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The Illuminators

The Illuminators

Makers, planters, and growers of the next generation.

Image: Lina Verovaya / Unsplash

Genesis 1 tells us that God formed the beauties of creation simply because he enjoys them. He made a beautiful world, and then he made people who can appreciate and contribute to that beauty.

Even a cursory glance at any historical period shows us that artistry plays a central role in developing culture and sustaining healthy, thriving communities. In the 6th century BC, when King Nebuchadnezzar captured the Israelites and set about dismantling the nation, he not only exiled the military, he also made sure to destroy the artists and craftsmen (2 Kings 24).

He knew that if he wanted to conquer Jerusalem, he would not only have to overcome the military force, but also those who were responsible for establishing the heart and soul of the culture, the makers.

The formation of creative community has encountered a different kind of adversary in the West. The Industrial Revolution mechanized and streamlined production for the sake of simple uniformity; the focus on efficiency and profit drove craftsmanship into the shadows. Creativity was mortgaged to save margins, and the flourishes and personal qualities of gifted artisans were left to fend for themselves in a harsh economic arena.

Unfortunately, the local church has not been immune to this focus on efficiency. The rise of the industrialized megachurch—with millions of dollars raised for the sake of comfortable and symmetrical square buildings—along with the gradual disappearance of the local congregation, meant that the exquisite neighborhood chapels built long ago by talented, local artisans now sit empty or are appreciated as private residences or amazing cafes.

The modern evangelical church streamlines its expenses when it comes to its physical buildings, giving only fleeting thought to the role of awe and wonder, which are often considered superfluous and excessive. Why have a beautiful sanctuary when a Family Life Center and gymnasium will do? Our places of worship have become indistinguishable from shopping malls, the bland and mundane providing function but lacking inspiration, leaving our latent desire for beauty and transcendence unaddressed in our congregational life.

And yet, the impulse to make sprouts up everywhere, even in a society that deprives it of oxygen and opportunity. Creative desire is, at its core, more than a mere personality trait or interest—it’s a fundamental component of who we are, as creations made in the image of God.

Genesis opens with God creating the heavens and the earth, but it goes on to reveal these creative mandates for Adam and beyond, both in the flora and fauna of the garden, as well as in the building of a place that hosts the very presence of God. God created light—fiat lux—but also created individual humans to be illuminators in their own right.

We are most engaged in God’s creation when we ourselves create and when we take joy in the beautiful work of others. And so, we invite you to meet ten makers whose artistry and intention draw us to delight in God and his world.

Garden

Garden

Spiritual • Pastoral

Alabaster Co.

Alabaster Co.

Publishing Brand Exploring Creativity, Beauty, and Faith

Alabaster Co. was launched by the simple question: “what is beautiful?” From this place, founders Bryan Ye-Chung and Brian Chung began to pursue and explore the intersections between faith and creativity through the lens of business. While Bryan Ye-Chung grew up Christian, it wasn't until college that Brian Chung converted to Christianity after being raised Buddhist. It was at this point at university in Southern California where they met—their spiritual interests and creative backgrounds colliding in friendship and faith, ultimately leading them to create Alabaster Co.

Initially, the two launched the company with each of the four gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, John—as starting points in their mission to combine art and design with the beauty of scripture. Now, they continue to ask what is beautiful as they expand their work to visually refresh other books of the Bible, create short films, compose music, write articles, and seek out new ways where faith and spirituality can collide to make something beautiful.

alabasterco.com
Hello Revival

Hello Revival

Spiritual Wellness Company

Hello Revival founder, Paul Kim, understands that what we build our lives around defines who we become, and those habits, rituals, and rhythms we live by shape our futures. In a world steeped in frustrated busyness and constant forward motion, Hello Revival exists as a means to inspire and facilitate spiritual rootedness through practical, daily moments of intentionally pursuing God.

