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Local artist honoured by Pope’s delight of her creation

By Klysha Best

Imagine having something you created being presented to the Holy Father himself, Pope Francis.

Emotions would run high, especially upon hearing that your creation was appreciated and well accepted by the highest in our faith. What an honour!

Well, this is what happened to young artist Bliss Vidalis-Lewis. Still basking in the glow of this achievement, the Penal wife and mother of three said she is on a spiritual high of sorts following words of the Pope’s gratitude.

Vidalis-Lewis, a member of the St Dominic’s RC parish in Penal, said she was approached by fellow parishioner and catechist, Bernadette Gopaul-Ramkhalawan, to design and paint an Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) banner, stole and cards for the 3rd International Catechetical Congress, which was held earlier this month (September 8–10) at the Vatican in Rome.

The items were presented during an audience with the Holy Father and Gopaul-Ramkhalawan, who was in attendance in Rome, said Pope Francis loved the stole and received it happily, “blessing the AEC.”

Vidalis-Lewis said she was honoured to have simply been asked to design and create the items, but to have the Pope love the stole, was the icing on the proverbial cake. “When I heard of his reaction, I can only explain the feeling as a spirit-filled high that I couldn’t seem to come down from.”

A former student of Holy Faith Convent, Penal, where she developed her love for arts and craft, Vidalis-Lewis admitted that she had some guidance on the stole from her art facilitator at Liturgy School, Deborah Tam.

Vidalis-Lewis said the process was not as easy as one would think.

The stole was sewn by an acquaintance of Gopaul-Ramkhalawan, but Vidalis-Lewis said she had to rip it apart to place cardboard between the fabrics so as not to cause “bleeding” of the paint.

Then, it had to be returned to the seamstress to be re-stitched.

Initially, Vidalis-Lewis said: “I wanted to use different images representing the islands, like steelpan for Trinidad and Tobago and flying fish for Barbados, but in the end, decided to go with the flags due to the limited space on the stole.” “I used both fabric paint and acrylic paint.”

She said the thing that took up the most time, was the sketching. “The sketching took time, in terms of doing the research, settling on the symbols that would be used to represent the islands and finding the right look,” said Vidalis-Lewis.

She added: “Designing and sketching took about five days, while the actual painting was done over a two-day period.” Vidalis-Lewis said this is the first piece of such importance that she has ever done.

“I would hand-paint flowerpots and make my own home altar cloths and decorations for different feast days and seasons. I would also sell items for Christmas and Easter,” she said.

Vidalis-Lewis describes her art as mixed media and thanked her formed Holy Faith Convent art teacher Mrs Dalip for allowing her creativity to thrive.

“I have always had a passion for art and creativity. I convert all kinds of trash to things of beauty. I work mainly with newspapers, eggshells, cardboard, and all other types of waste materials,” said Vidalis-Lewis.

She noted, “Doing modern-day art and being a catechist, I won’t describe it as difficult. But being a proud Catholic and standing firm in your beliefs is difficult to do in today’s world. Having kids and having to explain certain things to them is even more so difficult. However, I accept that the world is changing and accept everyone’s view, just as I expect them to accept mind.”

“As a young artist, I would say the world inspires me. I see beauty all around me. I am a nature lover, a plant lover, so I use the beauty that is around me to inspire my craft.”

For someone who never thought of having this opportunity to create artwork for the Pope, Vidalis-Lewis said: “My advice to other young Christian artists, would be to treat mistakes as happy accidents. Use it as a teaching moment to learn how to improve. It may reveal a new technique or a better way of doing things, but most of all have fun.”