Just finished: an altar parament to add to the Easter Glory banners for Lord of Life Lutheran Church, Kennewick WA. I expanded and modified the medallion imagery in the Easter Glory banners (see previous post!) to make a sunburst. Yes, it could also be a flower! My intention is to capture the sacred, hope-filled and life-giving nature of both flower and sun. Silk dye on silk, 33″x22.5″, part of “Easter Glory” collection.
I so enjoyed painting this set of banners for Easter Lutheran Church in Eagan, MN.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
This large 3-panel banner which I call a silk mural, was hung this winter, and really makes a presence as you walk into the sanctuary. It is 36 feet long and 8 feet wide. My task was to design “an abstract waterfall”, leaving room for interpretation.
The wall behind and around this silk mural was painted a medium dark brown to echo some of the rock colors, and to help enhance their videos. Apparently darker colors are better than light ones for this.
This church pushed me in a very positive way, from my comfort level of more representational art to more abstract work. I chose a very limited pallet of blues, with a bit of the complementary dark orange/browns, used value (lights and darks) to drive the design, and really let the silk dye do the work itself instead of controlling it with a lot of detail.
Originally the mural was designed so the cross would hang two-thirds of the way up the banner. This would be on the lower part of the dark stream coming down from the top, and above the white waterfall streams that are hitting the rocks. I hope someday they will do this, but we’ll see. When an artist makes a piece it’s a bit like bringing a child into the world: you have to let go when they leave home.
If you would like to follow the process of designing and making this project, scroll down to see 4 or 5 earlier posts about Zion’s Waterfall. You can see the project morphed quite a bit, before we settled on a final design.
Here are the results of the layered wax resist technique from the previous post, with all the wax burnt off, the silk washed and hemmed. The result is lots of rich texture and motion behind crisp beautiful lettering by calligrapher Laura Norton.
I’m anxious to receive pictures of the banners hanging in the sanctuary of St. Ignatius, Portland, OR and will post them for you when they come. In the meantime, enjoy all the blossoming plants and the great sunshine!
Rich textures can be made using one dye, wax, salt and 4 layers.
This is a project I’m working on currently for a catholic church in Portland, OR. First I contacted a good friend who collaborates with me on lettering. She is a wonderful calligrapher. You can reach Laura Norton at [email protected]
When she finishes the lettering I can start my watercolor sketch of the proposed design.
When the design is accepted, I make a copy of the sketch on newsprint the same size as the banner-to-be, in this case 13 feet by 30 inches. I make my lines with magic marker so the lines are dark. I place this pattern under the stretched silk, and can see the lines right through the silk. Next I apply a resist called “gutta” around the edges of the lettering, as seen through the silk. This establishes the lettering on the silk. When I apply the wax inside these gutta lines the gutta helps guide where the wax will go. Waxing the lettering means that the white silk is protected, as my first layer, and that the lettering will be white.
Below you can see that I have applied gold dye to the silk, and the wax has protected the lettering. However, I don’t want the lettering to be completely white. So I detach the silk from the frame just enough to get a handful of the silk. I am scrunching the wax to produce a crackle in the wax. The next layer of dye will enter these crackles and make a crackle design on the lettering. This is called “faux-batik”.
After scrunching the wax I apply some more wax with a sponge brush in sweeping streaks, but not too many as I want to add more streaks with each layer. Immediately I add a second layer of dye, and sprinkle salt on the wet dye. The salt melts and pushes the dye away, making a rain or snow like texture, similar to adding salt to watercolor. You can see the wet dye with the salt below. I also cover the cracked wax lettering with dye and a small bit seeps through.
Above you can see I also splattered wax randomly to add even more texture. And below you can see the result of the third and fourth layers of wax and dye, much more complicated. My goal is for a joyful motion to go with a sunny, warm rich color.