What began as Paul's pursuit of spiritual renewal and revival in his own life has now evolved and matured into an inspirational and impactful brand serving Christians and non-Christians alike. Starting with a simple daily planner focused on intentionally connecting with God, Paul and his team now offer a wide range of other products, from journals to financial planners to inspirational wallpapers for your phone. It's a testament to Paul's own story—his revival and pursuit of God—that Hello Revival exists and is now helping others do the same.

hellorevival.com
Saint Frank Coffee

Saint Frank Coffee

Specialty Coffee Roasting Company

Kevin Bohlin believes that coffee shops can change the world. As the founder of San Francisco-based Saint Frank Coffee, having a positive impact in the world—both locally and globally—is the goal. Most businesses exist purely to make money and garner success, but Kevin's vision of success looks a bit different. Having left everything behind in Texas, Kevin started over in San Francisco, where working in a local coffee shop and becoming a national barista finalist changed his world.

From those experiences, Kevin decided to take his missional, educational, and teaching background, combined with his faith and the interest in the city's patron saint, Saint 'Frank' Francisco, to show that the coffee industry could become a source of renewal for those who interact with it. Everything matters at Saint Frank. Everyone is important. It's out of this belief that Kevin developed personal relationships with each farmer before ever roasting coffee, decided to live in the neighborhood where he started the first location, designed a work culture rooted in service and intention, and creates products and experiences in such a way that anyone who interacts with Saint Frank is changed for the better.

saintfrankcoffee.com
City

City

Corporate • Urban

Selah Clothing Co.

Selah Clothing Co.

Clothing Company for the Saints

Selah Clothing Co. aims to step outside the box on two fronts, bringing a positive message to streetwear culture and creating a new aesthetic for the Saints. Creator Philip Bowles has rooted the brand in the good news of the gospel while growing beyond the limitations of what might be expected of a faith-based apparel line. His designs do not possess explicit references to Scripture, but Bowles sees the artistic and creative process behind Selah Clothing Co. as an expression of his identity in Christ. He is convinced that,“God is the ultimate creative and so it’s in our being, it’s in us, to create and be creative.”

With a commitment to artistic integrity and individuality, Bowles is eager to further the growth of Selah Clothing Co. as a competitive brand in the streetwear market. In doing so, he is taking hold of a missional opportunity to introduce a message of hope and truth to secular culture.

selahclothing.co
Starfish Project

Starfish Project

Jewelry Company that Transforms Lives

At its core, Starfish Project is a family, the members of which are the survivors of sexual exploitation in Asia. The Starfish Project family was first brought together when Jenny McGee and a friend decided to reach out to the young women and girls they had seen working in brothels and massage parlors. When she heard the women's stories in the brothels, it broke her heart and she knew she had to do something more to help them. Through the compassion and love demonstrated in those relationships, five women made the bold decision to leave their lives in the sex industry behind. Their next decision was to start a jewelry business together.

Jenny saw life-giving transformation in the team as they worked together to create beautifully vibrant pieces of jewelry while building all aspects of the business (including developing skills in graphic design, photography and accounting). She explains, “...there's something very healing, about having a job with dignity and coming into a safe environment where you are making something that people value.” 15 years later, Starfish Project is a social enterprise that invests 100% of their sales in providing opportunities for exploited women and girls to experience freedom and independence while developing career and life skills. Each stunning piece of jewelry the women create is representative of the resilient survivors behind the business.

starfishproject.com
Wild & Free Supply

Wild & Free Supply

Creator of Timeless Leather Products

What began with a lunch-hour brainstorming session between Lukas and Suzy VanDyke, married photographers eager to use their time for greater gospel impact, grew eventually into Wild & Free Supply, a business empowering local ministry leaders in Honduras. It was a mission trip that acted as the bridge connecting those initial brainstormed ideas and the business that now produces high quality leather goods. While getting a feel for the culture and ministry in Honduras, Lukas and Suzy noticed a need among seminary students for good paying work with the flexibility to accommodate their studies and ministry involvement. After connecting with a local leather tannery, Lukas was inspired to respond to that need.

