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

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



Who is My Neighbor?

New silk banner for St. Mark’s Lutheran Church by the Narrows, Tacoma, WA

©2013 Kristen Gilje  Who is My Neighbor?
©2013 Kristen Gilje Who is My Neighbor? 84″ x 45″ hand painted silk dye on silk.

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.

Detail “Who Is My Neighbor


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.

Kristen Gilje, Abu Graib and the Twin Towers: A Lesson from Picasso, hand painted silk, 20049 ft x 55 in.,
©Kristen Gilje, Abu Graib and the Twin Towers: A Lesson from Picasso, hand painted silk 10 feet by 55 inches



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.


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