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Linda Witte Henke - Textiles

A biography of textile artist Linda Witte Henke.

For more than three decades, I have been creating textile art, most of which has been purposed for liturgical use. I use fabrics, fibers, threads, and other embellishments to bring my life and faith to creative expression.

I started as a teenager, making worship banners for the congregations served by my pastor-father. Then, while a student in a church-sponsored college, I began doing larger public-space works and clergy vestments. As a young adult, I ventured into paraments (adornments for altars, tables, pulpits, lecterns, ambos, baptismal fonts, etc.) and more complex banners (works that were dimensional, included more detailed embellishment, had multiple components, were configured as free-moving space sculptures, etc.). A decade or so ago, I began focusing on vestments, developing a fairly substantial collection of patterns, experimenting with a variety of styles and techniques, teaching workshops, and occasionally exhibiting my work.

For years, people encouraged me to take up quilting, but (as my image of quilting was limited to rigid, repetitive patterns) I was reluctant to explore this form of expression. Then, during graduate studies in Ohio, I was exposed to a few exhibits of contemporary textile work that (as the saying goes) "blew my socks off." It took me another couple of years to begin experimenting, but it didn't take long before I was hooked. After concentrating for a few years on art quilts, I was again drawn to liturgical work, this time incorporating a variety of quilting techniques in my work. A couple of years ago, I also began doing some dye-painted, whole-cloth silk work in the forms of stoles and free-flowing banners.

With academic training and life experience both as a journalist and as a pastor, I have authored a variety of book reviews, magazine articles, liturgical dramas, and two books, the most recent of which is Marking Time: Christian Rituals for All Our Days (Morehouse, 2001). I am currently working on two additional books:Passion Pilgrimage: Journey Along the Way of the Cross is a collection of devotional reflections linked to signposts on Jesus' journey from Passion Sunday to Easter, which I have illustrated with 18 small textile pieces; Liturgical Seasonings is a collection of thematic worship orders expressive of the liturgical seasons of the church year.

Most of my current textile work is in response to commissions. In addition to my writing and my artwork, I also facilitate a variety of retreats and workshops, provide consultative services on worship space design (and re-design), and serve as a frequent guest speaker.