Thursday, June 15, 2017

More Greco Roman Decor

Just a mish-mash of cool Greco-Roman decorating pics from various churches doing Holy Land VBS.

Pictures by Jill Bettinger

Picture by by Jill Bettinger - Mural by Tiffany

Picture by Michelle Barrera from 
Teaching Word Faith Center (Fort Worth, TX) 

Picture by Michelle Barrera from 
Teaching Word Faith Center (Fort Worth, TX) 

Picture by Michelle Barrera from 
Teaching Word Faith Center (Fort Worth, TX)

Picture by Michelle Barrera from 
Teaching Word Faith Center (Fort Worth, TX)

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

How to Make A "Tile" Roof

If you looked out Greece and Rome, you would see, in many places, a sea of tile rooftops.   It was the same in ancient time.   So many of the buildings in ancient Greece and Rome, as today, had red tile roofs.

I wanted to include at least a little of this when we did Rome VBS, and I found the easiest way was pretty simple:  red construction paper.   It was simple, cheap...and not unreasonably time consuming, though that would depend on the area you wanted to cover.    It was much easier than cutting up and painting paper cups or oatmeal cannisters...some of the other materials I had considered. And the matte texture of construction paper is actually close to the look of real roofing tiles.

Here is a picture of our small tile roof.  I had meant for it to go on a portion of slanted roof...but alas, it ended up getting put up straight up and down.   Still, it didn't turn out badly.

And below is a close up of how we made it...

To make the roof tiles I stapled red paper at a curve to black paper (12" x 18" for both, not 9" x 12").   If you stagger the paper you can keep going up to make more rows.

It actually would have been a little easier if I had made this more accurately, because most ancient Roman tile roofs had a flat space between each curved tile, like these ancient Roman tiles below....

So an ancient tile roof would have looked a little more like this....

Picture by Wolfgang Sauber licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.

More VBS Rome Resources and Ideas

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Greco-Roman Decor: Fountains

Having a fountain is a great way to bring in Greco Roman Decor.   Below there's see some examples of how other churches have done it and some links to other sites showing other ways to do it.

Make a 3D Fountain

There are several ways to make a three dimensional fountain (some working, some merely decorative). 

This looks difficult, but impressive.

Please excuse the "beer" in this one...but yeah, it's a great idea, and with a little spray paint on the outside could look like stone.

Stacked Planters and Tinsel

Picture by Michelle Barrera from 
Teaching Word Faith Center (Fort Worth, TX)

I love this ides...planters and tinsel, stacked, and you have a fountain.  

 Borrow a Fountain

Fountain Statue Borrowed From I-35 Statuary

We were blessed at our church to be able to borrow several statues from a nearby statuary, including the one above, which doubled as a fountain.  We had a tub underneath it which we surrounded by stones and greenery.

Something simpler, like a bird-bath, could work too in a pinch, and is something one of your church members might have and be willing to lend.

Make sure you have a good safe means to transport anything you borrow.   We asked about a multi-tiered fountain but there were concerns about being able to transport and assemble something like that without it breaking (and of course there's always the concern about kids knocking things over, so be careful about where and how you set up anything borrowed).  

Make a 2D Fountain

A two dimensional fountain can be stunning too.  Check out the examples below.

Picture by Michelle Barrera from 
Teaching Word Faith Center (Fort Worth, TX)

I love how just adding a little tinsel gives a flat drawing a three dimensional feel.

This fountain was painted by a lovely and talented woman at our church.   It was on cut plywood, to allow us to store it and re-use it later.  


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Decor: Making "Pottery"

Michelle Barrera let me use lots great pictures of how her church, Teaching Word Faith Center (Fort Worth, TX) decorated for Athens VBS several years back. Here is how they made large pots.

You can see the bases of the vases
are made of cardboard and duct-tape
which is then covered with paper mache.

They then covered the vases with plaster 
(At least, I think that's plaster).

The greenery really looks stunning on these.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Colonnade Gallery

Some pictures of colonnades from various churches doing Holy Land Athens or Rome Vacation Bible School.

