Icons at Home
Beginning this Advent, a series of Orthdox icons is being made for sixteen rooms typically found in modern homes. These icons are being commissioned by people from across Canada using trational methods and materials. A series of these prints will also be available, individually or as part of a subscription
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Working with wood to make a panel remains something I love about making traditional orthodox icons. Maybe it’s the smell of the cut wood, which always takes me back to my Grandfather’s woodshop where we built things together when I was a child. Or, maybe it’s the fact that there’s always something more to learn…
It seems to me that all blues are the colour of the air—and this is certainly the case for woad blue. As the fall season comes to Canada, the hazy sky of summer clears and becomes a blue as deep as eternity offset by the flaming yellows and reds of the trees’ autumn leaves. It…
Yesterday an article of mine appeared in the Orthodox Arts Journal entitled, “Local Color in Icons”. The piece is a reflection of how living in Conestoga for the last 15 years has shaped my iconographic work, and is ultimately about how much I’ve found that the material world (especially its local colour pigments) can inspire sacred artwork. As…
Conrad Grebel University College Friday, February 24th, 2017 at 7:30 pm Great Hall at Conrad Grebel University College All are welcome for this public talk. Over the years, I’ve worked through a number of ways of sharing about the traditional practices of iconography. In this talk, we’ll weave together the theologic,…
When Saint John of Damascus (c. 676 or 676 – December 4th, 749) wrote his defence of the icons, On the Divine Images, itself a deep meditation on the meaning of the Incarnation he affirmed the sacrality of all God’s creation from the molecular composition of minerals, the glory of the cedars of Lebanon, celestial bodies, indeed, the whole of the cosmos. The Incarnation calls us to a deep regard for every human being and all creatures, the beauty of flora and fauna, indeed, the earth under our feet. The earth we walk is a reliquary and minerals and metals of each particular place a sacred treasure. Symeon van Donkelaar’s iconography, drawing as it does on the local palette of each region of Canada, is a hymn of praise calling each of us to a deeper regard for our fragile world, a deeper attention to the Holy Spirit who “is everywhere present and fillest all things.”
David J. GoaFounding Director, Chester Ronning Centre for the Study of Religion and Public Life, University of Alberta.
About these Icons
The icons made in the Conestoga Icon Studio represent a vision of the Kingdom of God from the New World. While rooted in the rich tradition of Eastern Orthodox iconography, their aim is to create a contempory vision for prayer in the Americas. As such they embody an innocence, candidness, and joy. These icons are more stylized and flatter than those of other schools—lines are bold, colour’s frank, and clothing rendered in a simple geometry.
All the materials used in making these icons come from the land—the pigment colours most often being found around the village of Conestoga where the studio is located. Foraging from the soil, plants, and animals, these colours are harvested to create a testament to the love of God which energizes the whole earth.
Conestoga Icons can be found in churches, missions, and homes around the world. The work of the studio also includes icon making workshops, which are offered in a wide range of places from coast to coast. As well, written articles regularly appear online and print journals.
The Conestoga Icon Studio is part of the burgeoning Slow Goods movement. While the practice of iconography has been around for thousands of years, it has not been immune to the manufacturing approach that currently drives our economy. However, traditional iconography has much to offer in reconsidering the involvement of local materials and people; what it means to make something good; and the environmentally clean approach our faith demands.
The materials used in making these icons primarily come from within a stones-throw of the studio. All of their colours and wood are harvested around the village of Conestoga. This use of local colours and other materials not only celebrates the community, but shapes the very vision of the saints.
These icons are examples of fine craftsmanship and are made to last. Their panels are solid wood and won’t delaminate or dissolve over time. Their pigment colours are bright and won’t fade. If taken care of they will last for centuries. Good work like this embodies making things from the earth with the humility to walk lightly and listen to our materials.
Everything used to create these icons is really just being borrowed from the environment. The icon’s colours are pigments made from soil and rocks bound with egg yolk. It’s panel is wooden and its glues are all made from animal proteins. When the icon is damaged beyond repair, it can be burned (without releasing toxic fumes) or buried, and will naturally decompose back to the earth.