In March we began working on a new stage design and it turned out fantastic!   Previously we had been doing our stage designs per series.  Each series duration varies usually between 3-6 weeks and since the stage design can only change in-between the old and new series it puts a lot of pressure on the volunteer team to get that completed.

Then I have the awesome opportunity to attend the Gurus of Tech conference at the Willow Creek Crystal Lake, IL campus.  At the conference I had the opportunity to have a nice discussions with the Willow Staff there in regards to their stage designs.  They do their set designs based on a quarterly schedule, except for Easter and Christmas if it is required. Now, at first I was a bit surprised that they make these changes only quarterly, but since they incorporate so much lighting they can make a setWillow Creek | Gurus of Tech look any way they want.  You can see on the image on the left that the stage design used 3’x2′ white boxes layered on top of each other to create what I call a Qbert design.  The White boxes provide the palette for the lighting to illuminate it any color they so desire.  Very, very nice!  Great stage design guys!

Once I had that discussion I brought back these images to our creative team and we began discussing the options we could do here at Great Oaks.  The ideas were definitely numerous but we came to the conclusion that we wanted something modern in design, white in color in order for us to use our lighting (which is limited at this current time) to color it using the colors designed for the next few sermon series.  Cost is also a factor, we looked at some options to rent material and stretchy fabric from Rosebrand but their costs were too high for us, they have great stuff and a lot of churches rent/buy from them, just a little steep for us now.  Another company we looked at was with this particular design: Circle Surround.  Again, the cost was just too high.  So we had to think “out-of-the-box”.

With the Circle Surround as a guide for our direction Kevin one of the members on the creative team thought about using cake bottom/pizza bottoms to construct the walls at a much more affordable cost.  The circles by themselves would have been nice, but we thought to add some dimension to the design we could use fabric pillars to break up the circles.  Now, here is the fun part.  The concept is usually the easy part of the design.  Drawing it out on a piece of paper or whiteboard is just the beginning.

First, we had to find the Cake/Pizza Bottoms

Cake/Pizza bottoms aren’t as easily accessible unless you plan on eating a lot of cake/pizzas and then you have stuck on icing, cheese, grease spots, etc.  We found that Sams Club does offer pizza bottoms in packs of 100, but they are not white, just brown cardboard.  Good to know if you don’t need them white, and they are cheap, $11.27/pack.  Painting them is an option, but you cannot use a latex paint and roll it on as the moisture in the paint causes the cardboard to warp.  You have to use a spray paint which gets rather costly and requires a lot of time!  We found a local store called Carter Paper & Packaging that sells them by the case with a white top at 16″ in diameter.  There are many of places online that sell them as well in cases of 100-200 and in varying sizes.

Second, the Fabric

Now in the Greater Peoria IL area here we have a few options for fabric, but I tend to always use JoAnn Fabrics.  They have a huge selection and although I don’t purchase fabric a lot, they always have some coupons and the ladies there are always very helpful.  They know their stuff for sure!  We purchased 32 yards of white cotton fabric for just over $100 with their 50% off coupons.  See coupons!  The fabric was left doubled up ending up at 22″ across and cut to the length we needed and hung on the bar with Large Binder Clips.

Third, Assembly & Hanging

The Cake/Pizza bottoms were our biggest problem in assembly/hanging.  At first we had to think about how we are going to string these together to make a circle column.  Nice thing about the Cake/Pizza bottoms is that they are made out of corrugated cardboard so we have the channels that connect the top and bottom cardboard pieces together.  Using the channels we ran 20lb fishing line through one channel at about 10 o’clcok and the other about 2 o’clock on the Cake/Pizza bottom.  We ran the line through the amount we needed, 14, and hung them up for a trial run.  As soon as we hung them I noticed one problem that had already begun.  The weight of the bottoms was beginning to push them over each other.  The fishing line had a little give in it so the bottoms were beginning in places to overlap each other and before too long we were going to have a circle column with gaps.

The solution was simple, after rummaging through our Kids Town arts & craft closet I found some wooden skewers that fit perfectly inside the channels of the Cake/Pizza Bottoms.  We inserted half into the circle above and the remaining half in the circle below to hold them each in place so they couldn’t slide down and overlap each other.  Finally, we took a large clear bead at the bottom of the pillar and tied it tightly to be the stop for the pillar and tied it to the bars at the top.

We strung these together on some tables below the stage and transporting them was not difficult at all.  The fishing line, skewers and beads held nicely and allowed some give in the pillars for us to transport them nicely.  As we begun our ride up in the lift we began to see how nice these were going to look.

Fourth, The Center

We had one last bit of the back that we needed to cover with the Cake/Pizza Bottoms and some fabric.  Under the screen.  We built out of 2×4’s a basic wall.  Put together just with skewers, no fishing line, our circle columns and then on the floor laid them out and taped them together horizontally with duct tape.  We then stood the wall up and stapled them to the wall and that was it for the back wall, we just needed one more thing for our side walls.

Finally, The Side Walls

Continuing on with our circle theme we decided to use two of our 5′ tables as large circles on the side walls to include with the lights our gobo for the Outflow series and the words Chazown for the Chazown series from  We hung them with 139lb black cotton rope using carabiner clips attached to the bar mounted on the ceiling.

To date it is the best stage design we have ever had here at Great Oaks, but I’m a little biased.  It was a blast working on and a lot of individuals put their time and effort into this to make it happen!  My prayer is that even though its just a stage design, God can use it to help us communicate His message of love and salvation to those who do not yet know Him and to encourage those who do that He is an amazing God!

Let me know any of your thoughts, if there are any questions on the design or if you need some more information in regards to the details.  I’d love to hear from you!