From Vineyard Church in Hopkinton, MA taken by Areli Biggers

From Faith Baptist Church

From Snowd Branch Church

Picture by Jennifer Mounce 

TIP:  How to Create Depth

If you are making a colonnade on a stage you can create depth and and add an illusion of a larger scene by starting with taller columns and then using descending smaller columns, set at an angle like the picture on the right...continuing the colonnade with a backdrop with painted columns at the back.   You'll notice that in many of the colonnades above.

(The drawing at right is by cdevries, who writes a number of wonderful articles on theater design. It was from a section on 3 More Ways to Improve Your Theater Set about creating depth. Used with permission.)

Made from large cardboard box, with roof added
Picture by Michelle LaFlamme

From Dayspring Baptist Church

Pictures by Michelle Barrera
From Teaching Word Faith Center  in Fort Worth, TX

Learn more about how to make columns here.

More VBS Rome Resources and Ideas.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Greco-Roman Decor: Statues

Both Greece and Rome were full of statues...statues of gods and goddesses, statues of prominent individuals, statues of animals, etc. When Paul visited Athens he spoke to them about the many idols they had and tried to point them away from these false gods towards Christ.  In his letter to the Romans he dealt with the issue of whether a Christian could eat food that had been sacrificed to idols.

Of course, statues are generally too costly to buy just for a week at VBS. But there are other ways to include them in your decor...

Borrow Them
You can often find garden and statuary shops willing to lend out their statues. And of course you can ask your church members for loans of any garden statues or suitable figurines they may have.  

Rent Them
Wedding and party rental companies may have statuary and columns that you can rent for a reasonable price.

Make Them
Below you can find a few method on how to make a "faux marble" statue.

But before we go on, a disclaimer...

3D Print a Statue

Photo by Emelie Howard

The statue above was printed on a 3D printer.  Depending on the size of the printer you can even print much larger pieces.  Here is a list of just a few of the statue plans available (I believe most of these are free/open source).  You can find other items, like Roman helmets, costume items, styluses, etc. too.

Make a Plaster Statue

 Jefferson Park Baptist in Charlottesville, VA. Photo by Sherri States.

Here's a very inexpensive way to create a Roman Bust, . The statue above is a styrofoam wig form mounted on a lid box with two coat hangers to hold it in a place, an old white T-shirt and cloth wrapped around covered in plaster of Paris. You can find a full tutorial on how to do this here.


You don't have to stop with busts. Anything can be covered in plaster to make a statue. The horse statue at right (also by Jefferson Park Baptist) was made by

Actually, you don't have to stick with white either. New research has show that statues in both Greece and Rome were originally painted! Centuries of exposure wore off the paint, so that what we find today is white marble...but 2,000 years ago the statues were actually quite colorful.

Whether you want to go with the traditional marble look or try for some authentic color, is up to you. You can also make a similar affect with paper-mache and paint.

Here is an example of how one church made a a duct tape form for a plaster torso...

You can see how well this comes out on top of a column.   The method looks pretty self-explanatory, but there's a step by step tutorial here.  You would want to make sure to have a good disposable layer between tape and skin (here it looks like they used a t-shirt or cloth of some another example I saw plastic wrap used).  I'm pretty sure they had to cut him out of that, and then tape it back up and fill it with paper or some other filler before plastering.
(Thanks so much to Michelle Barrera for these great pictures from Teaching Word Faith Center  in Fort Worth, TX!)

One last method which I don't have any photos for, but which is really cool, is to use spray foam for a statue medium

Recruit a Human Statue

Dayspring Baptist Church, Waco, TX

Another fun idea is to have a human sculpture. Other than make-up and clothes, there's no cost involved, though it does require a volunteer.

Two ladies from our church did an excellent job as human statues. You can see one of them in the picture above. They covered their hair in a white cloth, wore a white tunica, and covered all exposed skin with white stage make-up. You can find some tutorials on how to make 1st Century Roman women's clothes here, and men's clothes here.

Most of the time our statues stayed perfectly still, but once in a while they would break their pose a little to interact with the kids in a subtle way. The kids just loved this!

I have also seen a version where the actor wraps a column around him to make himself into a human "bust." You can find the tutorial for that here.

