The Gospels and the Evangelists – it took us so long!

Dear friends,

It took us quite a while to complete our new post on the Gospels and the Evangelists, but it’s finally here!

We were prompted to work on this topic in late September because one of our children is named after the Evangelist Luke, hoping to make it by the Saint’s feast day on October 18, but it took us MUCH LONGER (more than a month and a half) to complete; we finally got to post it a day before the feast of the Evangelist Matthew (November 16)!

The text and research turned out to be quite extensive, and Despina spent long hours drafting, writing, and editing to please Natalie, who, in her ongoing quest to make our posts as short and to-the-point as possible, keeps cutting down Despina’s much-beloved details. Natalie experimented a bit with new techniques, and also worked to find a way of illustrating animals in a style consistent with the rest of the Orthodox Pebbles images. Finally, she was inspired to make a variety of time-consuming activities, including a more complex than usual board game – a type of activity she has been eager to try for a while. We are so happy to have finally completed this page and we hope you will enjoy it.

Our research was very rewarding – we found a lot of interesting online material, from which we included what we thought would be most useful to you in the “Explore Further” section. Natalie would like to share a couple of additional resources here, that weren’t directly related to the topic, but which she thoroughly enjoyed.

  1. Notes on Method, in the Orthodox Art Journal, very interesting article by iconographer Father Silouan Justiniano of the Brotherhood of the Holy Cross (ROCOR) in Long Island, New York.

Natalie’s comments:
I came across this article researching the depiction of the lion in Orthodox iconography. Fr. Silouan explains his process in detail, and describes how he went about creating his own lion in his icon of St. Mamas. I was fascinated by the fact that, during his research, he also turned for inspiration to non-Orthodox sources, such as Chinese, Japanese, and Indian prototypes. Looking at his lion, which – to me at least – still feels genuinely Orthodox, one can recognize the other influences as well.

I found the article very intriguing, so I looked up Fr. Silouan. It turned out that, before he was tonsured a monk and ordained to the priesthood, he had extensive formal training in the fine arts in New York. His iconography is wonderful, and he has written a number of thought-provoking articles for the Orthodox Arts Journal, which I definitely recommend.

2. Vivarium: A collection of digitized manuscripts, art, rare books, photographs, and other resources from two Benedictine monastic and educational communities in central Minnesota. 

Natalie’s comments:
I particularly enjoyed the microfilm collection, which contains a wide variety of illuminated manuscripts. Exploring this extensive resource really felt like visiting an art museum. It is worth spending some time to browse through it.

Working on the life of St. John the Theologian, Despina was reminded of her childhood summers in Greece:

The main church in my parents’ village, Parparia on the island of Chios, is dedicated to the Repose of St John the Theologian. The church has a magnificent iconostasis from 1859 (called “templon” by the locals), made entirely of dark wood painted black, and exquisitely sculpted -check it out here.  During my childhood summers there, I remember I always felt confused by the two very different Saint Johns I saw in the icons. 

Fun fact: in the icons of Christ and His disciples, St John is depicted as a young man, even a teenager. In his own icons, the Saint is depicted as an old man. Explore our web page to find out more.

The new school year in Greece usually begins around September 10, before the great feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (celebrated on September 14). As a family we were living in Athens, and I couldn’t help feeling disappointed every year, that we had to miss the feast day of our Patron Saint at Parparia, and its famous panygiri (festival). Nowadays, there is also a big festival on July 26 (St. Paraskevi’s feast day) – many vacationers are still on the island on that day, so they don’t have to miss the festivities like I used to.

We hope you will get to enjoy our resources on the Gospels and Evangelists. We extend our warmest wishes to all of you, for a blessed and peaceful Nativity season.

With love in Christ,
Natalie and Despina


Preparing the Gifts – how we created our very first fabric learning set!

Dear friends,

Thank you so much for following us at Orthodox Pebbles, where we have been keeping you updated on our work through the blog feature of our website. We are now working towards migrating to Mailchimp for email updates, a service that offers greater flexibility. Going forward, we would like to gradually turn the blog space you were following until now into a behind-the-scenes commentary area, where we can share details of our creative process and thoughts about our work. You can always opt out of either our email list or our blog notifications at any time.

Together with Kelsey at St. Tabitha’s Workshop, we have been working on our latest project for a long time, and we are very excited to be finally able to share it with you. It is a hands-on children’s learning set made out of soft fleece, to help teach our young ones about the Holy Eucharist and the preparation of the Holy Gifts.

PLEASE CLICK HERE for the product details.

You may have already seen the Pascha learning sets we published in the spring. The Holy Gifts set was actually the first set we worked on, before we even started any of our other fabric products, and we went through various stages of planning and designing it.

This was our very first educational fabric product, and our sole intention in making it was to help little children better learn and understand our Faith; still, we were very concerned about the possibility of our set trivializing such a sacred Orthodox theme as the Holy Eucharist – therefore, we discussed our idea with a number of priests and religious educators to get their insight.

One of the most challenging parts in this process was, while living in the United States, showing it to Natalie’s spiritual father to get his opinion and blessing – he is living in a monastery in Greece. Thankfully, at this day and age and with a little extra effort, technology can even reach secluded Greek monasteries!

This set would be our very first item offered for sale, so researching copyright specifics, we found out there are restrictions in the use of scrapbook paper in artwork – we had been using scrapbook paper until then to make our illustration collages. Thus, Natalie set forth to create her own papers and patterns, and then digitally reworked her previous hand-cut illustrations to replace the scrapbook paper.

The positive outcome from all this effort was the realization that using our own paper and patterns, plus digitally reworking our illustrations, allows for much greater creative freedom and expression. If you browse through our material and compare our earlier to our most current work, you will see how, during the past year, we gradually stopped using scrapbook paper and started creating all our illustrations by drawing, cutting, gluing, and digitally manipulating our own papers and patterns.

After many changes and tweaks, we reached the final design. We thought you might enjoy some images from the planning process.

This was one of our first designs. We though it didn’t offer enough variety and interaction, so it was discarded.

Getting closer to the final design…

Even closer…

Nailed it!

We were SUPER EXCITED to receive our very first fabric sample and have our own children try it out!

We hope you get to enjoy our set as much as we have enjoyed creating it – and, as always, we’d love to hear from you!