Wild & Free Supply’s impact is three-fold. The business invests in the local economy using leather sourced from Honduras, provides dignified work for ministry leaders to support themselves and their families, and offers consumers an opportunity to double up the value of their spending for a gospel impact. Wild & Free Supply’s timeless leather pieces are the vehicles of the business's fruit, but the gospel-centered mission is the fuel that keeps them going.

wildandfreesupply.com
Studio

Studio

Artistic • Literary

Eric Ordway Ceramics LLC

Eric Ordway Ceramics LLC

Ceramic Artist

Eric Ordway was trained and currently teaches as a ceramic artist, focused on making ceramic vessels that allow themselves to partake in the intimate moments of every day—such as a slowly enjoyed morning coffee. Lately, however, he has been rethinking the way we see these objects as purely functional and profitable. As Eric has developed his thinking—and even an MFA thesis—on the work of clay artistry as an expression of contemplative communion with Christ, the pottery has moved outside a purely functional realm.

Through new technique and intention, Eric allows the vessels to inhabit a presence of their own. He thinks of these ceramic works as “incarnate prayer”: physical creation birthed out of slow, thoughtful communion with Christ. The work of the spinning wheel and the flames from the kiln offer unique resonance with the reality that God is our potter and we are his clay. By focusing on the craft of ceramic artistry, Eric tends to the quiet parts of the soul that are bombarded all day long, offering creations that are prayer-breathed and invite us into unity with incarnation—both in our own bodies and in Christ’s.

ericordway.com
Kaitlyn Rose Paintings

Kaitlyn Rose Paintings

Fine Artist and Painter

Kaitlyn Rose knew that her artistic calling wouldn’t follow a conventional track. While teachers and gallerists around her offered a vision of “the ideal artist’s life” as tiny New York apartments, all night painting sessions, part-time day jobs and a slow attempt to make something of yourself, Kaitlyn saw glimpses of a different way forward. After a time of crisis in 2018, right after registering her own LLC, Kaitlyn knew that the wall between her art and her faith had to come crumbling down.

By learning to share both pain and redemption between the walls of both church and studio, Kaitlyn found a new way to live in the fullness of what God had for her as a creator and person redeemed by Christ. By doubling down on her painterly skills in creating expansive and vibrant abstract work, paired with a sacred attention to her writing, Kaitlyn’s work has blossomed into a sustainable way to share the wonder of Christ profoundly, spilling forth from the canvas and onto the screen of digital media.

kaitlyn-rose.com
The Ark

The Ark

Multi-Disciplinary Artist

Since 2016, Bonny Cheung has been creating a space with her work where one can experience what she hopes to be the presence of God. It makes sense that she would choose to share her work collectively as The Ark. Cheung’s hand-poured soy candles reinterpret a room’s limited space with the wideness of the natural world. Her warm, watercolor landscapes on rugged hand-pressed paper hanging banners, and floral oil paintings reinterpret walls as windows where the Beautiful Man’s hand may reach through. Cheung is a re-interpreter of the world, framing its center around beauty.

As a mother to a newborn, she shared a reinterpretation of herself as also being a kind of newborn—a newborn mother. It’s this never-ending centering of beauty in her work that showcases how The Ark transforms the interpretation of a space and objects. “If it’s not beautiful, '' she says on her website, “it’s not the end.”

lovetheark.co.uk
Nathan Yoder

Nathan Yoder

Pen Draughtsmen and Wood Engraver

Nathan Yoder uses hand-carved wooden blocks, pens, and inks to create still moments from beavers, seagulls, ducks, and deer in their natural habitat. This unique skill set gives Yoder’s work the quiet tonality and focus of a Mary Oliver poem. Since 2014, Yoder’s multidisciplinary design and illustration studio based in Seattle, Yondr Studio, has exchanged convenient digital tools for traditional tools. Yoder’s move away from a computer-dependent process prevents the computer’s synthetic lens from mediating his understanding of nature or being his muse. Instead, Yoder invites a different lens to be mediator and muse—one made of Spirit.

Keeping this thread since the beginning, Yoder went from hand drawing screen printed t-shirt designs in 8th grade to hand drawing a refreshed crest for the iconic brand Stetson. Yoder wants to be connected to tools and materials that are made from the very landscapes he is drawing. For Yoder, it’s through the artist’s work of devotion that the viewer can be connected in a very tangible way to creation and furthermore, to the Creator.

instagram.com/nathanyoder

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