Friday, June 28, 2013

Insulated Styrofoam | VBS Stage Backdrop {Part 1}

I mentioned VBS in my last post. My husband and I had just nailed down the stage design. VBS is two and a half weeks away and the stage is supposed to go up a week from tomorrow. Oh my. I have been trying to take bite size pieces, so as not to become overwhelmed with the shrinking deadline.

Here is my rough sketch, which I imagine might change when we get to actually installing it in the space. But with something on this scale, a plan is important. The grey box is our screen. The cross is already hanging in our Worship Center. Our ceiling has multiple slopes, as well. The rectangles are uncut sheets of insulated styrofoam (so I would know how many I needed to buy).

Now would be a good time to mention that this is a first for me. I have never designed a stage set before. My husband took a stage design class in college and thinks on a much larger scale than I do. I am a graphic designer and this project is stretching me. This is also my first experience using insulated styrofoam.

Last night Eric set up the portable projector so I could get started on the more detailed painting for the stage backdrop. (Not shown: We attached a cut insulation styrofoam piece to the wall with clamps and then using a highlighter we outlined the design so that I could go back and paint it in later, like a coloring sheet.)

I had done a fair amount of research and decided that insulated styrofoam was the best medium for what we wanted to accomplish. The backdrop was going to be almost 16' tall in some places and we wanted something that was light enough to transport and work with easily. Eric picked up twelve sheets of 1" R-TECH insulated styrofoam from Home Depot (the cheapest place we found it at about $10 a sheet).

Our research also led to purchasing a little detail styrofoam cutter from Hobby Lobby that one blogger said makes it "cut like a knife through butter". Before purchasing we did read a lot of reviews, which were spot on, suggesting that it was a piece of junk that didn't work. We purchased anyway, hopeful, knowing we didn't want the mess of traditional cutting (with a hacksaw). Ours didn't work. But Eric is an engineer and a problem solver by nature. He discovered the problem was that the power from the adapter wasn't connecting to the tool. So some aluminum foil later, he had it working, adequately. I would say it cut like a knife through cold butter. But it was a lot less messy than the alternative. Worth the money ($20 full price, but we had a 40% off coupon). Patience is essential. It is a very slow process. So I set Eric to working on the cutting, his patience far exceeds mine!

How to...
  • Remove the paper covering from BOTH sides. Removing just one will cause the insulation to curl.
  • Use a yellow highlight to mark your sheet where you want to cut. Paint should cover over this easily, but enable to you to see where you need to cut.
  • Cut away.
Moments already I have second guessed myself and wondered if all of this is really necessary. It's a fair amount of work. I know there are some who probably roll their eyes at me and think I am doing a lot of unnecessary work, after all don't kids go to VBS for the music and the games? But I am so visual and I know that there are others (kids) like me. The decorations can really help make the VBS experience come alive for some. It can't make up for a lousy program or dispassionate small group leaders, but it can enhance what a good core team of front line program volunteers is doing (which we are fortunate to have). And so I'm good spending my evening tracing out action words and cutting big sheets of styrofoam.



  1. Thank you so much for posting all of this! We are about to do a Kid's Week at our church and have been searching the world wide web for weeks when we stumbled upon this!