Icons from left to right: Forefather Noah (workshop), St. Christopher (garage), The road to Emmaus (side entrance), The Hospitality of Abraham the Righteous (living room), Christ the Teacher & the Theotokos and Child (prayer corner), The Mystical Supper (dining room), Sts. Mary and Martha & St. Paraskevi (kitchen), Sts. Macrina the Younger and Saint Cyril (study), St. Joachim & St. Anna and Child (master bedroom), and The Holy Propher Moses and the Burning Bush & Guardian Angel & The Calling of Samuel the Prophet (child’s bedroom).
Standing in a beautiful Orthodox Church is an invitation to be present in the kingdom of God. Every angle of its architecture and all the colours of its icons invite us to glimpse the unveiled mystery of the created world. It is a sacred space made for us to join together with the saints and angels to worship through the common prayer of the people of God.
In the same way that a church’s architecture supports our participation in worship, our homes are also holy places that support and deepen our life of faith. Like a church, our homes serve to deepen and enlarge our gifts of compassion and experiences of grace in the world.
Our homes are where we live our faith in our daily lives. This is where we are Christ’s disciples in the love we show to each other and break bread together with the same spirit of the divine Eucharist. We deepen our understanding of God daily in our roles as father, mother and child—even experiencing Christ’s love for us through the relationship between husband and wife.
In the same way that icons in a church bring us into the presence of Christ and his saints in worship, having icons in the home expands our family to include its heavenly members. While an inspirational text or illustration can teach, the church fathers and mothers speak of icons bringing the very presence of the saint into our lives. As such, a holy icon is sacramental—bestowing to us the real presence of holiness in our work and rest.
All over the world there are different traditional places where icons have appeared in homes. There are also rooms in the modern North American home to which this tradition needs to expand. An icon of Christ the Pantocrator hanging over the main is traditional, and is a powerful reminder that we are called to measure our response to what greets us daily in comparison of him who is the fullest expression of human nature.
Traditional Eastern Orthodox homes have a “beautiful corner” oriented to the East. It is a place of prayer and often has an icon of Christ the Word and of the Theotokos. A diptych of Joachim and Anna, the example of holy matrimony, often graces a couple’s bedroom’s wall, and at the entrance and exit to homes an icon of the Road to Emmaus often reminds the family of who it is they are likely to meet on their travels of the day.
But, to my knowledge, no tradition exists of a specific icon for the modern living room. Introducing an icon into a room that is central in many family’s lives is an opportunity to seek the Holy Spirit’s blessing in bringing Christ into all aspects of our lives.
Beginning in December, with the coming of Advent, the Icons at Home project will begin at the Conestoga Iconographic Studio. Using traditional methods and materials—as well as the particular vision for which the studio is known—original icons will be made for sixteen rooms typically found in homes today. When finished, each of these will also be available as smaller, mounted prints.
Each of the sixteen original icons is being made with the traditional approach, materials, and vision that the studio participates in. The vision of each saint, or event, is focused on connection for those who pray before them with the kingdom of God. They embody an innocence, candidness, and joy. These icons are stylized and flat in the vision they render of the Kingdom—lines are bold, colour’s frank, and clothing rendered in a simple geometry. While drawing deeply from the rich tradition of Eastern Orthodox iconography, their rendering is towards creating a vision for prayer in Canada.
The way each icon is created is important and the work of the studio is inspired by some of the most traditional ways artists have worked. The panels for the icons are made from a local basswood tree selected for that purpose which has been harvested, slabbed, dried, and carved. It’s gold leaf is water-gilded—applied in the same manner that the ancient Egyptians used 5,000 years ago. Its pigment colours are each the result of a pilgrimage to find unique soils, rocks, plants, and even bones with which to create beautiful and lasting colours. All of this work is centred in the small village of Conestoga, Ontario. Working with the local landscape in this way embodies an orthodox approach to the environment fulfilled in its art, business, and prayer.
The original icons for each room in this project are being commissioned by those who are interested in having them in their homes. Each of these will be a common size of about 30 cm x 40 cm (12” x 16”), but, there is a range of complexity in the icons in this project. There are half-figure portraits, full and multiple figures, and complex festival works. Because of this, there is a range in the cost of commissioning different icons. Half-figure portraits are available at $1200, most full and multiple figures are available at $1800 and festival icons are available for $2400.
Mounted reproductions of the original sixteen icons are also part of this project, and will be available both as a complete set and individually. These are being created with two goals in mind—they are beautiful to look at and made in a way that is environmentally friendly. The images are sharp and their colours are true. The gold of the background is a metallic foil, which more closely resembles the icon’s original gold. Environmentally, the reproductions are being printed on 100% post-consumer paper by a company which uses renewable energy sources.
All sixteen icons are available as reproductions as part of a subscription. Included with each is a printed introduction to the saint (or festival), its placement in the home, and an example of a traditional prayer associated with the icon. As part of this subscription, these reproductions are the large size at 20cm x 25.5cm (8”x10”). Individually, prints are available at this size for $60, but as part of the subscription they available at $45 (plus shipping) and the subscription can be stopped at any time. Reproductions will be mailed monthly after the original icon is completed. Shipping costs will be calculated based on the final destination, and is extra.
In total, three sizes of icon reproductions are available.
Lastly, the vision for Icons at Home draws from the way that icons have been used in homes across the world both in the past and present. Already, people have begun sharing their own knowledge of these traditions and this is a blessing that is both enriching and inspiring. The opportunity still exists to consider specific icons for other areas of the home, so please share your own special stories on that section on the studio’s website.
As an iconographer, the blessing of the work ahead is something for which I am grateful. And, in all things, I ask for your prayers.
The price list includes information about the icons currently planned for Icons at Home, the amount being asked for each icon, and which icons have already been commissioned. You can download an up-to-date copy below.