I love it when a plan comes together. Especially when we had no idea what we were doing.

Each year our community of faith meets in a large tent for part of the summer. The routine kind of décor used for worship – banners, flowers, candles, etc. isn’t very practical outdoors. So once again the décor team was stirring our creative juices for what to do. Our pastor had selected “Different” as the theme – a very abstract word that didn’t easily suggest imagery along with the weekly focus words of Gratitude, Generosity, Risk and Hope. Nevertheless, we decided to embrace the word by doing something different. And unknowingly entered into the theme and its support words through our art-making process.

Kim, Charlotte and I began a ping-pong of collaborative emails. Especially after our first grand idea became impossible because the large canvas support structure we needed wasn’t available. Well, al least without a prominent flat-fold seam down the middle. Finally, like the eye doctor clicking a lens into place that makes the eye chart crystal clear, Kim wondered whether painting on clear plastic panels might be an option.

Grateful for the generosity of an engaging idea, I was off to the nearest home improvement mega-store to research product availability, panel sizes, and prices. The largest panel available for our needs was 24″x48″. It would require three panels each for the two plastic “banners” we had in mind. They would have to be ganged together using S hooks. That meant drilling holes in the plastic panels. Doable, but risky.

Kim and I spent an afternoon at my art partner Lee’s studio experimenting with every type of paint we could lay our hands on to see the different results we could achieve on a small sample plastic panel.  The results were crude but informative; those acrylic paints that were transparent give us the stained glass effect we hoped for. Sponging rather than brushing gave us the uniform painted surface we liked. And stenciling around the letters of each word with paint, then removing the stencil, left the words crystal clear on the plastic panels.  

The plan was coming together. A pattern was drawn and laid out on the work tables at the studio. The plastic panels were laid over the pattern. Paint palettes, sea sponges and tubes of transparent paint began to emerge. The focus words were taped on the clear surfaces. Something different was about to happen. It all felt a little risky. We hoped that the image in our mind’s eye was about to become reality. We began with a generous amount of uncertainty and hoped for the best.

Beginning with an overall layer of yellow iron oxide, cruciform shapes were sponged in red iron oxide and crimson quinacridone. Phthalo yellow-green partnered with phthalo blue and turquoise in expressive sweeps. By day three, one set of panels was completed and the next begun. We propped each panel in a window to see what they looked like with the kind of backlighting we envisioned in the tent. What appeared dark and somewhat opaque on the table’s flat surface was lighter and luminous against the natural northern light. Anxiety going down, encouragement going up.  Maybe our risk really was going to become reality.

It was time to drill holes in the first set of panels so we could see what our idea really looked like. The largest Dremel drill bit went through the 1/8″ plastic like soft butter. Serious sigh of relief, but the hole wasn’t nearly large enough for the S hooks. So the first three panels came home for a second drilling with a man-size drill. This time the plastic was more resistent to the much larger drill bit; it was definitely not a soft butter experience. With a bit too much eagerness we added a little more pressure. It sounded like the brittle crack of a gun shot.

Our hearts stopped as a large fragment of the panel fell to the tile floor. Major adrenaline dump, black edges around the periphery of our vision. We flirted with a disaster mentality for a moment until Plan B – E6000, a serious adhesive, came to the rescue. We were able to glue the fragment back in place, but knew that the S hooks weren’t going to work for ganging the panels together. They required holes too large to safely drill through the plastic. I began to move on to Plan C hoping to find something smaller with equal strength.

While reconnoitering the tent where the panels were to be installed, there they were. I’d found the solution to our problem. The electric cables for the sound system had been strapped in place all over the tent with 8″ narrow plastic ties. It was easily Eureka! I needed to drill only slightly larger holes for the ties. They were easier to install and adjust. And were relatively invisible from a distance. Dealing with a disaster had resulted in a solution far better than the originial idea. The installed panels exceeded what we had hoped for when we began the process of doing something different. I am grateful for the opportunity to have taken a creative risk, for the generosity of a disaster that lead to something better, and for hope realized beyond what I’d imagined.  

Have you ever experienced the generosity of disaster? What was the Plan B or C that unfolded for you? How was it substantially better than what you’d imagined? If you were to create an art piece about that “different” experience, what would it look like? What four focus words would you incorporate?

How does the world experience you as “different” as you live out gratitude, generosity, risk and hope?

Lookin’ forward to what you have to share.





2 comments to Different


    The banners are beautiful. Thank you for brightening up the tent. The banners sure help you think about the sermon! Working with “different” materials must have been exciting, and especially when it all came together and the banners turned out so lovely. Thank you and the others for all your work!

  • karen

    What I love is the community process! I had heard from that three of your were having fun coming up with ideas and working on this. What I could see with my eyes in the tent on Sunday, I really appreciated! Colorful, easy to read! What I love even more is how your work includes and encourages first three, then four, then a whole church full of people! Fun! Creativity. New ideas. Problem solving. Gratitude. Worship.

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