Monday, August 07, 2006

garden stones, lively stones as the body of Christ 1Peter 2:5

This past Sunday at the Franklin Center United Methodist Church in Edinboro, Pennsylvania, we made garden stones after the service as a church community. When you think of art as prayer, this activity is a "hands on" illustration of how the body of Christ as the apostle Peter writes in 1 Peter 2: 4-5 can be literally fit together as lively stones. The scripture reference follows: "4 And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." NAS

The stones will be "revealed" next Sunday after church. We used a combination of the instructions you will find at the end of this post (and their web addresses are included) plus cardboard box forms for molds so that we could all do it at the same time. Broken jewellry, ceramic tile, stain glass and glass globs were some of the things we used to decorate our individual stones as we sought to develop a Christ monogram, a symbol of what Christ meant to each one of us personally. I used a pressed glass fish and some broken stain glass to create a "fisher of men" motif for my own. One man mad a circle of glass globs with stain glass "spokes" representative of the fund raising, charity bike races he participates in and reaches out to others with. Our lay speaker made a stain glass rainbow representing her involvement in the Kononia movement of Erie County, Pa. There were beautiful, colorful crosses, a memorial to a loved one using broken jewellry and a collage design of Christian symbols using various embedded elements such as book marks and buttons. We all had an enjoyable time and no one got messy, except the two guys outside who were mixing and pouring the cement. We used portland cement mix with sand (a ready mix) and discovered we could get seven 9 inch by 9 inch stones poured with one bag of concrete. The cement was mixed in a wheelbarrel. The garden stones, our lively stones, will be set in the ground near our parking lot, connecting to our sidewalk, creating a lovely path to our sanctuary. I copied and pasted the directions from two web sites for your convenience if you are interested in learning how to do this. The web addresses I found the instructions on are posted above the directions below:

- rubber gloves
- heavy plastic sheeting
- leaves
- pre-mix concrete - One standard-size bag will make three of the leaves shown here, which are about 45 centimetres square and eight centimetres thick;
- mortor or cement colourant, if you want a colour other than the light grey that pre-mix concrete produces (Lee Valley Tools has this stuff as well as Michael's Craft Store)
- Chicken wire or one-centimetre-square wire mesh
- wire cutters.

1. To make the stepping stones, choose an area that will remain undisturbed for several days. Any level surface - a driveway, concrete patio, bare patch of soil or even the grass - will work.

2. Cut a peice of plastic sheeting at least 15 centimetres larger all around than the leaf (or another desired shape), and place it on the ground. Put the leaf in the centre of the plastic, vein-side up (Photo 1).

3. Mix the concrete to a stiff consistency, following package instructions. With gloved hands or a shovel, move concrete onto the leaf, spreading it almost to the edge of the leaf to a thickness of approximately 2.5 to 4 centimetres; press firmly to eliminate air bubbles (Photo 2). If you're using a small leaf or several leaves to create an imprint only, spread the concrete to form the shape you want.

4. To ensure strength and durability, place chicken wire on the concrete to within five centimetres of the edge, overlapping pieces if necessary. Shovel concrete on top of the chicken wire (Photo 3), again spreading to a thickness of about 2.5 to 4 centimetres and pressing firmly to eliminate air bubbles.

5. Gently lift the plastic up around the design (Photo 4), smooth edges with gloved hands or a trowel to ensure an even look, and place earth or gravel up around the form to support it while it cures.

6. Cover with a second piece of plastic to keep the concrete from drying out. Allow to cure for at least 48 hours, then lift the stepping stone from the plastic (the plastic peels away easily) and turn it over to see the walking surface.

7. Remove small pieces of vein or leaf with a hose turned to jet spray. If you've made the stepping stone in hot weather, much of the leaf will have already decomposed. You can place the stones in the garden immediately, but avoid stepping on them until the concrete has completely cured - curing time depends on the type of concrete mix used, but it usually takes five to seven days. Spray with water frequently during the curing period. Make sure the stones are set firmly in the ground and they won't move when walked on.
Make Garden Stepping Stones
From Sherri Osborn,
Your Guide to Family Crafts.

Page 1: Introduction
Home-made stepping stones are a great way to personalize your garden, walkway, or anywhere! They make great gifts and are also great keepsakes if they are made using children's handprints or footprints.

My kids and I had a lot of fun experimenting with our stepping stones. We made one with a handprint, one with our dog's paw prints, one with flattened marbles/gems, one with marbles, and we also used patio paint. You can get so creative while making these we can hardly wait to try more.

I ran across garden stepping stone kits at a nearby craft store for around $20.00 (this makes one stepping stone). I decided to NOT use a kit because it would have been too expensive since I wanted to make more than 1 stone. Instead, I ran to a few different stores to gather the items I felt I needed; believe it or not, the supplies to make ONE of my stepping stones ended up costing me about $3.00!

