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New Norwich Christian learning centre courses

JackieSmith4002011: Quilting, poetry, church history– the diverse courses run by the Norwich Centre for Christian Learning are attracting people from across East Anglia. Sandie Shirley reports.

The ecumenical tutors include quilter Jackie Smith (right) and Dr Chris Joby who has harnessed theology and fine art to explore the deep issues of faith. Both will be helping to strengthen and promote Christian learning with their courses at Norwich Cathedral this spring.

Jackie’s quilts are colourful, pictorial landmarks of her journey with God and a living message for others at cathedrals and art galleries across the UK. With a developing talent for textiles, she has charted the contours of her faith through heartache, trial and joy. Jackie is also a popular speaker and passes on her skills at various workshops that will include the Norwich Centre for Christian Learning course on March 12.  

Jackie’s labour of love began over three decades ago when she joined neighbouring quilt makers at the chapel near her former Dorset home. She helped make 24 quilts and she became the proud owner of two of them. Although she moved to Southampton and Wales, the Isle of Wight and Norfolk, when her husband became a Methodist minister, Jackie’s quilt making continued. She practised her art and found a new, alternative niche for her faith that has opened doorways at secular and Christian exhibitions across the country.  

“I can usually picture the completed quilts in my mind’s eye but they often change before I finish,” says Jackie, who spends a year planning each design. Worked with silk, sheer, velvet and brocade fabrics and glistening metallic’s, most are also painted, dyed and sewn by hand and machine.

“People quite often see things that I have not seen as the quilts say something to them and that is what they are about,” says Jackie, from Coney Weston near Thetford.

Her quilt making took a new direction when she moved to Wales and saw the breathtaking Snowdon scenery from the manse where she lived. The area was also steeped in Celtic spirituality and she felt the pilgrimage treks were a reflection of her own life journey. It soon became the focus for her first spiritual quilt called Pereindota with Celtic symbols of Church and eternity and the misty grey colours of Wales. 



 Creation by Jackie Smith

 Stars like spangles stitched across
 The dark velvet cloth of night.
 Planets like sequins
 Reflecting the light
 of blinding gold-white silk.
 At the heart of our Universe,
 The Sun
 giving warmth, light and life.
 In our hearts
 The Son
 bringing warmth, love and life.
 Our heartbeats:
 Our life. 
“I have always found God in creation,” says Jackie who has since made eight quilts depicting creation, which have also inspired some accompanying prose.      

Now she is busy experimenting with a quilted journal and quilting trees in a new ‘Revelation’ series “to explore a gradual revealing of God alongside the heartache of being a distance carer for my daughter who suffers mental health problems,” says Jackie.

The dark, winter artistry will change, as the series unfolds with joy and hope. “During the darkness God takes us through our trials and temptations and when we get to rock bottom we discover that the rock is God, as we are rooted in him,” says the textile artist who found great help through the MIND Carer Support service.    

For information about the Norwich Centre for Christian Learning workshops contact: Gudrun Warren, 12 The Close, Norwich, NR1 4DN, 01603 218327 www.cathedral.org.uk/learning. For general quilting enquiries contact: jackie.ks@hotmail.co.uk


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