We are all beautiful, walking, works of art… creative ability birthed out of tragedy


Bernadette Pickering tells the remarkable story of faith and creativity rising up out of her daughter’s serious injury, survival and disability. 

Bernadette's polymer clay courses run from Sandy in Bedfordshire

My unexpected, creative journey with polymer clay started back in 2005. My daughter had a very serious Acquired Brain Injury in 2003 and, shockingly, her boyfriend of 11 years decided to end her life and his. Thank God, she survived the attempt but the consequences of that day left her hemiplegic and a single mother, as her partner sadly took his own life. Together they have a son who was seven at that time. He was really traumatised and needed help from Chums, a youth bereavement counselling service for a while. 

Our daughter went through some great many challenges for those first two years, physically, emotionally, mentally,  and as Christians, my husband and I put our trust in Jesus' ability to get us all through this. I had a tremendous impression while she was in hospital, in those early traumatic days, that manifested itself in three simple words "All Is Well', wow! We decided to trust in our faith in Jesus for the outcome, whatever that was to be, despite the tubes and monitors attached to her all over.

My daughter and grandson came home to live with us and, later that year, I booked my daughter into a jewellery making workshop. When I returned to my amazement and delight, she had made a necklace and bracelet from some beautiful glass beads, with some help from the team. She was so delighted that I realised that this could a great craft to do as part of her rehabilitation. 

She was always a naturally creative girl and despite her brain injury, it was still within her. When we got home, we started gathering jewellery beads and findings together from our own jewellery boxes, then charity shops, Ebay and and the like, until we had a good selection of beads of all colours and sizes.

At that time I worked in a school as a teaching assistant and so I asked if we could come in and make jewellery with the children during dinner breaks. Without any fuss we got permission and came in twice a week to make necklaces, bracelets, earrings. It was very popular and had forty students, boys and girls. One day, during the lunchtime workshop one of those students said to me, "Miss my aunty makes beads from Fimo". Well my curiosity immediately rose up and I asked if I could meet her. So a week or two later I was in her home, looking at what she had made from polymer clay and was fascinated to say the least! She loaned me some books and I went shopping as soon as I could for Fimo! That was it, I was hooked on 'cane and bead making' from then on.

My daughter Jo continues to create jewellery and sources her beads so that children can have their own workshops. Jo particularly loves working with children as she was a nanny and nursery nurse before the Acquired Brain Injury. Now 14 years on there is no end to her talent as she is now branching off into making 'word boxes’ celebrating many types of occasions. I thank God for her life and all that she has been able to achieved despite her disability.

So I always say that this creative ability was birthed out of a tragedy. The Bible says how God exchanges 'Beauty for ashes, strength for fear, gladness for mourning and peace for despair'. After all, we are all beautiful, walking, works of art, and we can wear 'wearable art' made from polymer clay 'canes' and beads. So if you are looking for a new craft project to try, then try here.

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