Tuesday, December 1, 2009

smoke and mirrors...

As we enter into the season of Advent (arrival that has been awaited ~ especially of something momentous), I thought I'd share a little story with you....

Before we retired up here to Idaho, I was Visual Arts Director at New Life Community Church in California. I was part of a creative team that worked out all of the artistic elements of the weekend services, as well as spearheading an art gallery that gave many artists an opportunity to express their faith through their art. Our pastor was part of this team, and had very specific and creative ideas for bringing the Gospel to life through the use of the arts.

One particular year, as we approached Advent, he wanted us to create a work of art that would illustrate the coming birth of Christ - something to use as a visual aid that he could refer to in his sermons each of the four weeks of Advent. Pastor Ron wanted something that would not be revealed all at once - a piece that each week would be added on to throughout the season until the last Sunday when the last piece of the puzzle would be revealed. He wanted to create a sense of excitement and anticipation - which is what the Advent Season is all about!

The inspiration for the whole concept came from a stained glass piece Ron had seen somewhere, and since I was more of the "hands on" artist in the group, it was up to me to create this piece. I was given the titles of each week's sermon for inspiration, and lots of great creative input from the team.

My dilemma......
  1. I wasn't a stained glass artist
  2. I had only a couple weeks to design it
  3. I had to add to the piece every week to tell the story
  4. The space in which the piece would be displayed was cavernous (to say the least!) - 20' at it's lowest point
What I came up with was truly divinely inspired - I can't even remember how exactly it developed, but this is what I did....

  1. Asked my dear husband to build a huge Gothic-inspired *box* - a mere 12' high - it had to be huge or it would be swallowed up in that space. Oh and please paint it black.
  2. Asked my art gallery partner, artist and art-hanger extraordinaire, Stefanie (more about the amazing Stefanie Hilstein here)to find some simple coloring book images and enlarge them to fit each of the four spaces. I needed a shepherd, some angels and Mary holding the Christ child - I would take care of the rest.
  3. Rounded up all colors of wrapping paper (cheap!) and got to work.
  4. Divided the box into quadrants. (one for each week of Advent)
  5. Cut up all the wrapping paper into geometric shapes.
  6. Decoupaged the paper onto the box leaving "grout lines"
  7. Traced the first image onto the first space
  8. Filled it in with more decoupage.
As each week unfolded, I would come in and add the next image - but enough talking - see for yourself.....

The Ancient Lights of Christmas
...Finding Hope in the Darkness

Week #1
“The Gift That’s Worth the Wait”
Isaiah 64:1 – 9

Week #2
“Getting Ready To Receive”
Isaiah 40:1–11; Luke 2:8-11; Mark 1:1–8; 2 Peter 3:8-15

Week #3
“The Best That’s Yet To Come”
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; Luke 2:8-14; 4:1-30

Week #4
“When Dreams Come True”
Isaiah 9:2, 6-7; Luke 1:26-55

And here is the completed work....

Just to give you some context as to how huge this piece was...

...that screen is twenty feet from the stage floor!

I have to give a shout out to Scott Spierling and his amazing lighting - the way he lit it made it look like actual stained glass - I remember someone actually tracking me down and asking me if I needed any extra glass for future projects!

I'm telling you, most of what I do is smoke 'n mirrors...

One last thing...I challenge you this Christmas season to go back and read through those scriptures - from the prophet Isaiah telling of Christ's coming to the New Testament account....it's all there in black & white....no smoke and mirrors there.

'Tis the Season...


  1. Wonderful.
    Thank you.

  2. I miss your talents at New Life Pammy
    the 'stained glass' project was amazing!