Dr. Chris Monroe, Associate Senior Pastor at Vinton Baptist Church, attended a conference last summer where the leader had created huge banners for a large worship space.
“I was struck by their beauty and unique designs,” said Monroe. “The leader put together a quick class to teach the group how to make banners on silk. I knew we should do this at Vinton Baptist.”
He ordered the fabric from India where the church has long been involved in mission projects. A friend there helped him obtain 40 yards of silk. He ordered silk paint, which is very much like ink in texture, but is more of a fabric dye, from a craft store.
Monroe asked church members (and artists) Debbie Adler and Carolyn Williams to create the banners.
“We met with Chris and proposed that we include other artists that we knew of in the church,” said Adler, which led to adding Gary Myers, Austin Nicely, Joey Nicely, and Keith Bullock. “Our artists range in age from 22 to about 75.”
Initially, the group considered banners for the Christmas season, but settled on Easter themes for their first project since time was limited.
Adler said, “Chris gave us free rein. None of us had ever painted on silk before so we all had to learn the process– which is relatively easy. The banners are four feet by six feet. I don’t believe any of us had ever worked on such a large piece before.”
Given the leeway to design their own banners, Adler painted two— “Easter Lilies” and “The Crown”; Carolyn Williams chose “The Triumphant Cross”; Gary Myers, “Fishers of Men” and “Alleluia”; Austin Nicely painted “The Tomb”; Joey Nicely, “The Ascension”; and Keith Bullock “Circle of Prayer.”
Bullock cut out the eight banners from the one long bolt of fabric for herself and the other artists, and hemmed several of them. There are fishing weights sewn onto the hems as well to help with hanging.
Once designs were chosen, special racks had to be constructed to stretch the ultra-thin silk fabric for painting.
“Silk moves,” notes Bullock. “It won’t stay still to paint.”
“After our first meeting, we realized that we needed stretchers for the silk and clamps to hold the silk tight enough to paint on,” said Williams. “Debbie Adler found ideas on the Internet and she designed and built the stretchers. We only had two so we could not all work together.
“Debbie and I worked together on the first two banners,” Williams said. “Debbie is an accomplished watercolor artist who quickly grasped the concept of sketching our design with Resist– a paint blocking medium– which kept the silk paint from running wherever it wanted to go on the silk. Since I paint with oils and acrylics, I must admit that this medium was difficult for me but I had fun learning something new.”
Williams said once she decided on her design, she had to sketch it onto a board, outline it with a black marker, lay the almost transparent silk on top, use a pencil to sketch the design onto the silk, outline the design with Resist, which comes in a bottle with a tip and leaves what looks like a clear plastic line which confines the silk paint. Williams says that if you miss a spot with the Resist, the paint runs under the line.
Some of the other artists developed their own techniques for dealing with drawing and painting on the silk. Some sketched free hand.
Bullock’s “Prayer Circle” design, which includes praying hands in front of a stained glass window, originated with a book the entire church is reading, “Draw the Circle, 40-Day Prayer Challenge” by Mark Batterson, which has a prayer calendar and prayer prompts.
Several of the other artists searched online for “Easter images.”
Myers said he and his wife Gwynne “Googled a few sites for ideas.” He also had a few of his own designs.
“I settled on the contemporary themes I saw online instead of my themes which were more traditional ideas,” said Myers. “I wanted lots of color.’
A group of men and women from the church gathered on April 3 to hang the banners from the beams in the sanctuary in time for Palm Sunday on April 9.
Vinton Baptist urges members of the community and other churches to stop by and see the banners on display. The church is located on Washington Avenue in downtown Vinton.
Monroe is hoping to form an Artists Guild to add on to the collection as time goes by.
“We hope to continue to use these banners for a few seasons,” said Monroe. “This year, they are hung from the wooden beams in the sanctuary. I also hope to keep this guild engaged to do banners for other seasons and for special sermon series.”
The Easter banners are displayed in the church sanctuary and will remain there for 50 days.
Monroe says the church has used purchased banners for many years, but “these are unique in that each artist came up with their own design and executed their project personally. We hope that other artists in the community will stop in, be inspired, and perhaps, come get involved.”
More photos of the silk Easter banners can be seen on The Vinton Messenger Facebook page.