Dear [subscriber:firstname | default:Patron]—

I thought you might be interested in what’s happening here in the studio as the new year has arrived and our work has begun for 2021. As many of you already know, last year offered some financial challenges for the studio when its workshops could not proceed. While we're certainly not out of the woods yet, we continue to trust that God our Father has a plan, and we look forward to seeing it unfold this year.

One thing that has me excited right now is the beginning of a new festival icon for a patron in the US. The icon’s subject is the Three Holy Youths (more commonly known as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the Fiery Furnace). As with all icons, the challenge is to not just paint the story but also share something of its meaning. In preparing for creating this icon, I've had the enjoyable task of researching some of the lovely comments offered by the saints. Probably the one that has stayed with me the longest comes from St. Basil the Great's homily on Psalm 28. Here he focuses on how the Lord divides the fire from the furnace so that the same fire burned the guards but illumined the boys. His conclusion is that we too hope that the Lord's fire will one day illumine, not burn, us in the life to come. While the icon's drawing is only in its first stages, this beautiful musing about the furnance's fire is one that I hope to include in the finished work.
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Over the Christmas break, there was also time for some R&D in the studio. It continues to be an important goal for me to find a way to create icon reproductions that are both beautiful and accessible. That said, I sometimes feel a little like I’m in the Monty Python sketch with the King who tries to build his castle in a swamp and recounts for his son the many misfortunes of attempting to build his structure. Likewise, over the past four years, I’ve tried many different ways of creating such reproduction icons. All I can say is that I hope this has finally culminated in something that will “stay up.”

The result of these efforts is photographic prints on handmade panels that use the best of traditional craftsmanship and photo technology. They are durable and beautiful, and I hope they will be a blessing to many people’s homes and churches. I plan to have a short video in the studio’s next newsletter. For now, here are a couple of photos as a preview.
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Lastly, our family’s little chapel (dedicated to St. Paul the Apostle) was further worked on last month. A lot of details, like adding some new woodwork, painting, and hanging lamps, were completed with the help of everyone in the family. The chapel looks better than ever and continues to be wonderful for our family’s daily prayers during the church’s closures here in Ontario.
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I think that’s probably enough of what’s happening here in January. My intention is to share a bit more often such inside-the-studio emails with people like you who offer your support through donations or commissions. Thank you all for that continued support, and for your prayers for the studio.

All the best, —Symeon.

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The Conestoga Iconographic Studio
www.conestogaicons.com