“All Creation Sings”, Finished!

I so enjoyed painting this set of banners for Easter Lutheran Church in Eagan, MN.

Birch Forest Fox horiz

The goal of these banners is to lift up the natural habitat near this St. Paul suburb as God’s sacred creation. In order to do this I had to remember back to my childhood and early adulthood roaming the beautiful hardwood forests in eastern Iowa and the more northern birch forests of Minnesota. I am sure my first experiences of the sacred occurred from early childhood forrays into Grandma and Grandpa’s woods near Decorah, IA.,  later as a teen and young adult  canoing in the Boundary Waters of northern MN, and then during collage years taking refuge from aceademia in the Nerstrand Woods near Northfield MN, a last remnant of the historic Big Woods of Wisconson and SE Minnesota.

All Creation Sings the Glory of God: Oak

“All Creation Sings the Glory of God: Oak Forest,” silk dye on silk, 12 feet by 54 inches.

All Creation Sings the Glory of God: Birch

“All Creation Sings the Glory of God: Birch Forest,” silk dye on silk, 12 feet by 55 inches.


As a full-fledged adult living rurally in North Idaho and remotely in the North Cascades Wilderness at Holden village, and still today near Bellingham WA I search for peace, for life lessons, for beauty and awe-inspiring power and inevitable change of everything, even rock. I search for that which is greater than me in the forests. If I’m really lucky, very still, or completely dumbstruck by what I  experience in the wild, once in a while I can sense the God of Martin Luther, in, with, and through all things.


All Creation Sings


If I am very, very lucky, God’s  creation is a door that leads me to Tielhard De Chardin’s Sacred Millieu, where the veil thins and I glimps the sacred.

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

From St. Patrick’s Breastplate








All Creation Sings, in Progress


Silk painting in progress: the upper 2/3 of the Oak Forest Panel

Commission for Easter Lutheran Church, Eagan, MN

 A large silk painting project starts simply, with either a watercolor sketch or colored pencil sketch. However, a lot of work goes into these small pieces, mostly communication with the people commissioning the work.The first step in any commissioned project is to determine what it is the clients would like these silk paintings to be. What is the message? The purpose? 

I love to work with a group of people to pull these design ideas from them. I believe that art “from the ground up,” with ideas from the community, rather than “from the top down” giving all authority to an artist unrelated to that community, promotes deep thinking of that community and a greater sense of ownership of the art. My hope is that people can see their influence in the art that they worship with, in their sanctuary, and that the artwork is meaningful to that group of people in particular.

So one of my jobs in any commissioned project is facilitation of a group process to come up with these ideas. I do this communication work sometimes by traveling to the site to meet with people, or through phone calls and email, often attaching current sketches. I listen carefully to themes the group is wishing to portray and look for an overall feeling, and particular desires about color and size etc.

If there are artists in the group I ask for their involvement with sketches, etc. Sometimes there may be an artist within the group who may be able to come up with the design themselves. In this case I act more as a facilitator. In other congregations people are looking for a professional artist to accomplish this, and then I do the sketch myself. Often there is a mixture of these. I try to adapt to the needs of the group as best I can.

In the present project for Easter Lutheran Church, Eagan, Minnesota, the conversations by phone were particularly constructive. What I heard from them was that they wanted a vision of sacred creation, especially native Minnesota nature. No humans or symbols or words! This is a chance to lift up God’s sacred creation and fits so well with my own call:

“My artistic mission is to communicate the sacred presence of God in all creation, by connecting the rhythms, stories and images nature has to offer with liturgical rites and rituals through art.”

So as you can see, a lot of preliminary work went into these two little pencil sketches. They are 12″ x 4.5″ each. The finished silk pieces will be 12 feet by 4 feet 6 inches.

Pencil Sketch Oak Forest    Pencil Sketch Birch Forest

After the final approval of the design I projected both of these images onto newsprint paper cut to the finished size of the silk banners, adding to and adapting them as I saw fit. This means increasing the size of the design from 12 inches x 4.5 inches to 12 feet by 4. 5 feet. Here below you can see these drawings and some of the details.

Click on the thumbnails to get full-sized images from this gallery.

Here are pictures of each banner from a couple of days ago (below). I am now working on the lower part of both banners, including most of the waterfall. This section will go lots faster as there is much less detail involved. Then I will scroll back up to these top sections to finish some detail and connect the upper and lower parts after the water is finished. Stay tuned! I’ll post pictures in the next couple of days for you to see.

