The Museum of Russian Icons teaches this fun arts and crafts project for the whole family.
Opened in 2006, the Massachusetts-based non-profit maintains the largest collection of Russian Icons in North America, with the goal of enhancing relations between America and Russia through the medium of art. Like most museums, they were forced to close their doors due to the world lockdown, but they’ve reached out with a number of online activities and programs.
One way they’re accomplishing this is by producing this tutorial, featured above, on icon making in the repoussé style, which is defined by Britannica as:
Repoussé, method of decorating metals in which parts of the design are raised in relief from the back or the inside of the article by means of hammers and punches … The name repoussé is derived from the French pousser, “to push forward.”
True to its name, the process requires the artist to trace a template over a thin sheet of metal in order to score indents which will make the image of the icon. As the whole drawing process is done through tracing, it is a perfect activity for even young children, albeit the inking may get a bit messy for the little ones.
The activity is fairly simple. After tracing the image upon the sheet of metal, one must scuff up the metal with a scouring pad and then rub ink over it to catch in the crevices. The resulting image is then glued to a decorative paper and ready for display. The Museum of Russian Icons offers several templates for repoussé icons, including Christ the Teacher, Mary Magdalene, Mother of God, the Archangel Gabriel, and more.
We were a little skeptical that the icon would be of any aesthetic value at all when we saw the minimalistic materials assembled before Museum of Russian Icons Education Director Amy, but as she worked, the image sprang to life. Amy is an excellent teacher who keeps the lesson organized and bright. She even makes a few mistakes on purpose to show the amateur iconographer how to fix them.
This family-friendly activity requires a few art supplies, but Amy also goes out of her way to suggest alternatives, which can be drawn from standard household items, such as layered tin foil to replace the metal sheet and markers to replace the ink.
Repoussé icon writing is a fun arts and crafts project that we would suggest for children 6 and up. Thanks to this 14-minute video, all our homes can soon be filled with beautiful, impressive icons hand-written by our loved ones.
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