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Introduction

The Conestoga Iconographic Studio exists to embody a living theology of the land by making sacred art. In all things, it looks to 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 animated 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 our work is foraged in a faithful knowing of the local landscape. Trees are harvested with thanksgiving to build wooden panels. Dirt and plants are received as gifts to make pigments for colour. The farming of chickens and bees is done with love and provides paint and varnish. In everything it does, the studio seeks to create from the local land an image of hope through its work and art.

Icons traditionally reveal the world as radiant with the light of its Creator within a cultural context. 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 simplicity in their revelation of the Kingdom of God.

The Conestoga Iconographic Studio is a small family business. While Symeon paints every icon, each of the children is responsible for daily chores that keep the studio going. Annual events, like harvesting lumber and foraging for pigments, are often day-long tasks that bring satisfaction and joy 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.

Day by day, our 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 approach to work that blesses the labourer and seeks God’s blessing in every place.

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Paper Icons

Paper icons from The Conestoga Iconographic Studio are printed with high-quality inks on heavy stock paper and a gold foil halo, creating a beautiful image of the original icon. Each is available as a 4×5″, 6×7½”, 8×10″, and 12×15″. Shipped all over the world, the worth of each varies depending on their size.

Articles

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The Washing of the Disciples’ Feet

The belief that icons reveal the eternal truth embodied in Jesus Christ within the place and time is at the centre of the studio’s work here in Conestoga. It was with great joy that the studio accepted a commission to paint an icon of the Washing of the Disciples’ Feet last year.  The Washing of … Read more

The Making of the Washing Icon

During the months of April, May, and June, this icon of the Washing of the Disciples’ Feet was created at the Conestoga Iconographic Studio. Since the patron, David, lives in California, he couldn’t visit the studio to see the progress for himself. Instead of that, regular photos were sent to him as the icon progressed. … Read more

Conestoga Blue

Ever since I did the 100 Mile ART Project for the city of Cambridge in 2008, the studio has used indigo for its blue pigment. Finding a local blue in southern Ontario was one of the project’s biggest challenges. As with most of the work, it was the fantastic community that formed around the project … Read more

The Life of Saint Anthony the Great

Saint Anthony is known today as the “Lamp of Monasticism,” the father of all who seek the ascetic life. In his time, there existed unmarried men and women who lived ascetic lives in the Church. But, it was he who established a life of seclusion and prayer as a means of dying to the world … Read more

About

A 5 minute video about the work of The Conestoga Iconographic 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