Dina and I were in the same mother’s group and Dina was hosting a get-together at her house.
It was a beautiful house, tastefully decorated. I felt like I was walking around on a photo shoot for something like Better Homes and Gardens for this was certainly one of the better homes I’d seen in my life.
Once I was able to stop ogling the kitchen (which was roughly the size of my entire house) I was surprised to see that much of the decor throughout the house was Catholic. And not a bit of it was chintzy! It was like stepping into some sort of parallel universe in which it was possible for a lovely house and Catholicism to peacefully co-exist.
I had to know the location of this secret Catholic store she was frequenting.
“Most of it is from Etsy,” she said. She then explained that she liked supporting small, handmade businesses, Catholic artists especially.
Why had I never thought to look on Etsy?
I could hardly make it through the meeting that night so eager was I to get home to my computer to enter into the magical world of Catholic homemade. I think I only made one awkward conversation faux pas compared to my usual half dozen (why do I ever go out in public?!), that’s how distracted I was.
Once home, there was the frustrating agony of putting the kids to bed before I could have some “me time”. (“Me time” being time I spend taking care of just the baby instead of the baby plus his siblings.)
Finally it was just me and the baby nursing on my lap searching through the virtual cornucopia of Catholic goods on Etsy. My search terms were “Virgin Mary statue” which produced pages of vintage statues. I’d forgotten about Etsy’s vintage!
I looked through carved wood, chalkware, ceramic, pewter… there were so many options that didn’t involve plastic or resin. Although I even found some made of plastic that didn’t look half bad.
So many of them were from Europe! There was momentary guilt at the thought of benefiting from the declining faith in Europe by snatching up all their beautiful, old world, vintage Catholic home decor. However, I comforted myself with the reassurance that because of the New Evangelization, the faith will make a roaring comeback over there and they’ll start churning out gorgeous holy water fonts again before we know it. (Hopefully?)
When I searched for pictures, it brought up a mixture of handmade and vintage. There were plenty of the old standbys that you see in many Catholic homes, but there were plenty of new artists as well. I started to brainstorm ways to talk my husband into getting a second job to fund the complete re-decoration of our house.
And then I came across an Icon. I’d seen icons before, but didn’t know they had a name. I would have just thought they were called “awesome and intense Jesus-y pictures that I need papering my home”. I also didn’t know you could buy them because I’d only seen them in churches and museums. I also didn’t know people were still painting them.
There were many for sale on Etsy, but they were a little out of our budget. I checked Ebay too, but the prices were still too steep.
I looked into the process of painting icons. The first thing I learned was that they don’t like it when you say “painting icons”, much like Marines who don’t like to be called “ex-Marines” but prefer instead “former Marines”. And you go along with it because they’re a former Marine.
In this case, it’s called “writing icons” and it’s a very involved art. I made the offhand remark to my husband that I’d like to learn to do it some day. I made this remark a week out from Christmas unaware that, though my husband looked normal on the outside, on the inside he was in a mad panic about what to get me in that he had only realized that morning that we were a week out from Christmas.
That Christmas day, I opened several how to books on icons.