My ministry is to create sacred spaces. All of the great cathedrals and mosques and other sacred buildings have the effect of pulling people out of their minds, into a state of awe and reverence. I believe good design can create that without the need for any religious iconography. Good architects, artists and designers have the ability to bring soul into the spaces we live and work in.
This vision was born out of my training as an interfaith minister. At art school I’d developed a passion for working with spaces rather than objects — spaces that would facilitate people to be in the present moment, to experience beginner’s mind. Then during my Seminary training I visited multifaith spaces or prayer rooms in various institutions. None of them seemed to be inspiring or uplifting, or places I’d want to go to contemplate or pray. Training as a minister inspired me to see this work as my form of service.
I’ve no doubt about my peak experience as an artist and designer. Marie Curie Hospice in Newcastle asked me to transform its traditional chapel into a ‘reflection room’ that could meet more diverse religious and spiritual needs. The theme throughout is water and waves, expressed in the recurring motif, the central water feature, a wall sculpture and a stained glass window. It changed from being a room to stand up in, into a room to fall into — a room that holds you. This is so important for people experiencing grief.
Helping people de-clutter is like spiritual counselling in motion.This is my other main activity and income. I spend an initial hour with each client, assessing their needs or goals. Then I’ll go in, hands-on, for half a day or a day. Usually I can intuitively sense where the blockages are in space. My job is to help clear the energy, being practical but also listening deeply. It’s about bringing unconditional presence in a different way.
Last year I ‘rebranded’ from Quiet Rooms to the Ministry of Calm. This reflects more clearly that I’m also working with people’s internal space — there’s an element of therapy and coaching and transformation. I had one de-cluttering client recently who was going through a rough patch with her adopted child. They were in a vicious circle of the child’s rage and her depression, and the house was in chaos. I’ll never forget the enormous smile on the child’s face, seeing what we had done to clear the space and create some order and harmony.
The business side can be a challenge, as I’m an artist, not a marketeer. It’s been a struggle at times to earn enough to support myself. Charities and small businesses don’t have budgets for good design. But there’s growing interest in mindfulness, and a real growth in yoga and meditation centres for example, so the opportunities are there. I’m still looking for a business partner who could bring additional skills — especially in marketing!
Above: Helen meditating in a quiet room she designed in London.
Below: the Reflection Room at Marie Curie Hospice in Newcastle.