Draw a 2D Statue

 Photo by Michelle Barrera, from
Teaching Word Faith Center  in Fort Worth, TX

A two dimensional statue can also be a nice touch, especially in a hallway or other space where you might not have room for a three-dimensional one (plus, butcher paper is cheep!).   If you don't want to hand-draw a statue, you can find an image of one online, put it on a 3D projector (ask schools for loans if your church doesn't have one), and trace a statue on butcher paper from the projection.

Make a Cardboard Statue

 Faith Baptist Church

I can't tell you how to make this, but I can tell you it was made out of cardboard.  It was too cool not to share. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Pinterest Perplexes Me Sometimes

Check out what came up under "related pins" when I posted a Roman stylus on pinterest?   Crazy huh?   If I had pinned a Roman Centurian or something, it would make more sense, but man, it's a Roman writing impletment, even if it looks sort of like a dagger.  Anyways, it made me chuckle, so I had to share. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

How to Make Greco-Roman Columns

Dayspring Baptist Church, Waco, TX

Several years back for Vacation Bible School our church took our children on a trip through the 1st Century city of Rome where we learned about Paul and the Underground Church." In the process we created a lot of Greco-Roman Décor, and found a lot of inspiration both from groups who had done this program and the similarly decorated Athens Holy Land Adventure.

I wanted to pass on the great ideas we learned about for others who might be doing the same programs, a piece of Greek or Roman theater, or a wedding or party with this theme. You will find some creative and inexpensive decorating ideas below.

3 Dimensional Columns

Columns are essential to Greco-Roman décor, and three dimensional columns are, I think, the most stunning way to go.

Where to Buy 3D Columns
We invested in two large 12' cardboard columns (pictured above) and have used them over and over for different Holy Land VBS (not just Rome, but for Pharoah's palace in Egypt, and the Synagogue in Nazareth and Galilee).  Large columns like these can make for a very dramatic effect.  You can find similar ones at Stumps Party Supply.  For shorter columns you can find a nice selection at Oriental Traders for a good price, but be warned to leave lots of time for delivery (shorter columns are also not difficult to make, which of course is even cheaper...see below for various methods).  If you do not have a good place to store columns for use in future years, you may want to consider renting columns from a local wedding/event service.

Poster Board

Use Poster Board and Pizza Boxes
This one seems super simple and inexpensive! A pizza place might be willing to donate some clean, unused boxes (especially if you also bought lunch for volunteers there)!  You could use corregated cardboard for a ribbed texture and a little more support  (our columns for our intro picture were made like this, with foam "crests" in stead of pizza boxes. 

Make them With Cardboard Tubing
You can use carpet tubes (what  carpet comes rolled around) for thin columns.  Places which sell carpet are often happy to donate these.  For thicker columns you can buy construction tubes (also known as building tubes, cardboard concrete forms, and Sonotubes).  You can find these individually at home improvement stores,  but from what I've seen they only smaller ones (48" long or shorter).  There are several manufacturers that sell longer full column length ones, but generally only in bulk.  You could possibly contact a local construction company and see if they would sell or donate some in smaller quantities.

Use Building Tubes, Pots, and Plaster
Decorative Faux-Stone Column - Shorter but very realistic. I've seem people use plastic pots with molded edges for some very decorative molding...same idea though.

Use Building Tubes, Pool Noodles, and Foam Board
DIY Network shows you how to make faux stone columns...very realistic looking.  Pool noodles are a more pricey material, but if you can buy them out of season (at the end of summer, early fall clearance sales) they cost less.

Very Realistic, Structural Method With Tall Building Tubes
The blog Tootsie Time shows how she made permanent columns for her home. They are beautiful.

Use Textured Wallpaper to Add Ridges
Once you have a base (see above) you can use textured wallpaper to add ridges.  I got this idea from Jennifer Hosler.

She used Easy Textures Paintable Wallpaper (Pattern No 99424F) to cover a carpet tube column.   I didn't find that exact one but I found a similar style by another brand here.

"Warren" Method of Constructing Columns

Kate Taylor Warren and her husband shared the following method they came up with to make columns like you see above.

