The meaning of thank you – clay hearts by the people of Long Buckby

April – June 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is one of those stories that you hope will not happen in your lifetime. It feels like you are in a movie and you cannot wait to see the happy ending. But then you realise that this is all happening, that it is all real. For some of us, it has been more difficult than for others, but we all got together and helped each other to get through this pandemic. Every day you hear about so many inspiring stories, love, and kindness spread around the world.

And here is our story.

Long Buckby is a fantastic place to live in. We have all put our ”positive pants” on and created 200 hearts from clay, each heart being uniquely created as a thank you gift to our local volunteering group – Long Buckby Angels and local shops that stayed opened during the pandemic, to ensure we have all the supplies needed to get us through the pandemic.

It all started as I was looking for a way to get our community involved in a creative project, whilst keeping safe. At this time I was also volunteering with Long Buckby Angels and, seeing all the hard work, the love put into every job received daily, I thought this is the perfect opportunity for our community to create a unique gift for these amazing Angels. And so it had to be hearts. My friend and neighbour, Chris Berry, suggested that we test the idea with a few ladies from the Women’s Institute also  members of our local Arts & Crafts Club. So that is what we did.

On the 11th April 2020, we started making clay hearts. I used proper PPE protection and protocols to ensure that each wooden board and all the materials used to create the hearts was properly disinfected. I used a cardboard template to cut the hearts from rolled slabs of clay, then left them to dry for a couple of hours. I would then write on each heart ‘Thank you from Long Buckby’, then place it on a wooden board, and wrap the board in cling film. The heart would stay moist for a couple of days. All hearts are made of beautiful terracotta clay. I have also put together a simple guide on how to use flowers to create texture on the heart. The guide was delivered to each household that contributed to the project.

The test was a success, so we started to spread the word, and more people got involved. It was so lovely to see how everyone wanted to show their love and appreciation towards Long Buckby Angels and local shops. Love was spreading.

Each heart that I prepared was simply a blank canvas ready for each designer to add their magic to it. Designers added texture to their heart using fresh flowers from their own garden or flowers picked during their daily walk, pendants, brooches, cookie cutters, Lego, making each heart unique. As each designer finished their heart, they wrote their name on a piece of paper and wrapped it up with the heart to return to me. On the back of each heart, I hand wrote the month, year and the name of the person who designed it, so the person receiving the heart, knows who it came from.

Each heart is so beautiful and has engraved on it a small part of someone’s soul. Everyone was so happy to be able to create something special to give back to our volunteers and local shops. 

It was a little hard to spread the word as I wanted to keep the project a secret, but I also knew I was going to need all the help I could get as there would be over 150 hearts to create.

On 28th April I contacted Carmen asking for help to get children involved in the project. Luckily, Carmen was available to help.  Carmen and her lovely son Keider, have been my Angels during this project. I am so grateful for their help. They were picking up batches of hearts from my house, delivering them to their designers, and then collecting and returning them back to me. Once the hearts were fired in the kiln, they also helped with delivering them to all the designers and Angels. 

In the end we made a total of 200 hearts, which took 2 kiln loads to fire. I was a little nervous during the first firing, because I programmed the kiln to fire too long, and I thought the hearts might be overfired (which would have meant dark red hearts not the beautiful terracotta colour).With help from my friend and potter Chris Dawes in Daventry, I managed to get all the hearts fired without any problems. Phew! I only had one chance at firing the hearts, as none of these hearts could be duplicated. 

With all the hearts fired, Carmen, Keider and I started distributing them on 26th May. We were returning the hearts back to their designers, who were then taking each heart to their nominated ‘Angel’.

We distributed hearts and love around the village for almost a week. We asked everyone to take photos when delivering their hearts. The smiles in every photo I was receiving, the love and kindness in everyone’s eyes, brought tears in my eyes. My heart was singing the happy song. I never imagined this will be so amazing. Everyone was so happy, the children were so excited that they got to give the beautiful hearts that they made to someone who they appreciated, and they know that are helping us to get through these strange times.

On 16th June Simon from Pinpoint Video and Sue from Garden Gate Flowers visited Long Buckby to find out more information about our community spirit.We spent the day  interviewing Carmen and Keider, Rachel Dobbs, Hilary Tibbs and Lou Culley, Lois Johnston and Barbara Fuller.We had such a fantastic day listening to each story told. The weather was perfect and the loud birds kept singing for us all along. Thank you Simon and Sue for putting together our story in such a beautiful video. 

Here’s the video, enjoy

Video by Simon Ainley at

Even though we already have a great community in Long Buckby, my hope is that this project will strengthen our community spirit further and help it remain like this for a long time to come.

I would like to share with you a lovely story. One of the children, Blake, had to re-do his clay heart because there was a little hole in the first heart that he made. I returned it to him along with a blank one so he could use the first heart as a reference if he wanted to make the second heart the same. When he’d finished, he returned the new heart and told me he’d painted the original heart, which was now hanging proudly in his bedroom.

Special thanks

  • Thank you to everyone who contributed to our hearts project: ladies from Women’s Institute and Craft group, children from the Junior School, Infant school, Clarecroft nursery and pre-school, neighbours and friends
  • Thank you to our Long Buckby Angels for all your hard work, for giving up your free time to make sure that we are OK. Your hard work is very much appreciated. Special thanks to Hilary Tibbs, Rachel Dobbs and Lou Culley for starting up and leading this group of over 170 volunteers
  • Thank you to our local shops that stayed open and supplied our village with everything that we needed throughout this pandemic
  • Thank you to Chris and Frank Berry, they supported me as friends and neighbours from the first day we moved to Long Buckby. I could not wish for better neighbours. They have been by my side for the duration of this project and helped me when I needed them. Chris is a Long Buckby Angel herself
  • Thank you to Carmen Evans-Sprules and  her son Keider,  they have been my Angels during this project. They organised collection and deliveries of hearts created by the children in Long Buckby. I could have not done this project without their help. Keider helped with designing, collection and distributing of hearts; he just kept smiling. He is such a creative boy
  • Thank you to Linda Johnston for helping with designing and distributing hearts. Linda is born and bred in Long Buckby and member of WI
  • Thank you to Becci and Hannah for your help with distributing hearts . Becci and Hannah are also Long Buckby Angels
  • Thank you Angela and Bobby (the beautiful black Labrador) for your help with distributing hearts
  • Thank you to Ann Bond and everyone from the Library for allowing us to display our photo collage in the Library’s window
  • Thank you Jo at Fuschia Pinks for the beautiful flower baskets
  • Thank you to my Mum, my Sister, and my partner Pete, for being by my side (as always) when I needed you
  • Thank you to Quentin Pain, my cheeky friend and copywriter  for making my words sound beautiful
  • Thank you to Simon from and Sue from Garden Gate Flowers, for bringing our memories back to life through such a fantastic video which will stay with us forever
  • Thank you to Lois Johnston and Barbara Fuller for being part in our video making , for sharing your stories with us


Thank you Long Buckby

Laura ❤️Long Buckby Pottery Laura