A window to Heaven from the village of Conestoga

Introduction

The Conestoga Iconographic Studio exists to embody an sacred theology of the land through making art. It is based on a vision that begins and ends with Jesus Christ. He is the Son of God, and He created the whole world in the beginning. He was also miraculously born of a virgin named Mary. At his conception, heaven and earth came together, and the entire material world became enlivened by God’s Spirit. Every place now has the potential to be a beautiful revelation, inviting the experience of God.

Sacred icons are images of Christ and his saints through which we experience the Kingdom of God. As such, a holy icon is sacramental—bestowing to us the real presence of holiness. Through the studio’s work making traditional icons in the village of Conestoga (Canada) the local land is used to convey a spiritual vision.

Everything needed for this work is foraged in a faithful knowing of the local landscape. Trees are harvested with thanksgiving to build its wooden panel. Dirt and plants are received as a gift to make pigments for colour. The farming of chickens and bees is done with love and provides its paint and varnish. In everything it does, the studio seeks to witness and share the local land as an image of hope through its work and its art.

Icons traditionally reveal the world as radiant with the light of its Creator within an ancient cultural context. But, in this village (like much of the West) a vision of the world full of glory is undeveloped. The studio’s iconographic style aims to render in local colour and culture the transfigured state of the world. Lines are bold and calligraphic. Colour is frank and contrasted like a puzzle while clothing is abstracted towards simple geometry. The studio’s icons embrace a simple buoyancy and a type of joyful play that reveals the Kingdom of God in this place and to this community.

The studio labours as a small family business. While every icon is painted by Symeon, each of the children are responsible for daily chores that keep the studio going. Annual events, like harvesting lumber and foraging for pigments, are often day-long events that bring satisfaction and joys to the whole family. Each icon is also the result of a broader community that supports its efforts. A wide variety of priests and deacons, iconographers and artists, academics, scientists and rock-hounds, all aid in the studio’s work. And, financial support for this mission comes every month from the dedicated members of the Friends of Conestoga Icons.

Day by day, the work continues in the faith that God provides everything needful. The resulting icons show the world through the eyes of the spirit to a new community, embodying an approached to work that blesses the labourer and seeks God’s blessing in every place.

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Icon cards

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Every icon card from the studio is printed with vegetable inks on heavy stock paper and a gold foil halo to create a beautiful icon. The price for each varies depending on their size.

Articles

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How to Plant Woad Seed

Since a few people have asked for more details about how to plant woad seed before the winter snows get too deep, my daughter and I decided to create a short video about how we do it here at the studio. Please feel free to ask for additional information in the comments section below, and … Read more

Sharing Woad Seeds

If you’re someone who follows what the Conestoga Iconographic Studio is doing, you’ll know that we really like the colours we create here in the village. And, one of our favourite local colours is the woad blue we make every year. Creating indigo blue from woad plants goes back into Neolithic history, and the colour … Read more
Icon of Christ the Pantocrator

Gospel Text for Christ the Almighty

The words written within an icon give voice to the saint through what they hold in their hands. Each saint holds a scroll depicting something they have written—coming from either the Old Testament, an Epistle, or one of the saint’s writings. But, in an icon of Christ the Almighty (in Greek, Παντοκράτωρ, or Pantocrator), we … Read more

In conversation with David Goa

One of the many joys for me this summer was the chance to talk with David Goa about the studio one evening while I was teaching in Regina, Saskatchewan.  Earlier this year, David began a series of podcasts called, In Conversation, and during our visit, I enjoyed the chance to be interviewed for his latest episode. … Read more

About

A 5 minute video about the work of this iconography studio and its approach to making sacred icons.

Special thanks to the monks at Holy Transfiguration Hermitage for their kind permission in using their music. To hear their whole album, visit thechoir.bandcamp.com/album/orthodox-hymns-in-gregorian-chant

Testimonial

Symeon’s iconography is a hymn of praise.

When Saint John of Damascus 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’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. Goa
Founding Director. Chester Ronning Centre for the Study of Religion and Public Life, University of Alberta