Designing a Silk Banner from Two Logos: Proclaim ELM

Kristen Gilje working on Proclaim ELM detail

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.

Kristen Gilje working on Proclaim ELM detail
Kristen Gilje working on Proclaim ELM detail

Here are the two logos I combined:


ELM logo
ELM logo
Proclaim Logo
Proclaim Logo







On the left  is how I chose to combine the two logos into one:

Proclaim ELM watercolor sketch
Proclaim ELM watercolor sketch
ELM watercolor sketch
ELM watercolor sketch

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!

Kristen Gilje drawing Proclaim ELM design
Kristen drawing Proclaim ELM design in her studio-to-be

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.

Kristen Gilje applying wax to lettering
Kristen applying wax to lettering after lines of design are transferred, working in the dining room of our old house (that’s another story)

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.

Kristen Gilje Proclaim ELM in progress
Starting to paint the image

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.

©2012 Kristen Gilje, Proclaim ELM, handpainted silk 96"x45"
©2012 Kristen Gilje, Proclaim ELM, handpainted silk 96″x45″

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.

Manasquan, NJ banner finished

©Kristen Gilje "Servants' Entrance" hand painted silk, 28x94 inches.

Here’s a new banner to hang over the sanctuary exit of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Manasquan NJ.

©Kristen Gilje "Servants' Entrance" hand painted silk, 28x94 inches.
©2012 Kristen Gilje “Servants’ Entrance” 28×94 inches, hand painted silk.

The symbol is of a butterfly, resurrected from the dark of the cocoon into a thing of great beauty. Maybe the sanctuary is like a cocoon, resurrecting us into things of beauty, ready to be servants in the world.

Philadelphia Red Banners Finished

Kristen Gilje, Philadelphia Seasonal Banners, Red

Commissioned by Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia’s senior class of 2012, these red banners will complement and add to the set commissioned last year.  I just got back from photographing them, in the same place as last year, an office building with lots of tall open spaces with convenient balconies. In my photos the colors never come out exactly like the real colors of the silk, but this gives a fair idea. I see the colors as less orangey, a deeper scarlet, and more nuanced. You’ll just have to wait and see them yourselves!

Kristen Gilje, Philadelphia Seasonal Banners, Red
Red Philadelphia Seasonal Banners



New Red Banners for Schaeffer-Ashmead Chapel


Painting in the living room

I’m honored to be making another set of banners for Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia this year. The graduating class of 2012, LTSP, has chosen to commission a pair of banners to continue the set ordered last year by the class of 2011.

Last year’s banners were also in pairs: Green, purple, and gold/white. You can see two of them in the picture below.

Two of 3 pairs of banners from last year’s gift hanging in Schaeffer-Ashmead Chapel at LTSP

Here’s a peek into the process:

 I start with white silk pinned to a wooden frame the size of the banner, which my husband has made.  This frame is 16 feet long and 45 inches wide. We set it up in the living room and adjacent shop area, after moving all the furniture away.

First I experiment with the colors I’d like to use, see how they mix together. Then I mix up a batch big enough to cover all the silk.

I use techniques similar to watercolor painting when I do these nice loose silk paintings. The silk is made damp first, so that the dyes will move and blend into each other softly. Then I apply the dye with sponge brushes.  

LTSP Red Banner in Progress
Detail First Red Banner: this process is very much like watercolor, only on a large scale
Dry silk banner ready to be rolled in paper

After the silk is completely dry, usually over night, I remove it from the frame, lay it over newsprint paper, and roll it up in the paper.

Here you can see the whole first red banner, with paper underneath, extending from the living room into our shop.

Next I roll the silk and paper up together, drill a hole into the top of the roll (avoiding the silk of course), and stick it into a piece of stove pipe.



Steamer for “fixing’ the dyes

The silk roll then hangs vertically down in the center of the stove pipe. I top the pipe off with newspaper and a towel as a lid.

I carry the stove pipe outside and put it into a big pot full of water, with a propane burner underneath. After sealing the pot to the stove pipe with aluminum foil and masking tape I light the fire. The water boils, making steam. The moist heat chemically bonds the dyes to the silk.

The silk steams for 4 hours. After letting it cool for a while I bring the pipe back into the house and unroll the silk. Usually the colors are brighter after they are steamed, so it’s always a pleasure to see what’s inside. Very much like opening a potter’s kiln, to see what the new pots look like!

For these banners, I cut the bottoms into an inverted arch, to match the arches in their new home. Then  the hems are hand-stitched, so I can control the tension of the thread. This way they hang better.

All that’s left now is to finish the hemming, pack them into cardboard tubes, and send them off!


St. Marks by the Narrows, Tacoma WA

St. Marks Lutheran has a new theme every year, and the past two years they have commissioned silk banners to depict those themes. For 2011 the theme was “Come to Us Creative Spirit.”

2011 St. Marks Lutheran Tacoma
©2011 Kristen Gilje “Come to Us Creative Spirit,” 6 feet by 45 inches, hand-painted silk. 

This year’s theme  was ” Listen, God is Calling”, and they commissioned another silk piece.

“Listen” in St Marks by the Narrows Lutheran Church

Here’s a close-up of just the painting:

Finished Banner for St. Marks by the Narrows, Tacoma, WA
©2012 Kristen Gilje “Listen God is Calling,” 6 feet by 45 inches, hand-painted silk. 


I was pleased to hear that the pastor referred to the silk painting in each of the sermons the following two Sundays after it was hung. I wonder what he said?