Birch Forest Stage Design

Birch Forest

Drew Hoopingarner and his team from Southport Presbyterian Church bring us this stage design for their Advent season. They got their inspiration from The Red Line on CSDI.

This set was a massive undertaking for their team, but they wanted to go just as big as their stained glass windows from last year. This set included 40+ white birch trees, a ribbon cross, a pallet manger and lots of snow.

Supplies List:
– 250 ft of chicken wire
– 1 roll of white butcher paper
– 200 pieces of white tissue paper
– black, brown, white paint
– 15 lbs of flour
– 120’ of 12’’ red satin ribbon
– 4 wood pallets
– 45 yards of snow sheeting

The team started making the trees about a month out from the installation date. Forming and painting each tree was the most time consuming element of the build, and many trees were needed to reach the desired forest effect. The process started by cutting a piece of chicken wire to the desired length and rolling the wire into the desired shape. Each tree was shaped individually, and many of them were curved to look more realistic. Next, they rolled out the butcher paper to the same length and painted on a mixture of water and flour (paper mache). Once they thoroughly coated the paper in the mixture, they were able to roll the paper around the wire form. Next, they took sheets of tissue paper and wrapped them around the white butcher paper and sealed all the seams with the same mixture. The trees needed about 24 hours to dry and harden before adding painted details.

The goal was the make the paper trees look as realistic as possible, so the team hand painted each tree. They took a fat sharpie and drew in random lines that white birch trees have. Using black, brown, and white paint, they added knot holes and shading to each tree. Luckily, the team only had to paint one side of the trees because only one side would be seen.

Another part of this set was the ribbon cross that connected to the pallet manger. One of the team members drew a ribbon looking cross on a piece of ½’’ pink insulation foam. They cut the cross out of the foam using a jig saw, and then took the 12’’ red ribbon and pinned it all along the sides of the cross adding pleats to make it look like flowing ribbon.

They next took 4 wood pallets apart and created a very rough looking manger that would sit on one side of the stage and have the red ribbon flowing from it leading to the cross.

Next came installation day! The team created a wood frame out of 2×4’s up at the ceiling to attach all of the trees. They put up the tallest trees first and filled in with the smaller and shorter trees. They also grabbed sticks from outside and spray painted them white to add in with the paper trees to give it a natural look. They added the sharpie stripes and to these branches when necessary. Then, they installed the manger and the cross where they wanted them. Next, they took their 45 yards of snow sheeting and laid a blanket of snow across the entire front to give the look fresh fallen snow. They used their extra butcher paper and wadded it up to create small hills under the snow.

Lastly, they took the red ribbon and made a bow attached to the manger and weaved the red ribbon through the trees to symbolize the journey from birth to the cross.

This set took about 80 hours of work.

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