Happy Times in the Nene Valley

June 03 2016

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”


Happiness for me, is being in that place where I can feel so completely myself, that I can see the joy in everything around me. 'Home is where the heart is',  they say and it's true - everything I need is right here! Family, friends, and our dog  as well as my little art studio here in Nene valley,  seem like the perfect ingredients to me.

Making art means that I can bring harmony into my life and share my own happiness with others. So I was really pleased to make a painting of the area I live in and then to share it. Nature gives people a great sense of well-being - seeing the stars at night, flowers in bloom or a red kite sailing in the wind reminds us of the delights of being alive today!
Red Kite by Jamie Poole

"Each blade of thy meadows my faithful heart prizes"

Since living in  'Artlenock' as the locals call it, I have learnt what it means to be part of a community. I have made many friends at the local Methodist Church, and in the town, who have made this an even happier place to live. 

Also, like many other people in the town, the lakes and meadows in the valley are a great source of inspiration and beauty. Its so great, that in a few short strides from my home I can be walking in a beautiful nature reserve. There are many birds and other wildlife to be spotted on walks around the lakes including swans, red kites, grebes, hedgehogs, deer, foxes and badgers, to mention just a few.
Irthlingborough Lakes and Meadows- The Greenway towards Irthlingborough
Recently our Minister Elizabeth Dunning announced that she would be leaving to continue her ministry near Walsall. She wanted an artwork to take away with her to remember her time in the Nene Valley circuit.  

Elizabeth, said that she always enjoyed seeing the many birds in the area, but particularly the Red Kites which sail overhead in the Nene valley. So, using this as my starting point I found an image of the Nene river meandering through the valley and a poem by John Clare called The Fens which mentions a red kite. 

`Ah, could I see a spinney nigh, 
 A paddock riding in the sky, 
 Above the oaks, in easy sail, 
 On stilly wings and forked tail.' 

Another name for the red kite, often used by Shakespeare, is the `paddock' (or `puttock').
Rev Elizabeth Dunning with the 'Red Kite' text painting

Dancing, Silent, Upon Salient Winding Breeze

The other poems I also used to create this artwork and which helped to spring board my ideas and thoughts were the these poems:

Red Kite 

Dancing, silent, upon salient winding breeze, 
Spring sun, warm and mellowing on horizon, 
Ascends to cross o'er rugged mountain pass, 
Looking to feed her needful young, 
She swoops to steal this evening's catch, 
Mouse in talon,to return to nest up high,  
Feeds chicks that chitter, beg for more,  
Then takes back off in steep evening rise,  
To seek out yet another one... 

Drifting upon the dusky breeze as evensong unfolds,  
A quest, survival, stay one breath ahead,   
Being careful and watchful, discerningly wise,  
Sharp of mind, keen of beak, tail of rusty hue,  
Eyes as sharp as a nugget embedded in gold,  
She glides off and up into darkening skies,  
She, such beauty, priceless, emotive sight,  
For I shall always admire you,  
The honest life of the Red Kite.  

 Poem by Claire Sanders  

I was also inspired by another poem called Sky Dancers which can read by clicking  here.

Above is a short video showing a detailed view of the painting. It brings together the parts which unify my own thoughts, actions, and words in the place I love to be. The place which I feel at home and happiest in.

Just as the quote from Gandhi  said -

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”

As an artist and friend of Elizabeth I am pleased that I can give her something to take away and treasure from her time in Nene valley. Elizabeth said this quote from the Bible came to mind when she saw her painting,

Psalm 121: 

I lift my eyes to the hills -
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the maker of heaven and earth.

Being able to share what I enjoy with another person is happiness!

You can read a bit more about what the scientists say happiness is, in the poster from 'Yes' magazine:

Download the PDF here!

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Happy Poster

Hope, Creativity and The Cross

May 09 2016

“The Cross is the eternal expression of the length to which God will go to in order to restore broken community.” 

― Martin Luther King, Jr.
Recently, as you may know I have been making decorated Christian Crosses using the words from the Bible to help me create designs. I was inspired by the Bible, the British landscape and its animals. But it occurred to me that although my designs might be new, the tradition of decorating a cross goes way back.

Ancient Knot-work, Interlace and Figurative Relief Carving!

In early Medieval times the Celtic people carved out stone crosses with relief designs which were usually set into the landscape. These designs incorporated a beautiful mixture of religious figures as well knot-work and interlaced patterns, which I  loved to draw as a teenager. The crosses were also probably painted bright colours and were known as a 'High Cross' or Standing Cross', more commonly found in Ireland and Wales.

Rich Materials and Outstanding Craftsmanship!

On looking further in to the subject of decorated crosses, I began to find lots of fascinating examples. This one (below) measures just  37.4 × 25.6 cm and was made at the workshop of Godefroid of Huy, a goldsmith in 1160-60. The craftsmanship is just amazing and so detailed!

The reliquary crosses I found from the British Museum collection look absolutely breathtaking in both detail and beauty! Reliquary means a container of relics such as bones, pieces clothing or some object related to saints or religious figures. This cross is made from wonderfully rich materials including copper alloy, enamel , rock crystal on silver backing, lapis lazuli, garnet and amethyst!  Apart from these diverse materials I think what is so great is how it shows five Old Testament scenes.

The shape of the cross obviously symbolises Christ on the cross, but crosses often tell other stories too. The times in which these crosses were made, the background of the people who made them or commissioned them, and the materials can tell their own stories too.
Reliquary Cross from the Mosan Culture, Belgium, 1160-1170

The Tree of Life Sprouts in the Midst of Destruction!

This brings us forward in time to a different story about crosses which were born out of great tragedy. 

El Salvador is known for its really powerful earth quakes off the coast of the country. On November 27th, 2015 an earth quake of  5.4  on the Richter Scale struck and  threatened to cause a tsunami to strike the coast. This had already happened once earlier in the year during May.

Many times the earth trembles and streets are left in ruins and buildings are destroyed. The country and its  people's lives need to be constantly re-built. But despite the loss of life and homes they stay hopeful.

From the ruins families search for materials which they use to build their next home and with the smaller pieces of wood they make crosses! These crosses are painted with bright colours, showing plants, animals and people. 

The Salvadorenhas people say, " We believe in life; it is stronger than death. We will rise again and again!". 

Wow, what spirit and grit!

“Let the ruins come to life In the beauty of Your name Rising up from the ashes God forever You reign” ― Hillsong

So, the cross is clearly a great symbol of hope today, around the world. When people need to process the events of life, creativity and faith have provided the means to process and heal life itself. 

The crosses I make are for both happy times and when friends need reassurance. Some crosses were made for weddings, and one was made as a gift for a ladies husband who is ill. Others are used to pray with or simply as an expression of faith. But regardless of whether a person is religious or not the presence of this symbol can be a candle that lights up darker times or celebrates the happy ones. 

To see more of my crosses please visit my Etsy Shop!
Home Cross


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