Creating icons is an aid to prayer says Judith

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Creating icons is an aid to prayer says Judith

Iconographer and Aylsham parishioner Judith James is set to hold an exhibition of her work in St Peter’s Church in Corpusty, in North Norfolk, this summer.

Judith has just completed a three-year study course with the Prince’s Trust under the mentoring of leading UK iconographer Aidan Hart. She had, with her fellow 11 other students, an end-of-course exhibition in London which was featured in a recent Songs of Praise broadcast in February.

Now she is arranging her own local exhibition in Corpusty, showing some of that work together with new pieces.

St Peter’s Corpusty is a 14th century church, restored by the Norfolk Churches Trust over the last 15 years and saved from dilapidation.

Judith, a parishioner from St John of the Cross, Aylsham, part of North Walsham Sacred Heart Parish, was born in Norwich and educated at Cardiff and Sheffield. She had a successful career as a nurse whilst bringing up a family of five children. When she retired at the age of 55, she concentrated on pursuing her creative passion, gaining a fine art degree at Newcastle University in 2007.

After some years painting, she was particularly inspired whilst living in Italy and began producing religious work on terracotta tiles. This led on to studies in both England and Italy in icon painting techniques of various styles working under prominent Russian, American, Italian and English teachers.

After several years and single artist exhibitions in Norfolk and Tuscany, she was accepted on to the Prince’s Trust Icon Painting Certificate three-year course beginning in October 2019. Judith says she benefitted greatly from this course, improving her skills and finish quality in board making, gilding, drawing and painting in egg tempera in the Byzantine icon style under iconographer Aidan Hart.

The work, originally displayed in the Prince’s Foundation Chapel at the former Chelsea Barracks was done during that course. It was featured in the February 2023 broadcast of Songs of Praise.

The programme also featured a discussion with Irina Bradley, another top iconographer of the Russian style with whom Judith has also studied.

Judith said: “As Irina said in the video, painting icons is a spiritual activity. The iconographer always prays a particular prayer before starting work. Ideally the whole time is spent in a prayerful atmosphere. The icons themselves are an aid to prayer, used either in churches or for private prayer.

“Although mainly associated with the Orthodox Church, they are increasingly found in churches of other denominations – notably in Westminster Abbey. I also made a St John of the Cross icon for my own church in Aylsham

“On a personal level, discovering iconography has been one of the most uplifting and fulfilling experiences of my life. It has felt like coming home to my true vocation. Painting icons has made me feel closer to God on a daily basis and made me a much calmer person in general.”

Judith’s Exhibition of Icons will take place in St Peter’s Church, Corpusty, from June 23 to July 1. There is a preview evening on Friday June 23 at 6.30pm and all are welcome.

There is an Evensong Service on Saturday June 24. The exhibition is open every day from 10am to 4pm, except Saturday June 24 (11-5pm) and Sunday June 25 (11-4pm).

You can contact Judith at: or on: 07808 901028.

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Pictured above is Judith James with some of her icons at her final exhibition in London in November 2022.