Thursday, July 21, 2011

Dancing Mary

"Dancing Mary" 40 x 24 Silk dye on Silk copyright Kristen Gilje 2011

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sower of Seeds!

This winter and spring I've been working with First Congregational Church UCC of Bellingham WA, preparing them to make their own silk banners. We started out with 5 silk workshops and over 35 participants, to learn technique. Everyone showed up at church with colorful silk scarves this spring.

Now that people had some skills under their belts a smaller group, 8 of us, met to work up a design for two large Green Season banners. This truly IS art-in-community, a great example of art from the "bottom up." The idea is for the art to arise from the community itself, in this case from deliberation on a set theme. Coming to a common vision is very often the hardest part of the whole process. But the rewards are great: a deeper understanding of the theme as a group, and a communication of that understanding to the wider community.

In this process I acted as facilitator, providing materials, technical knowledge and artistic encouragement. My goal was to pull the design from the group itself, and to step back where I was not needed.

We met three times before our painting workshop.  The main theme was "Growth", and the texts we explored were several:
Psalm 148  "Song of Creation," Isaiah 55: 8-15 " My word will not return empty", and Mark 4:3-9, "Sower of seeds." We also talked about the grace of water, and its importance in many religions.

As part of our explorations I asked people to draw images that came to mind and bring them to our third meeting. Often this starts us off with yet more dialog, but there was someone who had been listening very carefully to the conversations, and had captured everything we had talked about in her two sketches. Here they are:
Emily's sketch  I
Emily's sketch II

The group decided to go with Emily's sketches (with a few slight revisions of course), as the design for two 9-foot by 55-inch silk paintings for their sanctuary.

Night, turning towards dawn

My job was to take the sketches home and blow them up big, revising them slightly for the silk, and then apply the general outlines of the design to the silk. After the silk was prepared we met in the church basement to apply the dye. Amazingly, it took only two 6-hour days to complete the two large banners. 
Night, thorns, rocks, seeds and the Bird of Hope that sings before dawn
Emily paints the Angel

It takes a village....
Following are pictures of the second banner: Day. 

Though the overlaying theme of these two pieces is the parable of the Sower, like a good poem these paintings contain many levels of meaning.

Alyson paints the Tree of Life
Some of the meanings are yet to be discovered when their new audience asks questions of the paintings. Just as we asked questions of the texts, now the wider community will ask those questions. Maybe even a sermon or two will be preached on those questions.  

I am very proud of this project, as I feel a true objective has been met here: That of leading a group of people to create something of their own for their worship space.  And they will experience the true power of sharing art in community: Their vision will support and help shape the community's summer theme and life together.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Philadelphia Seasonal Banners Finished!

Philadelphia Gold and White Seasonal Banners by Kristen Gilje

Kristen painting

I've just finished and mailed 3 pairs of seasonal banners for Shaeffer-Ashmead Chapel, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. They are silk dye on crepe-backed silk charmeuse, 16 feet long and 45 inches wide.

Green Banner from a Ladder
My husband made a wooden stretcher frame to those dimensions and added legs. We put it in the living room/adjacent room after moving the couches out, and lived around this big project for many weeks. I was only able to imagine them hanging, since they were horizontal, and had to get up on a ladder to see the whole thing as best I could.

When they were finally done I brought them downtown and hung them from a high railing. It was the first time I could see them how I had imagined them, vertical...and I was very pleased. It's hard to make something so large without having a good perspective on it until it's done.

In Perspective

Philadelphia Purple Season Banners by Kristen Gilje

Philadelphia Green Season Banners by Kristen Gilje

Now I'm waiting to see how they fit into the chapel space. Hopefully I'll have gotten the architectural proportions just right, and they will be neither too big or too small. Just have to wait and see...

If you'd like to see a picture of the Shaeffer-Ashmead Chapel and more on the process of making these, go to
the blog I set up to communicate with the people in Philadelphia:

Color for the Chapel

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Winner St. Dunstan's Stained Glass Design!!

Magenta and Green Fremont Glass will be color base for design

Fremont Antique Glass samples next to my design

I got word last weekend that St. Dunstan's has chosen my design for their stained glass window!  So two days later I met Joe Hester, who is heading up the stained glass project, at Fremont Antique Glass Co. in Seattle, where they make beautiful colored glass and send it all over the world. Above you can see my design next to glass samples we are looking at.

