Marian and Caroline both attend St. Michael Antiochian Orthodox Church in Louisville, though they met several years ago in Lexington, Kentucky. In their experiences as mothers and as Orthodox women, they were inspired by their childrens’ curiosity in the faith and how there were few resources to support that curiosity through meaningful play. They also felt the need to organize their daily lives with the Church liturgical calendar that would also help in planning ahead. Marian and Caroline put their creative talents together to form Draw Near Designs. Let’s hear more about what they make –
Description of your work:
We create edifying and educational products for Orthodox children and families, like the Orthodox Children’s Calendar, Snuggly Saints dolls, 40 day advent calendar, and more! We hope that the products we create make the Orthodox Faith more accessible to children, and draw people closer to Christ and the Church. In the future, we would like to compile a cookbook with recipes and small traditions that are engaging for the whole family.
How did you get started in your craft?
About 4 years ago I (Marian) had a dream about collaborating with another artist, Abigail Holt, to create a calendar made specifically for Orthodox children growing up in America. In the dream, the calendar included fun activities and other ways to keep kids interested and involved in the church year. We couldn’t shake the idea, and Caroline joined the team, bringing her graphic design skills to the table! After a Kickstarter that was fully funded in the first week (very encouraging! We weren’t sure anyone else would be as excited as we were about the idea.), we designed and printed the very first Orthodox Children’s Calendar for 2018.
Why did you begin making Orthodox specific items?
I (Marian) am cradle Orthodox, because my parents converted to Orthodoxy before I was born. Growing up I felt like there wasn’t much out there for American Orthodox kids like me. Now there are more children fitting that description than ever before, and I want to create things that I would have used, loved, and benefited from when I was a child. For instance, I always used an advent calendar as a child, but it didn’t feel quite right since our advent begins November 15, not December 1. So, we created a 40 day advent calendar that you can use year after year! Most of my ideas begin that way… “I would have loved a Theotokos doll! A Lenten calendar! A coloring book of saints who were princesses, queens, and kings!”
What is a ‘dream project’ you want to create?
Oh SO MANY!! Caroline and I both love to cook, and so we would love to make a kid friendly cookbook with traditional Orthodox foods. One day! We’re both moms of several little ones, so time to create is precious and in short supply.
How do you envision your business growing over the coming year?
Glory to God, every year of business Draw Near Designs has surpassed our expectations, and we are so humbled and grateful for the support of so many people all over the world. Over the next year we plan to keep on keeping on— we have a handful of new products in the works, including the biggest undertaking: the Orthodox Children’s Calendar 2022! Many of our most beloved products have been the result of a sudden tidal wave of inspiration, so really, who knows what the next year holds!
Do you accept custom requests and what are your rules about it?
We do customer logo and design work, and I do some custom illustrations. In fact, I’m just finishing illustrating my first Orthodox children’s book! We keep pretty busy, so we can’t accept every request that comes our way, but we always appreciate being asked!
How has your business grown your faith personally? Do you feel there is an evangelical aspect to it? Have you heard from Non-Orthodox or Ortho-curious through your company site?
We are learning and researching things we wouldn’t otherwise seek out. We feel a connection to the broader Orthodox community, especially with moms. We are learning about many new saints through creating the calendar. Being able to see the visual designs of the calendars reinforce our daily habits of prayer. In 2020-21, the creative work helped our focus on prayer and home-based activities for the children when church attendance was limited. We have many catechumens asking for recommendations for their family, or how to teach the faith.
How to see the work of Draw Near Designs: