Nidderdale artist creates green symbols

A former Nidderdale pupil and artistic environmentalist will unveil his new invention next month.

By Janet Harrison
Tuesday, 28th June 2022, 11:05 am

James Owen Thomas, who is a Tree Council and COP26 ambassador, is giving children with complex communication needs symbols to speak up about the environmental crisis.

The talented artist will unveil his PECS® (picture exchange communication system) symbols at the Artmaker Symposium Festival at Henshaws Arts and Craft Centre in Knaresborough on Friday July 8.

“Growing up, I relied on PECS® to share my thoughts and aspirations with others,” said James.

“When I first became aware of the environmental crisis, I realised there was no way for those with complex communication needs such as mine to contribute to the conversation and to understand that they too can be a powerful part of the solution.

“Equality is something that I am passionate about - it is so important that everyone has a voice, that everyone has the opportunity to understand the crisis and to speak up in their own way.

“Children are our future, and these symbols make all the difference to those who care about the environment and have complex communication needs.

“My goal is to give those that need them the tools to become a Force for Nature. This is my way of giving back.”

James, a talented artist and a Young Tree Champion Ambassador with The Tree Council, a national environmental charity, feels a deep sense of connection with the natural world. Like many young people his age, he is very concerned about the environment. In 2021 he was chosen by the Prime Minister’s Office to be a One Step Greener Ambassador for COP26.i

Through his artwork, James has inspired thousands of Young Tree Champions in schools across the UK to connect and protect nature.

He leads on engagement with Special Needs Schools and, learning from his own communication challenges, he decided to create a set of symbols to help others with similar challenges understand and communicate their passion to tackle the crisis.

Richard Pollard, The Tree Council’s National Schools Programme Manager, said: “We are so proud of what James has achieved and thoroughly excited by his work with PECS® symbols.

“His empathy for others and his drive to help everyone become Forces for Nature like him, no matter what challenges they face, is nothing short of awe-inspiring. We could all learn a thing or two from James.”

Louise Hotchkiss, Operational Director at Pyramid Educational Consultants UK Ltd agreed, adding: “We are thrilled to be able to support James in his work as a Tree Council Ambassador by producing a special edition set of environmental themed symbols.

James used PECS® to support his communication when he was younger; it is fantastic that he is now using symbols to aid him in spreading the message about climate change and what everyone can do to prevent further damage to our planet.” 

Some of James’ latest original artwork will be on display throughout July and August at Art In The Mill, Knaresborough.

And he added: “Fountains Abbey have asked me to display prints of my Tree artwork from August 8-21 at Swanley Grange and I will be going there on certain days to speak to visitors and demonstrate my artwork, linking it again to my ambassador role for the Tree Council and the PECS symbols I have designed.

James will also be part of the Nidd Art Trail again this year, demonstrating his artwork from “The Open Garage” at his own premises in Pateley Bridge during August 20 and 21 and 27 and 28.