Hi there Navigating Blindness followers, this is Victoria Claire from www.victoriaclaire-beyondvision.com and I’m excited to share how creativity has helped me cope, grow and find joy with vision loss.
“Disability is not an impairment to creativity.” This is one of my statements when engaging with the public while speaking as a sight loss awareness advocate.
As a professional artist in contemporary sculpture, with a career spanning 25 years, I would like to share with you the importance of my creativity whilst traveling along my pathway of sight loss. Creativity became my first port of call when I was at my lowest point after being diagnosed with RP at the age of 19 in 1994. I was a young art student studying graphic design at art college when I found out I was going to go blind. Initially, I didn’t know how to take in what I had been told. For a while, I tried to ignore it and carry on with my life as an art student.
Graphic design was a pathway that I was not destined to go down, as I fell in love with sculpture a little before I got into art college. I first picked up a chisel and mallet at the age of 17 whilst studying a foundation course in art and design. I remember my tutors at the time thought I was crazy! It was my final major project exam, most people were sticking to what they knew best and basing their projects on that. I, however, decided to go completely off the beaten track and create a large floor standing wooden sculpture of a dolphin. Now, this wasn’t exactly sticking to what I knew as far as graphic design was concerned. However, I was so compelled to create a sculpture that I ignored all advice and went ahead with it. It was a gamble as I needed to pass the exam to continue onto art college. Well, after 6 weeks of carving I entered the work as my final exam piece. Feeling rather nervous I went to collect my exam results, I didn’t just pass the exam but I smashed it and received a high distinction for my work. That is when I knew that sculpture was my future.
So there I was in art college, studying a course that I wasn’t particularly passionate about, I kept creating three-dimensional pieces for the graphic design briefs and somehow was getting away with it! I applied to get onto a very prestigious figurative sculpture degree, this had only 28 places in the whole of Europe. I managed to secure an unconditional place. I passed my graphic design course with flying colours, this was despite my three-dimensional solutions.
By this point I had been diagnosed with RP, I was engaged and had also just passed my driving test. I began to feel that my diagnosis was not going to have any bearing on my future… how wrong I was. Within a very short space of time, I suffered three major losses. My relationship ended due to my partner feeling that he couldn’t stay with me as he felt my sight loss would hold him back. I then went off to university to begin the figurative sculpture degree, and it became very apparent that with no independent living and mobility skills as a young visually impaired woman, I was completely out of my depth, so I had to leave. The final blow came when I returned home from uni and then lost my drivers license. That was it, my world had officially been shattered!
How do you come back from that? Well, it took me a while to figure that out, however, after a lot of soul searching I realised that despite my progressive sight loss I still had the skills to sculpt, sight loss was never going to take that away from me. Once this realisation took hold I began to pick up my tools and sculpt again. Initially this was really for therapeutic reasons, however, I was soon supplying local galleries with work to sell. Over the years my career has grown and my profile as a professional artist has now become recognised. I have exhibited all over the UK including the House of Commons and America Square in central London. I have created well over 70 commissions that are owned all over the world.
My connection to creativity has, and always will be, my saviour to whatever adversity I may face. It is a beautiful thing to be able to connect to that abundance of creative flow I feel through my life. I am incredibly grateful for that connection and I can never imagine being without my creativity, it’s my core, my soul, my spirit and I know I can completely rely on it to see me through.
If you are someone that is in the position to encourage people, especially youngsters that may be struggling with a disability and like, in my case, sight loss, please encourage them to embrace their creativity, be that through art, music, writing, performing, whatever creative process resonates with them. Creativity will be something that will allow them to grow despite their adversity, it will give them purpose and joy and above all else, creativity will support them with the psychological impact of disability.
To find out more about my work and sight loss awareness involvement please visit:
Image description: 4 pieces of Victoria’s work including “Surf, Sand and Spirit” “Soul Searcher” “Blinded Soul Skateboard Collection” and “A Moment of Time”