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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kennewick Christmas

Getting Ready for Christmas

Kennewick-Christmas--8

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:

Kennewick-Christmas-
Pastor’s Stole
Kennewick-Christmas--2
Deacon’s Stole

 

 

Kennewick-Christmas--3
Scapular

 

Kennewick-Christmas--4
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:

Kennewick-Christmas--12

 

Kennewick-Christmas--13

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.

Kennewick-Christmas--14

Kennewick-Christmas--15

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!

Kennewick-Christmas--17

 

Color in the Wild Silk Painting Workshop at Grunewald Guild

 

square-pic-color-chart

 

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.

2015-silk-painting-Guild-2
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-painting-mountains
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

 

 

Deacon’s Stole for Janet

© Kristen Gilje 2015 St. Marks Red Deacon's Stole
St. Marks Red Deacon’s Stole
© Kristen Gilje 2015

 

St. Mark’s Lutheran Church by the Narrows (Tacoma, WA) has lots of beautiful art in its sanctuary, including some great stained glass windows. My friend Janet pointed out her favorite part of the glass, a symbol of a dove. She asked me if I could make her a Deacon’s stole with this design on it, transposing the blues to red instead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stained glass at St. Marks by the Narrows, Tacoma, WA Det.
Stained glass at St. Marks by the Narrows, Tacoma, WA Det.

 

Transposing the colors from blue to red, in watercolor
Transposing the colors from blue to red, in watercolor

To the left is a photo of the stained glass, which is about 12 feet high, and on the right is my watercolor rendition of the design in reds. I chose to add some purples and spring greens for spark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Janet's St. Mark's Deacon Stole
Janet’s St. Mark’s Deacon Stole

 

Janet's St. Mark's Dove stole modeled by a Bellingham friend.
Janet’s St. Mark’s Dove stole modeled by a Bellingham friend.

 

 

The next step was to use my red interpretation on a deacon’s stole pattern that I designed several years ago. I found two  asymmetrical black buttons in a fancy knitting store to help strengthen the joint between the two sides.   Can you see them?

 

I like how the blues and greens and dark black-reds add just enough contrast to the overall red.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Janet’s stole modeled by a friend here in Bellingham, showing the side view. Thanks Sharry!

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.