Now the painting and wax application are finished and need to be “fixed”. I roll both banners in layers of brown paper and newsprint and steam them. In the steaming process most of the wax melts off and is soaked into the newsprint, and the moist heat chemically bonds the dye into the silk fibers permanently.When the banners are unrolled the layers of dye will be revealed, the first layers being lightest and the 4th layer a deep gold.
Finally I will take these to the dry cleaner to remove any wax and dye residue, and the silk will regain its luxurious “hand” again, after being all stiff with foreign material.
New silk banner for St. Mark’s Lutheran Church by the Narrows, Tacoma, WA
This is the third year in a row St. Marks has commissioned me to make a banner supporting their annual theme. This year’s theme, “Who is My Neighbor,” I’m particularly happy to be supporting.
My assignment was to take inspiration from these places:
The hymn “Jesu, Jesu, Fill Us with Your Love”
ingoring the traditional boundaries that keep people apart
Dan Erlander’s drawings from his book “Manna and Mercy”
He Qi’s painting “Peace Be Still”
My calligrapher friend Laura Norton designed the lettering. She always does a beautiful job. [email protected]
The design for this piece came very quickly, it was the first sketch I made. . I was indeed inspired by the simplicity of Dan Erlander’s paintings, and even more so from He Qi’s art, where color and shapes are strong and flat.
I actually “quoted” some passages from He Qi’s figures, (like I did from Picasso in the painting “Abu Graib and the Twin Towers: A Lesson from Picasso” see image below) Because I was playing with He Qi’s style, I made a note of that right on the piece. I gave credit to him on the banner, writing in the signature area “In the style of He Qi”. That’s the turquoise bar on the bottom left side of the banner above.
It’s interesting learning from other artists this way. I went to Picasso when I was trying to do a painting about war, torture and other atrocities of Abu Graib. You can see easy references to Picasso’s “Guernica” here, all through my piece.
So I gave credit to Picasso in my title, which then has a double meaning. Picasso instructed me in art, and he instructs us all in the terror of war.
He Qi, thanks for teaching me about the power of simple flat forms and color to tell a powerful story.
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries director Amalia Vagts commissioned a set of banners that can travel to different congregations. ELM has developed a logo for their organization and a logo for a program contained within ELM, called “Proclaim”. My job was to combine those two logos into one design for one banner, and to create a second companion banner out of the “ELM” logo alone.
Here are the two logos I combined:
On the left is how I chose to combine the two logos into one:
and here on the right is the companion banner.During the designing process Amalia and I were in contact so I could have her input and feedback, and incorporate any changes required.
Once we agreed upon the design the next step was to transfer it to the silk. Instead of drawing on the silk I drew the design on a large piece of paper the same size the banner was to be. I did this our the attic, which is my future studio!
As I write this my husband Kristofer is framing in skylights and a picture window (facing north) and getting ready to insulate the attic space. This will make a wonderful studio, and it’s hard to keep from moving in before it’s finished!
After drawing the design as big as the banner I stretched silk onto a wooden frame, then put the drawing under the silk. I could see the lines of the design through the silk, and copied these lines onto the silk with a resist.
Now it’s time to put some color on the banner! I usually start with the lightest colors first, then move to the darker ones. The biggest challenge with this painting was to keep any dye out of the area to remain white.
And the following picture is of the completed painting. Next: the silk painting must be steamed to set the dye, and then I’ll cut the bottom to create and inverted arch shape. The last step is to hem the banner and add a sleeve at the top. There’s quite a lot of work to do after all the painting is completed, but at least you can see what the banner is becoming.
Below you will see that the wax is still on the lettering. The wax will burn off in the steaming process, and will look much whiter. I’ve cracked the wax in the lettering to let some of the blue dye into the letters. This is similar to a batik effect, and ties the lettering visually into the piece. Otherwise the lettering looks like it’s not truly a part of the piece.
After I remove this one from its wooden frame to go into the steamer I’ll stretch a fresh sheet of silk over it to start the companion ELM banner. I’ll post that one for you to see when it’s ready.