been submitted.
Because I had some.
Next thing I know, I am volunteering myself and my husband to do the whole thing ourselves. No, I don’t do this to be gracious. Again.. I do this because I do not work well with other people. Now besides being an awkward introvert, I suffer from a strange and conflicting combination of extreme humility, and extreme arrogance. (I get this from my Dad) In creative projects, my arrogance tells me that my idea is the best of the best, and that I know precisely how I want to go about doing it. My humility tells me that I have no right to impose my idea on others because it is disgustingly terrible, even though it is so great…. it might not be….. but it is….. you get the idea. So if I have a plan that I think will be cool, I just volunteer to do the whole thing, and force Ryan to help.
Here’s my main caveat, this kind of work is not in my area of expertise. Yes, I had an idea I thought would be really neat, but I, in fact, I had very little clue how I was going to execute it.
So here’s the inspiration for my idea. And I think it’s beautiful. For those of you who are not familiar with the verse from the Bible, it is from the book of John, chapter 8 verse 12. The full verse says “When Jesus spoke again to the people he said “I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Oh how I love that message. And it’s not too “Christmas cliché” (I hate clichés!) I knew that whatever I came up with would not look exactly like it, but I was confident it would be cool. I knew I wanted to cut out the letters and maybe some of the light “holes” and somehow shine light through.
That is all I knew.
First things first, talking size. Our space is 20 feet, and I wanted a reasonable amount of darkness surrounding both sides of our display, so we bought six 4×8 pieces of plywood,(three for the front, three for the back) making our display 12 feet long, by 8 feet high.
Next was transferring the image onto the plywood. After a little photo editing and scaling, I was able to make the image more visible and compatible with the 8×12 size we were using. I ordered a transparency that works with laser printers off of Amazon. This process required an old timey overhead projector which we were fortunate enough to borrow from our church. The unfortunate part was, due to the size of the plywood, we had to do this outside, and we needed to do it in the dark to get a good clear image, and because we only had a couple nights before the projector needed to be back, we ended up having to do it in the rain. I traced, while Ryan graciously held an umbrella over the projector. But the process was much more rushed and unsteady then I would have liked. But the good news, neither one of us got electrocuted.
Next came cutting out the letters. This was a bit challenging. I brought my kitchen bar stools outside, and laid a 4×8 section flat on top of them. I drilled a couple larger holes into each letter, (large enough to get my jig saw blade into) and then I began cutting. This took me a few days because unfortunately, I lost daylight before I could get too much done, but eventually, I got all of the letters cut out. Then I sanded lightly to get rid of any majorly frayed edges.
Next came the painting. Now, I have very strong opinions about interior paints, but I’m completely clueless when it comes to exterior so after consulting with the good people at Home Depot, I went with Behr Ultra paint and primer in one. Flat black. I painted the front and sides of each panel with two coats of paint, and the back side with one. It took two whole gallons to cover all six. And yes… because of the cooler weather, I did the painting in my kitchen. (if you think too many hutches look dumb in my kitchen, you should see how dumb 6 pieces of 4×8 plywood look)
About this time, I am both giddy, and anxious about how this is going to turn out. Since I have no idea what I am doing, the lighting is key to making this project a win. And, to make matters worse, I found out midway through the project that there is a strict limit on the amount of lighting we can use, so we are going to have to be strategic about it and perhaps let my dream of major dazzle fly away.
We decided it would be best to line the entire inside with some sort of reflective material. We first checked at Menards, in the gardening area, hoping to find some rolls of Mylar, but we were out of luck. Then we thought we could use tinfoil, but we were hoping to find an alternative. Then it occurred to me that we could use those emergency Mylar blankets you keep in your car. So I ordered a pack of 12 on Amazon. Prime Baby!!
Two days later, we were ready to add the Mylar. This is where the biggest expense came into play. The spray adhesive, 4 cans at $12 something a pop. This is also where I accidentally got high (in a completely non-fun way) and had to go lay down for a good 45 minutes. Following the manufacturer’s instructions, we managed to line all the plywood backs with the Mylar.
Next came setting up the structure. Using our backyard patio space, Ryan braced all the pieces that had the word cutouts, to give them a little more strength, then he made some simple braces, attached the back, and for the first time… we got to see what it would look like with some flood lights shining against the back.
And I was really disappointed. Cause it was so… anti-climactic. And boring.
So we started drilling holes. Hundreds of holes. Then we got tired, and went to bed. But the night day… more holes. All sizes. We went through one lithium battery after another. “HOLES!” I said, “We need more holes!” like a crazy tyrant. I’m still not certain we did enough, but we had to stop….
We HAD to stop.
I also noticed that the words and even the big holes, needed a filter. I used a florescent light cover to filter the word “LIGHT” and some white plastic Menards bags that I stapled on to filter the words “I am the” and “of the world”.
This, and the magic little holes of course, made all the difference.
Next we bought more plywood and cut out triangles to completely enclose the sides. These I also painted and added Mylar to the inside, in my kitchen of course.
Arranging set up was tricky, but in good old Schultz fashion, we ended up setting it up the morning of the day it was supposed to debut. In the light, so I had to guess how to situate the lights before we closed it up. And even now, having never seen the complete project at night…
I have to hope that it turned out ok.
Haha… what I wrote was true, 12 days after they opened the display for public viewing, I had not seen it and it was tearing me up inside. But finally, I did see it, and you know, it’s not half bad.
All in all, I like the finished project. No, it is not as flashy as the graphic image, but, with light restriction, and the fact that I had no idea what I was doing, I’m kinda pleased. Actually, I am drawn to all of the things that are terrible about it, but I’m choosing to be proud of it instead. And I promised my husband I would never bring up (aloud) how much I hate the wonky “G”.
Overall the cost was around $300. Approximately $10 for the transparencies, $75 for the plywood, $65 for the paint, $50 for the spray adhesive, $10 for the Mylar, $30 for the 2×4’s, and $60 for the lights.
And you know, a much smaller version of something like this would be fantastic for your own personal outdoor display. You should give it a try and send me your photos!
Hope this was helpful, and thanks for reading!