Steam Setting a Silk Painting

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Using stovepipe and propane burners to steam-set silk dyes

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Once the silk dye has been applied to the silk, the dyes need to be steam-set to bond permanently with the fabric. Before steaming water can wash most of the dye from the silk, but after steaming water will not hurt the silk painting. The painting becomes permanent. (Except for direct sunlight! In direct sunlight the silk painting will fade. Indirect sunlight is fine.)

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Here you can see the set-up I use to steam my silk. I am steaming “Zion’s Waterfall”, which consists of three silk panels: two are 37 feet by 28 inches, and one is 37 feet by 52 inches.  The widest panel is being steamed in the tallest stovepipe, and one of the narrower panels is in the shorter stovepipe.

You can see the silk painting in different stages in earlier posts by clicking on the following:

River Theme for a Northwest Church, which shows the first attempts at a waterfall design, too realistic for the client; Waterfall Update, showing watercolor sketch of a more abstract design; next is Preparing for a Large Project on choosing colors, making the frames, and practicing; and Zion’s Waterfall 3/4 Done where you can see the 37 feet of painted silk rolled out on a big floor to see how it looks so far.

To steam the silk it is first  rolled up in newsprint and brown wrapping paper, making sure there is room on the top of the roll to drill a hole through the top inch. I stick this paper/silk roll inside the stovepipe, then thread a wire through holes in the top of the stovepipe and the drilled hole through the paper roll. Now the stovepipe can be upended, with the paper roll hanging from the wire inside the stovepipe.

Next I stick the whole affair into a hotel-sized pot on a propane burner, fill the pot with water, seal the space between pot and pipe with aluminum foil crimped under the rim of the pot and taped with masking tape to the pipe, so there are no holes for steam to escape. I light the burner, and let the water boil and make steam for 3-5 hours, depending on how thick my roll is. Oh yes, the lid on top of the pipe is 1-2 inches of New York Times papers, procured from local co-op’s recycle bin, secured with masking tape to the top of stovepipe. Somehow it all works! I can tell if the steaming is successful in two ways: that the colors are more intense than before steaming, and when hand-washing (next step after steaming) that clouds of excess dye do not wash out of the silk, but just a little bit of dye that is not bonded to the silk.

If you want to do this process yourself there are more details to know for success. For now I can suggest Susan Louise Moyer’s book “Silk Painting” where you will find complete directions. I’ll write complete instructions later this summer for those interested.

A Challanging Color Scheme

©2013 Kristen Gilje, Silk dye on silk, 6'6" X 4'6" for Artman Home, Ambler, PA

New Banner for PA Senior Home

The chapel at Artman Senior Home has a bright burgandy carpet and white walls.  The paraments that decorate the alter are changed seasonally, with a different color for each season. When I looked at pictures of the chapel with the old banner in place it seemed we could do more to integrate the seasonal colors of red, purple, blue, green, white and gold into the space by designing with a new color scheme to incorporate each seasonal color in a better way than before.

©2013 Kristen Gilje, Silk dye on silk, 6'6" X 4'6" for Artman Home, Ambler, PA
©2013 Kristen Gilje, Rejoice in the Lord, silk dye on silk, 6’6″ X 4’6″ for Artman Home, Ambler, PA

The chapel at Artman Senior Home has a bright burgandy carpet and white walls.  The paraments that decorate the alter are changed seasonally, with a different color for each season. When I looked at pictures of the chapel with the old banner in place it seemed we could do more to integrate the seasonal colors of red, purple, blue, green, white and gold into the space by designing with a new color scheme to incorporate each seasonal color in a better way.

rejoice-old-banner
Artman Chapel with old banner

I purposely put all the traditional seasonal colors of the Christian church into this design, so that in any season the paraments would find an echo in the banner. Look closely and you will see that green, blue,  purple, red, white, and gold are all included in this painting. And of course we could not forget the burgandy of the carpet!

©2013 Kristen Gilje, Rejoice in the Lord, Silk dye on silk, 6'6
©2013 Kristen Gilje, Rejoice in the Lord, Silk dye on silk, 6’6

It took me quite a while to figure out how to do this. But I remembered a design I made for a stained glass window, installed in North Seattle, that I had always wanted to re-do in silk. It had a yellow-green base color. Yellow-green is the complementary color to magenta (close to the burgandy color) so I chose to go with that same color scheme: Yellow-green, magenta, gold. and I threw in some  cerulean blue for good measure. I think it worked!

Of course I have to give credit to friend and calligrapher Laura Norton,  Bellingham WA, for designing the beautiful lettering that I painted on the silk. You can reach her at [email protected]

 

 

 

 

 

Solo Show at Brandywine

I am showing my “Butterfly Collection”through July and August 2013, at Brandywine Kitchen, 1317 Commercial Street, Bellingham, WA Come and see for yourself! It’s a wonderful sunny place to enjoy a gourmet sandwich or nice locally-sourced dinner, and to see some of my silk paintings.

