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.

 

 

Finished Easter Banners for St. Ignatius

Results of Layered Wax Resist Technique

©2013 Kristen GiljeSt. Ignatius Alleluia Det.
©2013 Kristen Gilje Detail, St. Ignatius Alleluia, silk dye on silk, 13 feet by 30 inches, calligraphy designed by Laura Norton.

 

©2013 Kristen Gilje, St. Ignatius Alleluia, silk dye on silk, 13 feet by 30 inches
©2013 Kristen Gilje, St. Ignatius Alleluia, silk dye on silk, 13 feet by 30 inches, lettering designed by Laura Norton.

Happy Easter everyone!

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.

©2013 Kristen Gilje, St. Ignatius Alleluia, silk dye on silk, 13 feet by 30 inches, calligraphy designed by Laura Norton.
©2013 Kristen Gilje, St. Ignatius Christ is Risen, silk dye on silk, 13 feet by 30 inches, calligraphy designed by 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!

 

 

Wax Layering Technique in Silk Painting

Rich textures can be made using one dye, wax, salt and 4 layers.

allelu-ign

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.

alleluia-watercolor-sketch
Watercolor sketch of proposed design, with calligrapher’s lettering copied to paper.

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.

alleluia-wax-letters
Kristen applying wax to the lettering.

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”.

alleluia-scrunch-wax-2
Crackling the wax by scrunching it.

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.

second
Second layer of wax and dye, with salt.

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.

alleluia-ign-a
4th layer of wax, salt and dye.

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.

christ-is

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.

is-risen