Let me tell you what I used and help you decide what you want to use...
Page 2: Gathering Supplies
As I said before, the cost to make one stone with the supplies I bought was about $3.00, which is great if you compare it to the $15.00 - $20.00 a garden stepping stone kit costs.

The main supplies you need to make a stepping stone is a mold, cement, and items to decorate or embellish it. You should also always use protective eyewear and gloves when working with concrete as it can burn. If any gets on bare skin, wash immediately with warm, soapy water.

Page 3: Step-By-Step Directions
Deciding what design to make is the hardest part of making these stepping stones. However, you need to do this before you start so you know what supplies to gather.

Gather all your supplies and then you are ready to begin! Follow these simple steps and also refer to the suggestions on the supply page and hints and tips pages.

1 The first thing you should do is to protect your work surface and yourself. Lay down some newspaper, plastic sheeting, an old tablecloth, etc. Whether permitting, you can make these outside! Wear eye protection and rubber gloves... An old long sleeve shirt and sweatpants would also be a great idea.

2 Set your mold on your work surface. If you are using a special stepping stone mold follow any special directions if any that came with it.

I used clear, plastic planter saucers and did nothing to prepare them and they worked perfect! If you are brave enough to try a cake pan or other household item, you should try coating them with a liberal layer of cooking spray or petroleum jelly.

3 Now, you are ready to mix up the concrete. Follow the manufacturers directions on the bag of concrete you are using. I used a bag of Quikrete, which really had no specific directions. I discovered that a mixture of 5 parts concrete to 1 part water worked well. Your mixture will vary depending on what kind of concrete you use, but the wet mixture should have the consistency of soft cookie dough.

4 Once your concrete is mixed, you can start spooning it into the mold. Fill the mold about half full and smooth it down. Lay your cut piece of screening or hardware cloth (as explained on the supplies page) into the mold and then finish scooping the cement into the mold until full.

5 Gently tap around the outside of your mold to help remove any air bubbles and also to help even out the top. Now leave your stepping stone alone to set up for 30 to 60 minutes before you add any embellishments or decorations - this is more important if you are making handprints or other prints in the cement.

6 Once the cement has been given some time to set up, you can start decorating it. Use the decorating/embellishment ideas listed on the supplies page or think of your own. If you make a mistake, you can simply remove the items, flatten out the top with the side of a popsicle stick or spoon, tap the sides to smooth, and start over again!

7 Your stepping stone must now sit for 2 - 3 days without being disturbed - do not move it. Once it is dry, you can gently pop it out of the mold. Voila!

8 Now, you can finish decorating it if you are planning on doing any painting. You can seal the top of your stepping stone with a clear acrylic sealer if you do use patio paints.

9 I would suggest letting your stepping stone sit for another week before putting it outside. When you place the stones outside they should not be raised above ground more than about 1/2-inch so people don't trip on them and also so the stone doesn't break.

One more thing... Before you make your own garden stepping stones, you might want to read these tips and helpful hints...

Page 4: Tips and Helpful Hints
Here are some tips and hints that can help you while you make your stepping stones.

Some of these tips have been said already, but they are worth repeating. Read on and have fun making your stepping stones!

• If you are using cement dye, remember that the wet product will always be a shade or two darker that your finished product.

• Your stepping stones should be at least 2 inches thick.

• For best results, let your stepping stones set in the mold for 3 days. Allow the stones to cure for a week before placing them outside or stepping on them.

• When gathering items for embellishing your stepping stones, steer clear of wooden items because they don't stick into the concrete very well.

• Get creative with your embellishments! Try seashells, marbles, beach glass, mosaic tiles, buttons, small toys, and mementos of any sort.

• Make prints in the cement after it has set for between 30 minutes to an hour. Besides handprints and paw prints:

Try making prints with other items such as dog biscuits, leaves, cookie cutters, etc.

• If you want to try making stepping stones with pans or other household items, buy them at garage sales or thrift shops.

• Your cement should be the consistency of cookie dough. You want to have to scoop it into your mold, not pour it.

• When you place the stones in your garden they should not be raised above ground more than about 1/2-inch for risk of people tripping and falling and also so the stone doesn't break.

• Once the cement is poured into the mold, do not move it! This can cause cracking (I found this out the hard way!).

• If you make a mistake, you can simply remove the items, flatten out the top with the side of a popsicle stick or spoon, tap the sides to smooth, and start over again!

I hope you find this information helpful in understanding how to construct garden stones. Adults members of our church as well as senior and junior high youth will set the completed stones in the new pathway and then plant the border with perennials and bulbs. This walkway will not only be functional but beautiful as well. One member of the church, one stone, no pathway. All the members of the church; many stones, a pathway to a place of worship and holiness!