Waterfall Update: River Theme for a Northwest Church

A few weeks ago I introduced you to a current project and promised to keep you in the loop as it develops (see earlier post).  The theme for this project is a vision from Ezekiel 47 (and repeated in Revelation 22), of the river of the water of life, flowing from the throne of God, bringing healing, wholeness and life to all. We are starting with a 30 foot long painting of a waterfall.

©2013 Kristen Gilje Zion's Waterfall small sketch for silk painting 30 feet by 8 feetThis is a congregation of immersion baptism, and a baptismal pool will be behind this waterfall. !!!  For a baptism, the lower 12 feet of the banner will be drawn to each side, like curtains, to expose the pool and the drama of the baptism.

I like how the vertical water, flowing from the throne of God, is powerful and mysterious. This congregation has pushed me into a more abstract interpretation of “waterfall”…my painting tends towards realism when I work with landscape. As you can see below and to the right, which is my first attempt at the design.

©2013 Kristen Gilje, Zion's Waterfall wc sketch

When I brought this first and more realistic design into the sanctuary and we imagined it 30 feet tall it became readily apparent that the image would be overpowering. It’s a nice little sketch, but that white cone of a waterfall is just too strong, and too literal. “No scope for the imagination” as Ann of Green Gables would say. Just like a good poem, you don’t want to say it all, but instead leave room for the text to work, for instance, or the Spirit.

My clients, a pastor and a worship leader, asked for more abstraction, so I went home and tried my hand at it. I actually did about 6 of these, trying to make it work. But they all ended up pretty wimpy looking.

©2013 Kristen Gilje River Banners WC sketch
Sound panel sketch, 3rd down from the top in the waterfall. Can you find it there?

In the end, not happy with any of the second batch, I went back to a sketch originally for the 26 sound panels that are to be covered with silk also (more on this later). I put those together and turned them vertically.  It worked! Powerful, majestic and magical, in my humble estimation.

This original design simply “came” to me, for the sound panels. If you look back at the first picture, you can see the waterfall is made up of several horizontal pieces of paper. The one shown to the left here is the 3rd panel from the top, in the waterfall. Can you find it? Each of these pieces is to potentially be a covering for the 26 sound panels, 8′ x 4′ each, that surround the walls of the sanctuary. We shall see if the project continues into this chapter. For now, it’s enough to make this big waterfall!

In the next days I’ll post pictures of what it looks like in my studio when I actually  start making these. As you can see, there’s a lot of planning that goes into the design process. It’s actually the hardest, and most important, step of the whole process.

Here’s the Ezekiel 47 text:

“Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. 2 Then he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and behold, the water was trickling out on the south side.


3 Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits,[a] and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep. 4 Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep. 5 Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through. 6 And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?”


Then he led me back to the bank of the river. 7 As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. 8 And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea;[b] when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh.[c] 9 And wherever the river goes,[d] every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea[e] may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. 10 Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea.[f] 11 But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. 12 And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”

Isn’t that an awesome picture of the church?  That the Spirit and Word of the Lord flows from the throne and gets deeper, providing sustenance and healing to all! ”



Solo Show: Butterfly Collection” at the Brandywine Kitchen

I’m preparing my “Butterfly Collection” body of work, all silk dye on silk, for a solo show July 1 through August 31, 2013 at Brandywine Kitchen, 1317 Commercial St., Bellingham WA . Here’s a link to their web site: http://brandywinekitchen.com/. Some of the butterflies have already sold, so I’m making several more. Here are the first two. Be sure to come and see them in person! Take one home!

© Kristen Gilje, California Sister and Friends 2, 28x22", hand painted silk

© Kristen Gilje, Buckeye and Melissa's Blue 2, 28x22, hand painted silk

Brandywine Kitchen
1317 Commercial Street
Bellingham, WA 98225

Monday – Thursday 11am – 10pm
Friday & Saturday 11am – 11pm
Sunday Noon – 10pm


Anna’s Illuminated Page

On the death of a young woman, the daughter of good friends and a student of mine, her community was asked to make pages for their family’s “memory book.” My mind and heart focused on the grief Anna’s parents must feel on this inexplicable and senseless accident.

Anna Illuminated page


River Theme for a Northwest Church

Baptismal Waterfall with River Banners to surround the congregation

I am in the beginning stages of designing a large project for a Northwest  church…Here you can see how I start playing with the ideas. I’ll keep you posted as things progress. Nothing is for sure yet…but I hope the designs are accepted. Here are three versions of a waterfall, sketches in pastel…

©2013 Kristen Gilje Zion's Waterfall, pastel sketch 3    zion-waterfall-2


Only one of these three designs would be selected, and quite possibly altered to meet the needs of the church. The final banner  would hang behind an alter that opens up to a baptismal font.