Inside each column is a 90" heavy cardboard carpet tube. Each has a 2-3 foot wooden fence post fit snugly inside and screwed to a 20" board as a horizontal base. The part of the column you see is five sheets of under-wallpaper insulation cut in lengths that circle around to make a 20" diameter cylinder. A construction stapler was used to staple them to the carpet tube in the back.

The material they use,  found in a DIY store where wallpaper is sold, consists of a very thin layer of polystyrene bonded to a layer of heavy brown paper. It pops out easily to hold its shape when circled and stapled, and is easy to paint. Kate Warren and her husband are in England, so I'm not sure whether the same material is available here in the States, but it would be worth checking into.

They measured the "stripes" on the individual sheets and marked them so they could be painted before assembly on the carpet tube. This was an easier and safer way to paint--no climbing ladders and trying to get straight lines painted.

The columns are set on squares of stryofoam (called polystyrene in the UK). The cornice is not resting on the columns but is suspended from the ceiling. Otherwise it would be rather unstable.

Pool Noodle Columns

 Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Houston, TX
Photo by Marian Seidel

You can find full step by step instructions on how to make pool noodle columns here also (though it was for a more permanent feature, so had some steps you could skip for VBS).   Here's some in-process pics shared by Marian Seidel of Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Houston, TX.  (She's still in the in process phase so I don't have final pics right now).

1.  You start with cardbord carpet roll tubes for a base.

2.  Cute pool noodles in half lengthwise with exacto knife (to make two parts like celery sticks, not two shorter pool noodles).

3.  Put foam into noodle like you would put cheeze whiz on the celery stick, and press onto roll.

4.  Use 3 nails, one at the bottom, top and middle to secure.

5.  Trim as necessary. (Save pieces...see #6)

6.  Make a stand (sorry, I don't have instructions on how to make stands, but you can see some examples there).  Use extra pool noodle pieces and/or foam to stuff into carpet tubes to stabilize.

7.  Paint

TIP:  If you're planning this long in advace you can save money if you buy pool noodles out of season (at the end of summer, early fall clearance sales).

Corrugated Plastic Columns

You can use sheets of corrugated plastic either to make freestanding columns, or to wrap around posts and other features.   While pricey, this method has the benefit of being weather resistant, so is great for outdoor features.  You can find this type of sheeting at most hardware stores.

You can see one of these types of columns in the background of picture to the right. Thanks to Rebecca Edwards for this picture.

Dayspring Baptist Church, Waco, TX

TIP:  How to Create Depth

If you are making a colonnade on a stage you can create depth and and add an illusion of a larger scene by starting with taller columns and then using descending smaller columns, set at an angle like the picture on the right...continuing the colonnade with a backdrop with painted columns at the back.  You can see how that works in the example below...

(I got this idea and the drawing in this section from cdevries, who writes a number of wonderful articles on theater design. It was from a section on 3 More Ways to Improve Your Theater Set about creating depth. The picture above is from Faith Baptist Church. Used with permission.)

2D Colums

Picture by Mindy Love Harper

Flat paper columns are simple and inexpensive. You can draw them on butcher paper or posterboard (for thicker, more reusable affect) or order pre-made ones online.

I love how Trinity Presbyterian Church of McKinney, Texas used simple paper columns and a roof to frame the doorway to "Paul's House." While it takes a little drawing skill, it doesn't look unreasonably hard, and yet is very effective in transforming this from just another room to a house in Athens.

And, if you prefer to avoid drawing/painting it yourself, here are several paper column options I found online (click pictures to find on Amazon)...

Semi-3D Columns

For a semi-three dimensional look try one of the techniques below.

Foam Board Columns

Dayspring Baptist Church, Waco, TX

We carved foam board with a hot knife and I believe painted the indentations grey to make these columns. Then we put them up in front of some pretty party paper to cover up a wall sculpture you see peeking out of the top there. I believe the paper we used was flat, but the only paper with the same design I was able to find now online was this corrugated version (which is probably more expensive than what we used, but would offer more stability).

Cardboard Column "House"

Photo by Michelle Robeson La Flamme

This structure was made out of a VERY LARGE box. It has plaster on it which gives it the column texture.  I like that a person could actually get IN this columned house.

See More Rome VBS Posts

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