A GREAT Shefford man has inspired his village craft group by flourishing as an artist despite his disability.
Paul Allen once led an active life as a pig farmer and later as an auxiliary nurse at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading.
But 14 years ago he contracted complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) following an operation on his arm.
The agonising condition spread until eventually Mr Allen lost the use of his legs, right arm and right eye.
Confined to a wheelchair, and wracked with pain, he decided to join the Shefford Craft Group as a distraction from his illness.
Craft group secretary Beryl Jones said: “It’s such an uplifting story.
“Paul has had to adapt and create his own very unique style of art, using his left hand, and has produced some very vibrant and colourful works.
“Coming to the group has enabled him to express himself in a way he didn’t know he could – he had never picked up a paint brush before – and has given him the chance to try and forget his pain and make new friends.”
Mr Allen said his sessions also give his wife Jan, who is his full-time carer, a break.
Ms Jones said: “It’s a win-win situation having him in the group, and we feel very fortunate he has joined us.
“Paul is very inspiring as he never complains and he always appears cheerful in spite of all he has to endure.”
Mr Allen said: “I just thought I’d give it a go and I joined about nine months ago.
“I’d never painted before and found I really enjoyed creating abstract watercolours, in particular.”
CRPS, also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), is a long-term condition that often worsens with time.
It is characterised by severe pain and sensitivity, swelling, and changes in the skin.
It may initially affect one limb and then spread throughout the body.
The cause of CRPS is unknown, though it is often triggered by surgery.
Shefford Craft Group, which has almost 30 members, meets every Friday morning between 9.30am and noon in Great Shefford Village Hall.
Activities include, but are not confined to, painting with various mediums, flower-arranging, jewellery-making, knitting, crochet, making greetings cards using various techniques, embroidery, including silk ribbon, tapestry and traditional, creative textiles, candle-making and spinning.
Every month there are demonstrations, which have included the art of using pastels, paper-making, producing pictures from fabrics and other mediums, weaving bark to make bowls and boxes, card-making using the pricking method, acrylic and watercolour painting techniques and silk painting.
Ms Jones said: “We’ve produced items for flower festivals, embroidered wall hangings, organised craft events and we arrange trips to craft fairs, silk mills and the like.
“If you feel you would like to have a go at any of the above, or have a talent you could share with us, we would be delighted to see you.”
For more information telephone Ms Jones on (01488) 648889 or Alma Dawkins on (01488) 648833.