Jennifer Bunch and Kate Burrow take time with their art.
Bunch reproduced a folio from the similarly medieval Lindisfarne manuscript of the Gospel of Matthew at three times the original scale. It’s drawn, but she’s yet to finish painting and gilding it with gold leaf.
But their Moscow art workshop business, Opus, is moving faster. The two – of five – Boise-raised sisters have funded their work through a Kickstarter campaign and continually have a list of back-orders to complete.
They set up shop only two years ago … and “shop” is a hopeful term. Bunch lives in Moscow near one of their other sisters, while Burrow travels up from Boise in multiple week spans.
“We have used my sister’s garage. We’ve used my dining table with all the kids running around. We have used (Burrow’s) room. We have used my sister’s kitchen table. We’ve set up shop at Bucer’s,” said Bunch, 27.
Bunch and Burrow create antique-looking manuscripts, scrolls and leather-bound books, journals and notebooks with intricate details in the Celtic, Byzantine and European styles. They made Christmas tags and cards this season, as well as wood coasters and platters decorated with pyrography and gold leaf.
“I like the really, really old illuminated art,” Bunch said. “It started with some of the really old Celtic art I started to get into, in maybe my mid-teens, and I decided to start drawing out some. I made birthday cards for various people. It just kind of progressed from there.”
Bunch said they were interested because their parents would decorate their home with knickknacks in these old styles.
“And we gravitated toward that style as we got older,” said Burrow, 22.
Plus, the two have an appreciation for wood because their father made furniture from scratch.
While Bunch took art classes and settled down after high school, Burrow received a bachelor’s degree in studio art from Northwest Nazarene University in 2012. Her senior year project was an illuminated manuscript of “The Song of Roland.” She created swirled borders and letters with gold and silver leaf paint.
“It was during my junior year I discovered there was a whole world for book arts,” Burrow said. “So, my academic adviser told me to have at it, and that’s when I started researching and I decided to make a manuscript of my own. It took me a little over two years.”
She spent time making the thick paper look authentic, as well as sandwiching the final project between a cover of white oak, just as a craftsman would have done back in 778, she said.
“Her fellow classmates and professors used to tease her about life in monastery,” Bunch said about Burrow, whose studio was dubbed The Monastery, for all her time spent there.
Now, their business reached $3,146 of a $2,500 goal on Kickstarter in early December, letting the sisters know that others appreciated their work, too. Since then they have put more focus on sales and outreach.
“We’d like to buy more equipment and supplies to continue,” Bunch said. “We’d like to get a wood lathe and a printing press, or a letter press, but we don’t actually have the space for those now. So the bulk of it, we’re just trying to continue to save. We need to spend some of it to buy for the next project.”
Future projects may include leather stamping, experimentation with book binding stitches, clockwork, cartography and chessboards. Some media may be mixed, such as art made of old paper, wood and leather. Or, the two hope to play around with old-school photography and development, with processes such as “Van Dyke Brown” printing.
“We would love to eventually get a space and put the equipment in there, and just leave everything set up,” Bunch said.
But Opus needs consistent art sales first, she said. Burrow agreed a studio is needed and, with a little nudging from Bunch, may relocate to Moscow in the near future.
“My room doesn’t look like a bedroom anymore,” Burrow said, laughing. “It looks like a studio with a bed in the corner.”
Interested buyers can view Opus artwork at www.opusworkshop.co (that’s right, .co not .com), and inquiries can be emailed to email@example.com. To follow their most recent projects, as well as their creation process, visit www.theopusblog.com or their Facebook page “OPUS: Old Things Made New.”
“Painstaking detail — that’s probably what defines all of these things,” Bunch said. “They can seem kind of scattered, but all of the things that we love have that attention to small detail.”
Treffry can be contacted at (208) 883-4640 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LindseyTreffry.