Oak Forest


Birch Forest



Kennewick Christmas Addendum

Kennewick Christmas

Christmas Manger alter parament, silk dye on silk, 33″ x 22.

Now  all the pieces in the 13-piece set Kennewick Christmas are finished. It took me a lot longer to sew each piece, some by hand, than I thought it would!

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Syrian refugees as paint this set, and how, to a refugee in a stranger’s land, any space that is warm and dry can seem fit for a king. Even a manger meant for a place to hold food for farm animals is desirable if it’s the best place available. And that was the best place Mary could find to set her King of Kings, the baby Jesus, the night he was born. 

Joseph and Mary must have been worried, anxious, tired and dirty from their travels and from the emotionally exhausting process of bringing a baby into the world. Yet I’ve depicted them both as shining with halos, basking in the sacred Light of God.

Kennewick Christmas

I Iwonder if you and I can see the sacred Light of God reflected from the homeless strangers we encounter in our daily lives today?

It was fun to work with the idea of light shining onto the manger, and illuminating the straw. And to carry the theme of sacred golden light throughout the banners and paraments. And  to depict the Light of God shining on all of us through the halos on the stoles.

I thought I’d get a few pictures of how the stoles look when worn. Unfortunately the only model available was me. So here they are:


Kennewick Christmas Deacon’s stole


Kennewick Christmas Pastor’s stole


Kennewick Christmas

Kennewick Christmas Scapular










Kennewick Christmas

Getting Ready for Christmas


I’ve been working on a commission for  Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Kennewick WA. It is a set of banners, paraments and stoles to celebrate the Christmas Season. The colors of the season are gold and white…I chose to use varying golds from darker to almost white, to represent light streaming down from the Star of David onto the Christ Child, Mary and Joseph.

Here you will see pictures of the finished paintings on silk. The fabric to decorate the font and the lectern have not been cut and hemmed yet, but they’re on their way.

First the stoles:


Pastor’s Stole


Deacon’s Stole







Detail of Scapular

Following are two wall banners, to be placed at either side of the altar:

Kennewick-Christmas--6    Kennewick-Christmas--7

And two longer narrow banners to hang from the rafters, symbolizing the light of God within the sanctuary:

Kennewick-Christmas--10       Kennewick-Christmas--11


Material for the Lectern parament and Baptismal Font paraments, yet to be cut and hemmed:




The focal piece of the whole set is a simple manger upon which the golden Light of God is shining. I am unhappy with how this painting turned out and am in the process of re-painting it. I will add it to this post when it is finished.

Here are some other photos to give you a sense of the set and of them being created in my studio.



I am grateful and honored to have been asked to design and make these banners, paraments and stoles for Lord of Life. Thank you so much for the opportunity. I will do more writing on this post when I am finished with the whole project, so stay tuned until I finish all the sewing involved!



Color in the Wild Silk Painting Workshop at Grunewald Guild




Last Sunday I returned from teaching a week long silk painting workshop at the Grunewald Guild, August 3-9 2015.  We had a wonderful week with 11 students, many of those returning students and a few brand new silk painters. We all learned from each other, pushed our own boundaries, made wonderful friends, enjoyed someone else cooking for us, and saturated ourselves with color.

student Becky with wings

2015 silk group portrait

Our class, entitled Color in the Wild, focused on seeing color combinations that nature provides and learning about these combinations with the help of a color wheel. We talked about complementary, split complimentary, and triadic color schemes, use of neutrals, and dominance, to name a few color thinking structures.


Triadic color combos from nature

Each student was asked to choose a primary triadic “pallet” from colors they saw in nature, and reproduce it with the dyes we had available on the above grid.

You will see from the photos below how diverse each person’s work was. Whether a newby or a seasoned silk painter, I was very proud of the depth of challenge each person took on.


Lynn, a seasoned silk painter, pushes her limits.

Here are some pictures of the work we did last week. Be patient; it’s a slide show with 6 seconds in between pictures.



And here we are below, all working in the Fiber Arts Building.

One more tidbit for you: A short video that Susi Franco made for our class

We missed you Janell!!! , and all those unable to come. Hopefully you will be with us next year.

Thanks for a wonderful week everyone. Kristen

Kristen in the Guild Garden

Instructor Kristen Gilje collecting items for color theory lesson