Goodness and truth are two values often used to describe the character of God. In addition, Christian theologians have long described beauty as a third inseparable reality which together with goodness and truth, paint a full picture of who God is. The Church was once the center of beauty – cathedrals, Renaissance paintings, stained glass windows – all helped people both experience God and describe Him.
Our modern society is looking to re-engage in these questions of beauty.
Today in our growing visual culture people are creating beautiful content through images more than ever before. Instagram allows anyone to craft and curate beautiful photography, and we share our everyday moments through platforms like Snapchat, Vine, or Tumblr.
We’ve become a culture that cares about beauty and is visually engaged.
When we look at bible design though, it has remained relatively the same. There have been few attempts to integrate imagery, typography, and layout design within the biblical text to engage with our rapidly growing visual culture. Similar to old master Renaissance artists, who looked at the Scriptures and created these beautiful pieces of art from them, we wanted to do the same - and asked ourselves, "What would that look like today?”
Alabaster aims to give the reader a fresh visual experience and heightened level of contemplation while reading this ancient text, that ultimately points to the beauty of God.
This project was founded by two friends connected by our love for God as the ultimate artist and creator. We share the same name, Bryan/Brian Chung. Alabaster is deepening our understanding of the art, the beauty, and the aesthetic of Christianity. Great art has always done more than tell a quick literal message. Great art and true beauty creates dialogue, it makes us think. We wrestle with it, it brings us together, and ultimately: we believe it brings us into a deeper understanding of our world and of God.
The cornerstone of this project is original artwork inspired by the scriptures. Each book contains the full gospel text, redesigned to create a visual experience. Every spread in every gospel book features an image that is carefully thought out and correlated with the passage.
The majority of photographs for this project are original artworks by me (Bryan). We studied the passages extensively to find key themes from which we drew inspiration for the images. During production, we are hoping to stick to a 75/25 rule. 75% of the images will be created “from scratch” and we will either take the photographs ourselves or outsource the image ideas to professional photographers who we have close relationship with. Due to the sheer volume of images that need to be shown (for we want at least one image to coordinate to each passage in the Gospels), 25% of our images will be licensed, pre-existing photographs from online sources.
For each book of the bible, we did an in-depth, inductive study of the scripture, looking at key themes, repetition, contrast, and historical context to determine how to highlight topics through art. From there we thought about what images either metaphorically or literally would get the message across.
To create the covers we broke a piece of alabaster stone into four separate pieces. A different piece of the alabaster becomes the cover for each different gospel.
We’ve decided to name this project Alabaster based on one of the very rare times Jesus uses the word beautiful. In Mark 14, we see a woman breaking an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume onto Jesus’ head. The act was extreme. Commentators say the perfume was worth an entire years worth of wages. In a completely sacrificial, gratuitous act, the woman anoints Jesus’ head with the only anointing he would receive before the crucifixion.
Many people present scoffed at the woman, saying something that expensive could have been used on the poor. But Jesus defends the woman, saying - “leave her alone, why do you bother her? What she has done is a beautiful thing.” It is this complete act of giving which Jesus calls beautiful.
- 100# cover paper (matted) for covers of each Gospel
- 80# text paper (unmatted) for insides of each Gospel
- Each Gospel is 96 pages
- 7.5" x 9.5", Perfect binding
We've decided to use the New Living Translation (NLT) for this project. We wanted a translation that was going to be a modern english translation, without sacrificing the true meaning of the ancient text. Many thanks to Tyndale Publishing and NLT for letting us use their translation!
September: Launch Kickstarter
October - February: Production of The Gospels
April: Shipping to You
- Manufacturing the books and shipping to Los Angeles: $16,000 for 500 sets (500 sets is the minimum order allowed)
- Packaging and shipping the books to you: $3,000
- NLT translation licensing fee (they take a percentage of total revenue): $3,000
- Cost of production (photography, design, labor): $9,000
- Miscellaneous/adding buffer to estimates: $1,000
- Kickstarter + Amazon together take 8-10%
- Total: about $35,000
Bryan Chung: Bryan is a recent graduate from the University of Southern California where he studied Animation and Digital Arts. He grew up loving to paint, take photos, and tell lots and lots of stories. Since graduating Bryan is now a campus minister at ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, CA and a freelance artist/ photographer. He is passionate about the intersection of beauty, art, and faith.
Brian Chung: Brian also graduated from the University of Southern California in 2010 with a degree in Entrepreneurship and a minor in Communication Design. Afterwards, he spent a couple of years as an Entrepreneur, helping other startup companies, while also volunteering his time after work doing campus ministry. He became a full-time campus minister in 2013 at USC, leading a ministry of about 200 students. In 2015, he became the lead director of the campus ministry. He has taught and led scripture studies for hundreds of students is passionate about students experiencing God.
Ivan Blanco - Thank you for helping us out with the Alabaster Logo Design.
Shawn Halim - Thank you for helping us edit our audio for our video.
James Choung - Thank you for inspiring us to think about beauty and faith.
Vay Ho - Thank you for being an advisor and business mentor.
Jacob Chung - Thank you for being our additional photographer.
Geoff Gentry - Thank you for helping us out with our script/writing.
Matt Bui - Thank you for helping us out with our script/writing.
Sian Ye - Thank you for being our consultant and business advisor.
Risks and challenges
The main risk and challenge is getting all the photographs we need to make this project possible. We’ve done test prints of these books, but we haven’t done a mass production. We want to make sure the mass production of these books meet the standards of excellence and beauty we have for this project.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)