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Kristen Gilje showing her work at the Brandywine Kitchen, Bellingham, WA.

Local  butterflies are inspiration for these paintings. I love how the geometry of their wing design is echoed in the circular patterns of labyrinths and Celtic knots.I started this series of silk paintings after taking a field class in butterflies with famous Northwest butterfly expert Bob Pyle at North Cascades Institute, near Newhalem, WA.

 

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New way of displaying my silk paintings, letting the silk fabric move.

I made three new paintings for this show, and am displaying them in a new fashion. Instead of stretching the finished silk paintings over stretcher bars, like  a canvas is stretched over a frame, I hung the paintings from a rod at the top, and one at the bottom. This enables the silk fabric to move, which is a quality I really enjoy.

© 2013 Kristen Gilje,
©2013 Kristen Gilje, “Caterpillar Patterns,” 30 x 33″. hand painted silk.

 

©2013 Kristen Gilje, California Sister and Friends 2, 35 x 26
©2013 Kristen Gilje, California Sister and Friends 2, 35 x 26, hand painted silk.

 

© 2013 Kristen Gilje,
©2013 Kristen Gilje, “Buckeye and Melissa’s Blue”, 35 x 26, hand painted silk.

Besides the silk paintings I brought a pair of framed pen and ink drawings, a framed watercolor, both with the butterfly theme, and my silk painting “Gratitude Bouquet.” All artwork in the show is for sale. You can contact me at [email protected], or purchase from the Brandywine in person.

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Set of two pen and ink framed drawings, one framed watercolor, and silkk painting “Gratitude Bouquet” at the Brandywine.

 

Brandywine Kitchen’, 1317 Commercial Street, Bellingham, WA 98225

 

 

 

Zion’s Waterfall 3/4 done

Unrolling the Silk to See the Whole Painting

Working on a project that is 36 feet long when you only see 9 feet at a time can be tricky. I’m working on 3 wooden frames that have rollers on each end, so when I’m done with the first 9 feet I roll the fabric down to the next 9 feet.

©2013 Gilje "Zion's Waterfall" det. 3/4 finished
©2013 Gilje “Zion’s Waterfall” detail, 3/4 finished

Today I got a chance to roll it all out, all three panels side by side, on a big floor at a school so I can see it all at once. This is the only way to check on how it’s going and what changes still need to be made.

Zion's Waterfall Right side up
Zion’s Waterfall, 36 feet x 8 feet, silk dye on silk, 3/4 finished

It’s hard to get a good picture of something so large. In both of these pictures you can see that the perspective is foreshortened, so it is hard to see the whole thing properly. Even when the panels are hanging vertically on the wall where they belong it will be challenging to get a good photo.  Guess you will just have to see it in person!

©2013 Gilje "Zion's Waterfall" det. 3/4 finished
Upside down “Zion’s Waterfall, 36 feet by 8 feet, silk dye on silk, 3/4 finished.

See how different it looks upside down? The white area will be the very top of the painting. The piano is at the bottom of the piece.

In the next picture you see the very top of the piece, and I’ve selected some shots that take you down the whole length, so as you scroll down you can see some more of the detail. Remember that it’s not finished yet…this view of the whole  has left me with a list of things to take care of.

©2013 Gilje "Zion's Waterfall" det. 3/4 finished
Top of painting

 

©2013 Gilje "Zion's Waterfall" det. 3/4 finished

The area in the picture below is where I will be doing the most touch-up work, as far as fixing things go. This area needs some simplification and unification. I have a plan (check back to see how I do this).

xzions-waterfall-3-4-finished

Below you can see that the rocks, and the waterfall below the rocks, are the least developed of the project, since I am working from the top down.

©2013 Gilje "Zion's Waterfall" det. 3/4 finished

Can you see that the colors and textures are not as rich in the lower areas? It’s amazing what just one more layer of dye will do, to add variation and saturation. The rocks will be darker in value, maybe as dark as black, but I want to keep some of the color variation in these rock shapes.

©2013 Gilje "Zion's Waterfall" det. 3/4 finished

©2013 Gilje "Zion's Waterfall" det. 3/4 finished
Detail, Zion’s River

And the water in the lower waterfalls will be rich too, with more interesting lines and textures, sort of like what you see below.

I really like making good use of what the dyes can do. It’s a matter of knowing your materials very well, and what happens to them in different circumstances. I’ve used layered dyes to make interesting  lines, painted with water to push the paint around, used a watercolor technique of transparency, and blended colors to make soft edges. I’ve used some gutta resist for sharp edges and keeping one section of dye from another, lots of salt, and lots of prayer.

And finally, here I am in my studio-to-be, with the silk on the frames.   Now that all the silk is covered at least once the major decisions are done and the great share of the work is over. Now comes the very most important part of the painting: Tuning it up to make it just right.

Kristen in studio with Waterfall