Today we feature St. Luke’s Brush, a Catholic home-based business inspired by Padre Pio and fueled by a love of design and illustration.
Meet Garry Brix, and prepare to fall in love with his peg dolls – we have!
1. Tell us about yourself!
My name is Garry Brix and together my wife, Amy, and I started St. Luke’s Brush on Etsy.com almost five years ago. I studied illustration and graphic design in college and have worked as a designer most of my career.
At the time we started St. Luke’s Brush I did not really have a great outlet for my artwork, having resigned to being something of a desk jockey. Then I had a career setback and the idea to do this took shape in the midst of searching for what to do next.
When life kicks you down badly it’s harder to see God’s plan, but if you can glimpse it during those times, the fruit of your suffering is so much sweeter. God will never give you more than you can handle and always what you need.
The phrase may seem cliché, but that doesn’t make it any less true. About the time of opening the shop, I became interested in St. Padre Pio and I adopted something he said as my personal motto, “Pray, hope and don’t worry. “
I did that and just added the word paint to it. Pray, paint, hope and don’t worry.
2. What do you make?
In my Etsy shop I sell hand-painted Catholic Saint Dolls, religious education play sets and religious art and gifts. My biggest focus is, of course, painted peg dolls of saint and figures from the Bible. In addition, I also paint smaller figures and animal cutouts paired up with small boxes that open up into scenes such as a crèche, sites of apparitions of Our Lady, a Mass set and more.
My training is as an illustrator and in order to paint peg dolls I focus on telling a story on the surface of the doll. I work in a combination of realism and stylized images, opting for whatever device that tells the story of the saint.
As an artist my style is always evolving as I devise new ways to depict ideas. I like to change my approach often as the subject calls for it. For instance, I don’t have one set way of painting faces on the dolls. Working on round head, sometimes the simplest features read prettier than lot of shading and embellishment.
I utilize a lot of different source material including books, holy cards and images from the internet of stained glass and statues. Even after I have completed a doll for the first time and photograph it to sell future iterations, I continually refer back to the source material.
Each time I paint a saint, I perfect it in different ways, like a musician playing a song they know for an audience, except my tunes are St. Clare and St. Paul. And like any musician worth his salt, I never tire of playing my hits. Ha! But seriously, music has been an important part of my creative process and it has accompanied it since I was a child.
I grew up hearing my dad’s jazz records as sort of the soundtrack to my life and as a result, music allows me to get into a state of flow very quickly.
Another analogy I have for the way I work is like that of a monastic brother writing a religious icon, lost in prayer, letting God guide the hand, guiding my choices. Each time I begin painting I have a prayer for iconographers that I recite and when I finish I have another prayer that focuses on the recipient of the image.
It’s not that I imagine what I am doing approximates anything close to an iconographer’s painting a window to Heaven. It just seemed like an appropriate way to begin and end and underscores the reality of what I am doing, making an image or toy that will inspire a greater love for our Catholic faith.
I like to think of my work as aligning my creativity with the real Creator and I act mostly as willing collaborator.
My family plays a huge role in the success of St. Luke’s Brush. My wife Amy is the brains and the heart of the organization. Her ideas are always gold and her organization skills keep me from making crazy mistakes when we’re really busy.
She is the reason products get shipped to the right address and on time. My kids inspire me while I’m working and remind me to not to take myself too seriously. My youngest was also instrumental in early product testing, including high velocity impact and full water submersion tests.
3. Do you do anything else?
As of now my business model has largely been about making these things for children and adults seem to love them too. I have many creative avenues I would like to explore for fun and profit in the future but with four children at home, my plate seems full enough.
With young kids, there are always expenses and there have been many times a customer came through with an order right when we needed shoes or registration for this or that.
God always provides a way to make things work. And that is the other aspect of doing this work that I am continually amazed by. I feel that as I try to honor the saints and encourage others to do so, blessings flow from that.
I very much consider it to be a ministry and I feel that next to my family, this is the most important work that I have ever done. I hope that God will provide an opportunity to do this kind of work until I’m no longer able to lift a brush.
4. Contact, Sites, Social Links
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