Welcome "The Artful Educator" to the Marketplace!

If you all haven't already seen The Artful Educator online (or in person!), we are delighted to introduce you to this phenomenal wife, mother, entrepreneur, and Orthodox Christian!

By day, Kim Votruba-Matook is a mild-mannered mama and Director of Content & Branding for a community-building start-up. When she hears the call of a curious kiddo or senses the need for creative consult, she becomes The Artful Educator (not-so-coincidently the name of the graphic design company she founded in 2015)! Fueled by black tea, chai lattes and macaroni and cheese, she spends all the time she can creating and sharing educational art to inspire a love for learning wherever she goes. She continues to hone her superpowers of transforming two tiny humans into responsible global citizens as well as her ideas into delightful and artful educational tools. And when she can, she has dance parties in her kitchen because she knows every moment matters and can (and should!) elicit joy.

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Kim's bright and bold educational art can be seen at www.theartfuleducator.com.

We asked her to explain a bit about the mission behind her business, and here's what she shared: 

"The Artful Educator’s mission is to help families engage in learning at every opportunity. Everything in this world has inherent beauty and a story; they can inspire a meaningful conversation with the children that you cherish.

 Our philosophy is simple:

1. The (limited) time we have with our children should be valuable, meaningful and fun for all involved.

 2. Educational opportunities are everywhere. Sometimes we need help finding them. 

The Artful Educator™ sets out to solve a challenge I faced as a life-long learner becoming a mom. When my son was a newborn, I started looking for educational nursery decor and all I found was the standard “A is for apple” items. I didn’t really understand why a letter was being reduced to a single item. Life is so beautiful and complex, why couldn’t I share that in a positive way with my newborn son through art? Since I couldn’t find what I was looking for, I created it. 

My products encourage a world of wonder through art infused with educational content that is easy to incorporate into a daily routine. It’s called the Artful Alphabet™.


The Artful Alphabet™ is exactly that. All the letters of the alphabet are designed as a mosaic of objects that start with that letter (A includes asparagus, Alabama, ant, ampersand, etc.). Then all those letter-specific items are filled in with a color that also starts with that letter (A in Aqua, B in Burnt Sienna, C in Chartreuse, etc.). So, from far away, you see an alphabet letter. Then when you zoom in, you see the one to three dozen items that form the letter and can inspire educational conversations. It’s educational on myriad levels; families can engage with the art at whatever level their children are ready to enjoy.

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The objects within each letter prompt discussions about geography, nutrition, the animal kingdom, sports and activities, among many more topics, totaling 675 points of conversations at a glance. The Artful Alphabet™ currently takes the form of flashcards, placemats, wall art, drawstring bags, and note cards (with inspirational quotes!) to help adults and kids truly be surrounded by educational opportunities. 

Through The Artful Alphabet™ (my original art), educational opportunities in everyday life are illuminated and showcased as meaningful points for conversation. Small things – from apricots to marbles to zippers – can and should give us pause in our busy days and bring the focus back to our relationships with the present moment, the world we live within, and each other. I also want my art to serve as an affirmation that everyone has a unique perspective and story to tell. Everyone, regardless of age, should be confident that their experience and connection with the world is enough and absolutely worth sharing, especially with the next generation. It is paramount that families authentically connect with eye contact, conversation and shared experience. Art and education can inspire this; they can provide myriad perspectives and interpretations, while sparking storytelling, curiosity, and wonder for the world."


Anyone balancing parenting and working knows the balancing act it can be, not to mention owning and running your own small business (trust us, sometimes it's a madhouse!). We asked Kim to share a struggle she faces as a mother and entrepreneur, and what her favorite part of it is. 

Her biggest challenge: "Being kind to myself. There are definitely days when I work hard on and in my business and I don’t make a sale. I struggle with negative talk on those (and most days) because I always think there is something more I could be doing for my business and as a mom. That was actually the inspiration for my quote cards! I needed something to counter all the negative talk in my head so I found encouraging quotes for every letter of the alphabet and printed them! I use them any time I need a boost! Building a business takes time; I need to be patient with myself, pray more for guidance, and focus on the joy I feel when talking about my passion for empowering families to learn and connect together through educational art!"

