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!


Workshop Schedule 2012

Grunewald Guild Silk Workshop 2011
Students at Grunewald Guild Silk Workshop 2011

July 30-August 5, 2012, Grunewald Guild, near Leavenworth, WA

Liturgical Arts Week: A Spiral-Shaped God

Proud students at Grunewald Guild 2011July 30-August 5 Grunewald Guild, near Leavenworth WA
  • Jan Richardson with Garrison Doles: Advent Portfolio: To Illuminate the Season 
  • Kristen Gilje: Silk Painting in the Season of Creation
  • Gilly Sakakini: Looking Back, Looking Forward: A Fresh Approach to Creative Prayer in a Changing Culture
  • Laurie Richardson, Artist in Residence


Feasting at Liturgical Arts Week 2011




August 13-16, Carey Institute, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Carey Worship and Arts Summer School:  A Creative Exploration On the Psalms

I believe my friend Reed Carlson, from Icicle Valley Photography, will be one of the other teachers, as well as possibly a calligrapher. I’ll be teaching silk painting. Stay tuned.


September 6-9 near Nwhalem, WA

North Cascades Institute Environmental Learning Center:  Creative Arts Retreat

©2005 Kristen Gilje “Storm on the Way Home” watercolor  10×14

In our Wild Journal workshop we’ll start the morning with some basic drawing and watercolor skills, to prepare us for our outings to high mountain meadows with our journals.

September is one of the best months to be in the mountains. Come and join us!

Trinity Lutheran, Couer d’Alene, ID

Kristen Gilje with “Come to the Water” ©2008Kristen Gilje  in Coeur d’Alene, ID
©2008 Kristen Gilje “Come to the Water,” 3 of 4 panels 65″x42″ each, acrylic on masonite. 

Here is a mural I completed for the entryway of Trinity Lutheran Church, Coeur d’Alene Id. in 2008.  The four arched panels are 5.5 feet tall by 3.5 feet wide each. The three panels above depict a small quiet pool with a waterfall that I used to frequent in the Cascade Mountains, at Holden Village. I considered it a sacred place.

©2008 Kristen Gilje Panel 1 “Come to the Water: All Water Carries the Sacred.” Acrylic on masonite, 65 inches by 42 inches. 


The first panel, seen here,  is an image of Lake Coeur d’Alene, and is closest to the main door of the church.


I designed this panel to have an outward, rather than inward, view. If I were to title this panel alone it would be”All Water Carries the Sacred” or “Go out with Good Courage.” But all four panels together are called “Come to the Water.”






Someone at the church took a couple of pictures of all the panels together, and spliced them. It was the only way to get an image of all four panels together after they were installed.

©2008 Kristen Gilje “Come to the Water.”    5.5 feet by 17 feet, acrylic on masonite,


Kristofer installing “Come to the Water”

WELL. You may be wondering how big a STUDIO I have, in order to make such big paintings? At the time we were renting a house from a friend who had an attic studio. It was good to have a space, and I could stand straight up right in the middle of the room.

Kristen at Harris Street Studio

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?

Stained Glass/ Copper Enamel Doors for Grunewald Guild

©2010 Kristen Gilje with Joe Hester, Window I for Guild Doors. Stained glass 55×25 inches

A big project has been brewing for quite a while now at the Grunewald Guild near Leavenworth WA. We’ve been collaborating on designing and building new entryway doors for our main building, the Centrum, to make it a more welcoming space. I was asked to design some stained glass “windows” which friend and stained glass artist Joe Hester somehow turned into a much bigger “entry doorway” project!

©2010 Kristen Gilje with Joe Hester,  Window II for Guild Doors. Stained glass, 55×25

Here’s the second window.These two will of course be side to side.

Joe Hester, stained glass person, put the windows together, etching  some of the glass with a labyrinth pattern, and painting on other parts to help simulate a butterfly wing.

Grunewald Guild commissioned Andrew Campbell, a woodworker from Plain WA, to make double wooden doors which will hold the windows.

Now you might think that these doors would be special enough but Joe decided to get enamelist Jean Tudor involved. She helped Joe develop enameled copper sheathing for the door! Following you will see all the color samples. Joe and I chose the enamel colors together, with the idea of extending the butterfly design out onto the copper sheathing over the wooden doors.

Joe with enamel colors

Joe is holding the butterfly that originally inspired my design. Below you can see my smaller schematic drawing of the butterfly design, and the larger drawing Joe did on big paper that served as a pattern for the stained glass cutting.

Scene from the glass studio
Schematic, large drawing, enamel colors, copper enamel sample

Pretty complicated, eh? Can you see the penciled outline of the wooden doors in the small drawing? And the two ovals that define the glass? So you see the design spills out onto the wooden doors.  There in front on the table you see one finished piece of copper enameling that will sheath the door.

Powdered enamel colors

Here’s a peak into the enameling process.

The enamel is applied as a powder onto copper pieces, then heated in a kiln to fuse the enamel onto the copper. It’s a big project, and Joe had lots of people helping.

And below you can see the finished copper pieces that will go onto the wooden door. The center part of the door, where the two doors meet, will hold the body of the butterfly.

Copper Enamel Pieces for Grunewald Doors



Joe has worked very hard to bring this project and all its pieces together. But now Joe is dealing with severe health problems and the project is on hold. I do believe all the pieces are there… literally. It may be that others of us will have to assemble them, to finish the beautiful gift Joe has made for the Grunewald Guild.







Here’s my original silk painting from the series “Metamorphosis” that inspired the door design. The series uses local butterflies representing change, labyrinths for the spiritual journey, and Celtic knots denoting the interconnectedness all. So this becomes the theme for the Grunewald Guild Entryway Doors.

©2010 Kristen Gilje “West Coast Lady Becoming II,”  28×22 inches, hand-painted silk.