It would be about 30 feet long, and up to 8 feet wide,  hand painted silk dye on silk Charmeuse.

The composition to the right here is my favorite I think. But I do like the yellow light in the sky of the other two. Maybe a combo?

What do you think? Leave me a comment.



Furthering the River theme would be several 8’x4′ panels on the walls  depicting macro images of a river flowing from the waterfall and embracing the sanctuary. Here is an example of one of these sketches, done in watercolor, and a second one below.

I sure hope this project flies, as I’d love to do it. But you never know until the contract is signed. Send me good thoughts or prayers if you are inclined.  And to the church that would commission these. I’d love to do this project.

©2013 Kristen Gilje River Banners WC sketch©2013 Kristen Gilje River Banners WC sketch

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.


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.

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.

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”.

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 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.

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.


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.




2013 Grunewald Guild Liturgical Arts Weeks

 “At the Meeting of Heaven and Earth”

Grunewald Guild, Leavenworth, WA, August 5-11, August 12-18, 2013

Teaching Liturgical Arts Week at Grunewald Guild with Jan Richardson, Garrison Doles, Gilly Sakakini and Laurie Clark every summer is a treat. I love the way our classes are woven together by Jan’s words and Gary’s music, and often find myself dreaming at night about the magic that will happen between us all the next day. This is indeed a thin place, where we all come together to explore Spirit in, with, through, around, under and above us.

Here’s what Jan has written about our theme “Between Heaven and Earth”:

“In the physical landscape and in the turning of the year, there are places where the veil between worlds becomes permeable. Past and future come together in the present, and heaven and earth meet. It’s not that God is somehow more present in those places—“thin places,” as Celtic folk have called them; rather, something in those places and times invites us to become more present to the God who is always with us. A veil falls away within us. We open, and we see.

Join us as we enter and explore these thin places, the spaces that open before us as we engage in worship, in our communities, and in our daily lives.”

Silk Painting: Exploring Color and Line as a Thin Place

I will be teaching two weeks of silk painting classes during this time, with one building on the other. In Week I everyone is invited, beginners through advanced. During Week II former silk painting students of mine (including Week I students) are invited for more in depth exploration. For more info, visit Liturgical Arts Week on the Guild’s website.

Full information & registration for Week I Silk Painting, August 5-11

Full information & registration for Week II Silk Painting, August 12-18








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

Painted Lady II Wins Best of Show

Every year our local Allied Arts of Whatcom County  hosts a member exhibit.  I submitted one of my silk paintings from the “Metamorphosis” series: “Painted Lady II,” and it was voted “BEST OF SHOW” in our Annual Members’ Exhibit by visitors to the gallery! You can read about it in the Allied Arts Feb. Newsletter. Thanks everyone.

©2010 Kristen Gilje, Painted Lady II, 28"x22", silk dye on silk
©2010 Kristen Gilje, Painted Lady II, 28″x22″, silk dye on silk


Northwest Stole

This winter I accomplished a long-term goal to develop a stole representing our great Northwest environment.

©2012 Kristen Gilje "Northwest Stole" hand painted silk
©2012 Kristen Gilje “Northwest Stole” hand painted silk

The idea was to include day and night, winter and summer, mountains, plains and ocean in one piece!

My goal was to express the sacred beauty and presence of God I experience living in this varied landscape.  Wearing this  stole in our Green Season rites and rituals in our churches is a way of expressing gratitude to the Creator for such a wonderful home. My hope is to see this sacredness celebrated in our churches.

The seed for this stole design came from a painting I completed in 2006, celebrating life at Holden Village in the North Cascades. Can you see in the two vertical strips, one yellow and the other purple, one summer and one winter, the start of the design?

©2006 Kristen Gilje, Breadmaking at Holden, watercolor 22 x 30 inches
©2006 Kristen Gilje, “Breadmaking at Holden,” watercolor 22 x 30 inches.

I promised myself I’d some day make a stole out of this painting, and now here it is!

©Kristen Gilje Northwest Stole, handpainted silk, 2012
Kent French, pastor First Congregational Church of Bellingham UCC, modeling “Northwest Stole”

 First Congregational Church of Bellingham UCC

2401 Cornwall Avenue, Bellingham, WA 360.734.3720