And the best part? "Freedom and flexibility with my time. While I am certainly not making as much money as I was when I had a full time job, working part-time, freelancing AND growing The Artful Educator may sound more complicated and busier, but the huge difference is I CHOOSE when to work. That is am amazing feeling! This means the schedule I set for the day is more likely to be completed because I am in control of it (through God’s will, of course!) Waking up and knowing that I can spend time with my kids without always needing to rush out the door is so so so wonderful. Then I can work when I need to, juggle what I need to, and then know I’ll have time to play, read and cook with my two littles (who are 4 and 2 by the way!) is amazing. My life feels joyfully full and I am happy. This happiness emanates and positively connects with my husband and kids and that joy exponentially increases. Of course we have our off days, but ultimately being a mompreneur has been a constant lesson in time management and priority ranking. What is most important is my family, my faith, and my well-being. This new flexibility in time has helped me re-center my life to make sure these three foci are always at the center of my world." 

Welcome Kim and the Artful Educator to the Draw Near Designs Marketplace! 




Welcome "Taste and See Studio" to the Marketplace!

We are delighted to share a new vendor in the Draw Near Designs Marketplace: Taste and See Studio!

Based in Wilmore, KY, Taste and See Studio is run by Geoff Whiteman, a member of St. Athanasius Orthodox Church who is a mission specialist with OCMC, responsible for missionary care. Geoff and his wife, Kriss, also lead marriage enrichment workshops and raise their son, Patrick. Geoff and Kriss do incredibly impactful work, and we are grateful for the opportunity to help support them through their participation in the Marketplace! Please take a moment to check out his website and learn more about his unique ministry to missionaries at http://www.resilientmissionary.org/. 


Besides balancing work and family, Geoff also creates beautiful prayer ropes that he offers in his Etsy shop, Taste and See Studio (https://www.etsy.com/shop/tasteandseestudio). Several varieties of his prayer ropes will be available in the Draw Near Designs Marketplace! We are especially excited about the adjustable child-size prayer ropes, and matching adult size adjustable prayer ropes. In addition to being handmade with prayer and love, these prayer ropes feature a beautiful olive wood cross from Jerusalem. What a treasure, and a perfect Father's Day present! 


Our favorite aspect of the Draw Near Designs Marketplace is the chance to support other Orthodox Christians' small businesses, and we are thankful to all the individuals who choose to shop in the Draw Near Designs Marketplace for making this possible!

"Old Calendar" Orthodox Children's Calendar 2019- FULLY FUNDED!

The "Old Calendar" Orthodox Children's Calendar for 2019 is fully funded!!!

From April 10-May 10, Draw Near Designs hosted a crowdfunding campaign to fund the printing of a special edition of the 2019 Orthodox Children's Calendar with Old Calendar (Julian Calendar) dates. We are delighted and overwhelmed with gratitude to share that through the support of Orthodox Christians from all over the country (and Canada too!), the campaign was FULLY FUNDED! Some people took advantage of the opportunity to add a saint of their choosing to the calendar, some got to pre-order their calendars at a discount, and others chose to generously donate to the project. We truly felt honored to have the support of so many! 

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Thank you to EVERYONE who pre-ordered, donated, and helped spread the word about this project. Last year we had frequently questions about an "Old Calendar" version of the Orthodox Children's Calendar, and we are so pleased that this year we will be able to say make that available. 

Crowd-funding UPDATE


Hello all! (Abigail here) I hope everyone has had a blessed Bright week and is still enjoying the Paschal season! We are still singing Christ is Risen as loud as we can in our house, and enjoying all the meats!



In Draw Near Designs news, we are 12 days into our (30 day) Old Calendar Crowd funding campaign! We have raised $605 of our $3,338 goal. (18% funded). We have 18 days left and 82% of our goal to be raised.

This project was brought to us again and again by people who follow the "Old Calendar" (Julian calendar) to PLEASE make another version of the Orthodox Children's Calendar better suited to their family's' needs. 

It was clear this was something important to the folks writing us and we wanted to give this new sprout of the calendar business a healthy start. For us, the most responsible avenue was to do another crowd funding campaign and find out if there were enough "backers" to support this new venture. There are 18 days left to help decide the answer to that question!

So just to revisit, here are the ways a person can back this project:

1.) Pre-order the calendar ($25)

2.) Pick tour saint and add it to the calendar ($80, and your saint will appear on the old calendar and new calendar version).

