Category Archives: Silk Banners

Silk Banners are large pieces meant to adorn large open spaces, like those found in churches or interior public spaces. They usually help convey a chosen theme.

“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

Oak-Forest-Detail

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:

Deacon's-stole2

Kennewick Christmas Deacon’s stole

Pastor's-stole2

Kennewick Christmas Pastor’s stole

 

Kennewick Christmas

Kennewick Christmas Scapular

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rooted and Grounded in Love

A Meditation on Ephesians 3

©2014 Kristen Gilje

©2014 Kristen Gilje, commissioned by St. Marks by the Narrows, Tacoma, WA

The Ephesian 3 text was chosen by St. Marks Lutheran Church by the Narrows, Tacoma WA for their 60th anniversary. This letter from Paul talks in part about the cosmic nature of God and paradoxically how God is also present with us in our earth-bound existence.

I chose a tree to represent the union of the vast, cosmic nature of God and the earthly nature of our local lives in community.   This tree is a version of the tree of life, an archetype that spreads throughout human culture. A tree reaches towards the sky and onwards towards the planets, while being rooted firmly in the ground. It is a reminder that we are indeed connected to the world and universe outside our daily and earthly routines, even though we often forget. Here it represents both the wood of the cross alive, and Christ as connecter of heaven to earth.

In my first sketch for  this design I made the tree stretch tall and strong, up to the planets. And I made a tap root that stretched down, down, deep within the earth and anchored by subterranean rocks. I sent this design off to the commissioning pastor, who wrote back asking me to please put a few more trees in the composition.

This pastor grew up on the coast. He knew that trees growing on the western coast of North America don’t have deep roots; they have shallow roots. And they grow in groves. The shallow roots of the trees intertwine with one another to support each other. A shallow-rooted tree growing alone would get toppled by coastal winter storms, but a grove of trees with an intertwining root mass can withstand all nature can throw at them.

So I put some more trees in, made the roots more horizontal and intertwining.

The houses under the central tree represent our human community, specifically the community of this particular congregation. Our relationships are like roots that reach out to one another in community, and hopefully out even further  to support those considered outside of our community, to support them too.

Kristen Gilje, Rooted and Grounded in Love Det.

And finally, the vast quantities of water that make the Northwest so great in this piece also represent the water of life in Rev. 22, flowing from the throne of God,  nurturing the tree of life which bears good fruit for all. My prayer is that this same Spirit of God, present in, with and through all things will nurture our communities with all its relationships, humankind and other, so that we bear good fruit for the sake of all humanity and all the earth.

 

 

Breaking Wave as Baptismal Image

Commission for a Seaside Church

©2014 Kristen Gilje Breaking Wave

©2014 Kristen Gilje Breaking Wave, 8 feet by 55 inches, silk dye on silk.

I painted this 8 foot by 54 inch banner, for a church in Manasquan NJ,  immediately after finishing “Zion’s Waterfall.” I had enjoyed being very loose with the dyes, letting them mix and make textures without much control at all, using hardly any resist. In “Breaking Wave” I wanted to preserve the free and uncontrolled feeling with a different technique: painting with wax. This involved using the resist, which usually I use to control the dye, in a free and easy way. I bought 5 different sizes and shapes of brushes to make varying textures and painterly wax marks on the silk.

The process was similar to making a layered print. The very first wax marks preserved the white of the silk, only where I wanted highlights. Next I put a light layer of blues over the whole piece. After that dried, I put another layer of wax only where I wanted this light blue preserved….then a darker blue, and more wax, until I had all the color values I wanted on the finished piece, from lightest to darkest.

The original idea for this piece came from the pastor who commissioned it. Her congregation had been devastated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and her idea was to  make a Hurricane Sandy Baptismal Banner. The idea was an intriguing challenge. I love to connect natural images with sacred rite and ritual. After researching photos of the devastation on the web, I came up with the following image. However, I could not find any hope in the subject at all, no sense of the holy.

©2014 Kristen GiljeHurricane Sandy

©2014 Kristen Gilje Sketch for Hurricane Sandy Baptismal Banner

Even though this piece was more about the destructive forces of nature than the transforming sacred power of baptism, the commissioning pastor liked it.  I also had gotten quite attached to the idea of making this piece, not because it represented baptism, but instead the awesome and fierce power of nature, and the challenge of making it. NOT the intended goal…

The idea was to somehow lift the tragedy of Hurricane Sandy into the hands of God, recognizing the sacred water of baptism even in the terrifying walls of water in the storm. This was definitely too fresh a catastrophe for the idea to work. And the image represents “My God, why have you forsaken us?” better than baptism.  We realized that this image was not what her people needed, and changed course.

 Challenging art needs to be appropriate for the congregation it serves, and needs especially a person to facilitate discussion around the art, to lead people into challenging ideas with purpose. The purpose is not the art, but the idea.  And the idea must be carefully chosen. The art is a tool for thinking about the challenging idea.

The pastor knows their congregation and what they need the most, and how great or small a challenge they need, and most importantly what they need challenging on.

 We turned instead to an image more familiar and less challenging but still powerful: A wave breaking over rocks. I could indeed find the Holy here in the awesome power of water to transform even a rock, but also to nurture life and bring joy. It is a good image of the transforming power of baptism.

Here are pictures of my own exploration of a wave….first on newsprint 9 feet by 55 inches just learning shapes and values.

2014 Kristen Gilje

next a “map” simplified version, Still got carried away by the detail. I put this one under the silk to help me place the dye and wax.

2014 Kristen Gilje

This wax process was new for me…it was fun to have the WAX make the mark, rather than the dye.

My driving emotion for this piece is awe of the sacred in nature, despair in its failure, and hope/faith for change.This is now in a New Jersey church, as a symbol of the transformative power of the waters of baptism.

 

 

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

A Challanging Color Scheme

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]

 

 

 

 

 

Unveiling at St. Marks by the Narrows

The banner “Who Is My Neighbor?,”  commissioned by St. Marks Lutheran Church by the Narrows in Tacoma WA, was unveiled this Sunday. Pastor Jan Ruud wove the theme of the banner into his sermon. I wish I could have been there.

Kristen Gilje's "Who Is My Neighbor?" with pastor Jan Ruud, St. Mark's Tacoma WA

Kristen Gilje’s “Who Is My Neighbor?” with pastor Jan Ruud, St. Mark’s Tacoma WA