Jim Flanagan and assistant at Fremont Antique Glass Co.

Joe Hester looking for Amber
 It's a fun place to visit. The glass is made right in front of your eyes by master blower Jim Flanagan. He has several assistants that help him with the production.

On the right you can see Joe looking for amber glass, and Jim the glass blower in the background near his big kiln. 

Still looking for Amber

Thursday, March 31, 2011

St. Dunstan's Stained Glass Window Competition

Well, here I am, one of 3 finalists for a stained glass window design. The contest is for a window in St. Dunstan's Episcopal Church in Shoreline WA, just north of Seattle. The congregation is making the winning window themselves, under the direction of Joe Hester...The above photo is my final entry, after the critique that the congregation of St. Dunstan's would need more detail so more people could be involved in its making. The entry I originally submitted was a very simple design. See below:

The basic idea is seeing the Light of God in everyday life, in this case through the trees. My inspiration was a photo of the window itself, through which I could make out the branches of trees that were really there. 

Here's a picture of the window in the church. 

Here's a link to the prospectus:

and here's a link to St. Dunstan's church:

Wish me luck!!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Working in a Series: "Metamorphosis"

"West Coast Lady Becoming I" 28x22 Kristen Gilje

 Understanding nature as a source of inspiration is important to me. A bush drawn from my own imagination usually lacks the inexplicable beauty and grace of living leaves all searching efficiently and together for their sustenance from the sun. One looks like a cartoon, the other like a dance choreographed by gods.  In this series I search for the construction of the beauty of a butterfly wing. What is beauty? What is harmony and grace? Why is nature such an incredible source that artists return to again and again? Why is human imagination not quite enough?  In the series "Metamorphosis" I am looking for the construction and the underpinnings of beauty and grace.

"West Coast Lady Dissolving" 28x22 Kristen Gillje
 All the butterflies I've used for subjects can be found here in the Pacific Northwest. They are used as inspiration, and not literally represented. Again, I tried to distill in my own way their beauty to understand it better. Sometimes that meant color-coding different design aspects of their wings in my own color language. 

Mostly I am amazed by these beautiful little creatures, their symmetry and brilliant colors and shapes. They surprised me as their designs meshed so harmoniously with the images of Celtic cross and labyrinth.

These pieces are all painted on silk, with silk dye. I like that the material I'm painting on is produced by the butterflies themselves!
"West Coast Lady Becoming" II 28x22 Kristen Gilje

Working in a series has been very helpful. I've explored several ways to express one idea, changing color, changing backgrounds and geometrical elements. Each variation has a different result.You can see this above.

Below you will see the changes color makes in two versions of the same design. Both have their beauty but one expresses my idea most clearly: "Painted Lady II"

"Painted Lady II"28x22 Kristen Gilje

Painted Lady I" 28x22 Kristen Gilje

"Tiger Swallowtail and Friends" 28x22 Kristen Gilje
 I was happy with each of these two of the Tiger Swallowtain the first time around so made only one of each.

"Tiger Swallowtail " 28x22 Kristen Gilje

In the following two, "Life Cycle", my first attempt is closer to my vision than the second attempt. 
"Life Cycle I" 28x22 Kristen Gilje

"Life Cycle II" 28x22 Kristen Gilje

Tiger Swallowtail, Viceroy and California Sister" 28x22 Kristen Gilje

In the last two I played with changing the size and format, by making a larger "banner" painting the second time around. The larger one is nice because it is hung free from a frame and is blown by any little breeze. 
"Anise Swallowtail" 28x22 Kristen Gilje

"Anise Swallowtail Journey" 80x22 Kristen Gilje
I'm not done with the idea of understanding the beauty of nature, of disecting it and putting it into my own shorthand, of playing with the geometry. We'll see where this leads to next...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Designing new stoles

Cross, Earth, Spirit

I've been designing some new stoles for people. This one is an adaptation of the St. Andrew's stained glass window I designed several years ago. I've had requests for gold and white stoles...
With the following butterfly stoles I think I'll add some gold to the background. Hard to leave so much white when a person could use more color.
Butterfly and Celtic Knot
Butterfly and Celtic Knot

Brush stroke technique

Here's a fairly simple style for the gold/white theme. 

Herald of Change
 This would make a good Advent stole.