It Holds a Remade World

Traditional icons are the culmination of many different arts. The hands in the studio are engaged as woodworkers, gilders, painters, and finishers, and our eyes see as historians, theologians, and artists. The interplay of these disciplines means that it is the joy of the studio to work with many different people in our tasks (for instance, the list of people I need to call back as I write this includes a sawyer, a priest, and a professor). It also means that what’s done here can offer a unique perspective on the purpose and consideration of the materials and methods it employs.

The making of each icon begins with wood. A panel is its foundation, and like any home, the icon will only last as long as that remains solid. Because of this, special attention is given to the woodworking that holds an icon. Within the iconographic tradition, the panel of the icon is seen as Noah’s ark, because like that boat of ancient myth, it holds a remade world. When entering into the woodshop by climbing down the ladder from the studio above, an icon of Noah can be seen hanging prominently by the bandsaw, his hands holding a wooden mallet and the ark. 

–Symeon van Donkelaar, excerpt from “The Sacred in the Common: Making an Icon Panel,” in Issue Nine


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