Icons at Home: Presence of the Kingdom
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 entrance 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.
The icons for the Icons at Home series are set to begin in the Conestoga Iconographic Studio in the spring of 2019. 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. As each is finished they will also be available as mounted prints.
The Icons at Home project is an invitation to sanctify our daily lives in the places we live with the presence of icons. The support necessary to make this happen takes two forms: Supporting the daily work of the studio as a patron or directly commissioning one of the icons for this series.
Support the Studio
The work happening in the Conestoga Iconographic Studio is an ongoing effort to create something that is Orthodox in its making, its vision, and in its witness.
Day by day, local wood, soil, plants, and even bones are collected, worked, and offered in the making of an icon. This work is part of a consciousness that seeks to create locally from the place where the studio is located—an embodiment of creating in harmony with our environment. The stylistic-vision of its icons, for which the studio is known, is a gift from the Holy Spirit that embodies an ancient and direct vision. The resulting icons are works of great skill, which witness across Christendom, about our lives of faith and prayer.
Working today as a full-time iconographer in Canada is full of challenges—not the least of which is having the means to keep the studio open. Patrons choose to be part of a group that financially supports its efforts by giving at least $30 a month. This money is used to see that the studio’s upkeep can be afforded and that the iconographer is paid a stipend.
Something extra special is being offered to those who support the studio during the Icons at Home project. Once the project begins in the spring of 2019, they will be sent a copy of each icon from the series as they are completed. This “thank you” will arrive every few months, as a the original works are completed, for the duration of the Icons at Home project (tentatively 16 icons).
Commissioning an Original Icon
Each of the sixteen original icons is being made with the traditional approach, materials, and vision that the Conestoga Iconographic Studio is known for. 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 participating in the rich tradition of Eastern Orthodox iconography, their rendering is towards creating a vision of prayer for those living in the West.
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. And, 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 series 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 (or, 12” x 16”), but there is a range of complexity in the icons. Some are half-figure portraits, others are full and multiple figures, and there are also 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.
Commission an Icon
The price list below includes information about the icons being planned for Icons at Home series, the amount being asked for each icon, and which icons have already been commissioned.
To find out which icons are still available in this project, you can download an up-to-date list here: Icons at Home Price List