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Over-the-Counter Set Design

An online side-bar to "Next Generation Youth Spaces"

While waiting for the funds to do a large renovation, there are a number of things you can do yourself to change and improve the quality of your space, leveraging techniques and tools used by set designers. Here are some ideas shared by Russell Reid of Acoustic Dimensions with offices outside Dallas:

Fabric is a great way to add drama and color to a space. It is inexpensive, comes in varying weights, stretches and takes light beautifully. You can create soft form by draping it. It can be hung in sails or stretched tight across a frame to create geometric shapes. You can also project patterns or video onto it.

Corrugated metal is also a great tool, allowing churches to achieve an "industrial" look. It can be hung in sheets, cut into shapes or bent into columnsand it reflects light. In addition, it is available as corrugated fiberglass and PVC. These materials come in a variety of colors, including clear. If you want a really edgy look, you can spray paint graffiti across it.

PVC pipe and fittings are like the adult version of tinker toys. You can build dramatic structures, then easily pull them apart so they take up little storage space.

The more expensive (but more structural) version of adult tinker toys is Kee Klamp. Kee Klamp manufactures a number of different fittings designed to connect steel pipe. You can create structures that are very strong, but easily disassembled and reconfigured. Plus, the steel pipe can be painted in virtually any color. (Kee Klamps come in varying colors, too.) Check out their website at www.keeklamp.com .

EPS Foam (polystyrene foam and Styrofoam) can be carved into set pieces. Hot Wire Foam Factory makes tools for carving foam artistically and coating it so it can be glued together and painted. There are a number of instructional videos on YouTube for carving and sculpting foam. A word of caution, though: when carving EPS foam you need to work in a well-ventilated area since the foam itself gives off fumes.

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