Theme: Community and Silk Painting

“They are like a tree replanted by streams of water, which bears fruit at just the right time and whose leaves don’t fade. Whatever they do succeeds.” (Psalm 1.3)

I was designing worship for a conference where the theme was about community. I used the image of Pando Trees and the Honey Mushroom as a way to reflect on what kind of community does God call us to be. The video below does a great job describing what Pando Trees and the Honey Mushroom are (fast forward to 8:40).

Over four worship services, I invited worshippers to participate in the following art activity. My general philosophy about using art in worship is finding a way for people of all creative abilities to engage prayerfully in the activity. I also like to find a way for art to naturally support the liturgy as well as find an unintimidating way for people to participate.

PREP

Dharma Trading is a one-stop shop for all the materials you need to do silk painting. For this project, I bought Silk Habatoi (8mm weight). You can buy it in whatever size is best for your worship space. I bought a variety of colors of Jacquard silk dye in 2 oz. bottles. The dye is concentrated, so a lot goes a long way. You can dilute the dye with water depending on how bright or faded you want the colors to be. Resist comes in a variety of colors. Because I wanted the image to be a surprise, I used Jacquard clear water-based resist. As you can see in the photo, it appears white when the resist dries.

When silk dye is applied on silk, the dye will spread unless it comes in contact with a barrier. This is where resist comes in. Resist protects the fabric from the dye. The easiest way to apply resist is to pour the resist into a Gutta Applicator Bottle. It will give you better control over the design you want to draw. I drew the trunks of Pando Trees on the fabric.

You will need to suspend the fabric and pull it taut. I clipped the fabric to the back of chairs. The resist dried over night.

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WORSHIP 1

In the worship space, the fabric was pulled taut between two tables and the dye and brushes were made available. Worshippers were invited to prayerfully paint as they considered their own community and ways that God calls them to engage in their community.

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PREP

The fabric took over night to dry. There are some steps to ensure that the brightness of the dye stays in tact. Due to time, I skipped those steps. In a tub of warm water, I submerged the fabric to rinse away the resist. The resist releases from the fabric into a soapy residue. All that is left is the original white fabric. Because the fabric is lightweight, it took no time to dry and iron in time for the next worship service.

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As you can see, the image of the trees come to life. Many worshippers couldn’t believe this was the same fabric that they painted the night before and that doing a simple act of painting could result into something beautiful.

WORSHIP 2

The second worship service, worshippers were invited to write on a yellow circle a word or image of something they fear as their prayer of confession. On a green circle, they were invited to write a word or image of how they are fearfully and wonderfully created as their affirmation of forgiveness.

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I used Heat ‘n’ Bond Ultra Hold Iron on Adhesive (red label) to adhere the circles to the fabric. (Confession: I ended up having problems with my iron and resorted to sticking them on with duck tape. When in doubt, duck tape cures all things.)

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The circles became the leaves on the Pando Forest.

WORSHIP 3

We didn’t add anything to the banner. We just let the banner hang.

WORSHIP 4

We cut up the banner into strips so that they could be prayer scarves for each participant. We laid them on the communion table. Worshippers were invited to grab a prayer scarf as they came up for communion. During passing of the peace, worshippers were invited to switch prayer scarves with one another as an action of their commitment to continually pray for one another, which is how God calls us to be in community.

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5 responses to “Theme: Community and Silk Painting

  1. Theresa, this is stunning! A question — i have longed to do silk painting with our kids on Sundays but have resisted because it seems messy and we get angry parents if children’s “church clothes” are covered in paint or glitter glue. What do you think? Are these really permanent paints? Have you had any complaints?
    Thanks!

    • I’ve never done the project with kids. The dye will stain permanent so I would have the kids wear paint smocks. I would also do this on a smaller scale, using silk handkerchiefs. You can use embroidery hoops to pull the fabric taut. I would also use a gold metallic gold resist instead of clear resist.

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