3.) Make a donation (you entire donation will go towards this project).

All people who pre-order will be the VERY FIRST to receive the calendar once it's ready to ship!

If we do not meet our goal by May 10th, all backers will be refunded for their purchases. Want this project to get funded?! SPREAD THE NEWS:

-post a link to our site on your social media pages

-tell your friends that are Old Calendar to order during this window!

-order a copy for yourself, your friends' Christmas presents, Godchildren, etc!

Well, I'm off to put the babes to sleep! Thanks for participating in this process with us! Wishing you a blessed week!

"Old Calendar" Orthodox Children's Calendar


We are excited to let you know that we are going to open up a window for pre-orders for this Old Calendar version, April 10 - May 10!


A little backstory: this all started back in December of 2016, when Marian Adams literally had a dream about collaborating with Abigail Holt to create a calendar for Orthodox children-- something with activities to keep them involved, and in a format that was easily accessible to children of all ages. She approached Caroline Gann and asked her if she would be interested in jumping on board as our graphic designer, and we were off! We launched a Kickstarter to fund the printing costs, were fully funded in a week, and sold out of the amount we had originally planned on printing before we even sent it to be published. The Orthodox Children’s Calendar includes original illustrations of children interacting with their faith, saints’ days with original drawings of those saints, and it highlights fasting periods, American holidays, and church feasts. There is an additional page following each month with a craft, recipe, and memory verse that correlate with the month. Draw Near Designs is the company that we founded along with the calendar, and now it includes other educational materials for Orthodox children.

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Our original calendar was based on “New Calendar” (Gregorian calendar) dates, and one of the most common requests we got was “Is there an Old Calendar (Julian calendar) version?” So this year, we are leaving the answer to that question in your hands! In case you don't know, the Julian ("old") calendar celebrates church feasts and saint's days 13 days apart from the Gregorian ("new") calendar.




Last year, we launched a crowdfunding opportunity on Kickstarter to gage interest in a “New Calendar” Orthodox Children’s Calendar. The idea was warmly received, the Kickstarter was fully funded within a week, and before we even went to print we sold out the original amount planned!!!! It was incredible! This year we are hosting a 30-day crowdfunding opportunity to measure support for an “Old Calendar” version for 2019. We decided to offer our own crowdfunding opportunity in lieu of a Kickstarter for the simple reason that we wanted to save our supporters money. So, we will open up a month long pre-order window at our website, running from April 10 (Bright Tuesday)- May 10. If we raise $3338 in pre-orders for the Old Calendar version and donations, then we will make it! And if we don’t, then the pre-orders and donations will be refunded, and we’ll have our answer.

We will update our blog (www.drawneardesigns.com/blog) and social media weekly (on Facebook at Draw Near Designs, and Instagram @draw.near.designs) with progress towards the pre-order goal. If you are passionate about this project and would like to give a monetary donation, look for the DONATE option at the bottom our website, and any amount you put in there will go directly towards the goal. You will also be able to donate an additional amount when you pre-order the calendar, or if you would prefer you can mail a check to Draw Near Designs at 3005 Boaires Ln, Louisville, KY 40223. There will be a banner on the website to give updates on our progress, and other special donation opportunities like adding a saint to the calendar! 




Here’s a breakdown of the amount we need to raise: the total amount needed is $3338. 60% of that is the printing costs of 250, spiral bound, 52 page, full color calendars.  23% of is shipping costs (shipping the calendars to your homes). 10% is graphic design costs and 7% is taxes and fees.

So it’s pretty simple-- if there is enough support to fund a printing of an Old Calendar version of the Orthodox Children’s Calendar, we are happy to do the work and create it for you! Additionally, this pre-order window actually offers the calendars at a discounted rate ($20/calendar + $5 shipping), compared to the retail price of $21.95 + $5 shipping from last year. So all you folks who wanted an Old Calendar version-- help us make this happen! Pre-order copies as Christmas gifts for all the children in your life (they will ship to you in the fall, PLENTY of time for Christmas), tell your friends, and if it’s really important to you, consider a monetary donation. If you have any questions, please send us an e-mail at drawneardesigns3@gmail.com.



As always, THANK YOU for your support! We can’t wait to make this calendar available to even more families and children.



In Christ,

Caroline Gann, Abigail Holt, and Marian Adams