Claire Lawrence is a 33-year-old artist with an incredible talent for tactile art. She has an honours degree in fine art, as well as a passion for creating artistic spectacles that viewers can experience in a number of different ways. She already has an impressive portfolio of works behind her, despite holding down a very challenging full-time job.
Claire is a regional campaigns officer for the RNIB; a job she takes very seriously. And if all that isn’t impressive enough, this inspirational woman also happens to be a competitive bodybuilder.
Oh… and Claire is blind.
At the age of just eight, Claire was diagnosed with Autosomal Retinitis Pigmentosa. This degenerative eye condition is incurable, and will probably leave her completely blind at some point in the future.
Claire had almost all her vision when she was diagnosed, but by the time she had left university, she was registered blind. Incredibly, this gradual loss of eyesight has only served to make Claire even more determined to enjoy life to its fullest.
She said: “I’ve always been creative. As children, my brother and I were always encouraged to be creative. My father was passionate about expressing himself, and he was keen for us to do the same.
“But things have become more difficult over the years for me. I have no peripheral vision, and almost no vision at all in my left eye. I also suffer from night blindness and inoperable cataracts.
“Some people find it difficult to believe that I’m blind. My eyes look completely normal, and I can still look people in the eyes.”
Positive in the face of adversity
Despite enduring the gradual loss of her vision, Claire has remained largely positive over the years. However, her eyesight went into steep decline shortly after she left university. As a result, she gave up on her passion… at least temporarily.
Six years after graduating, Claire discovered the artistic potential of a blow torch.
She said: “I realised that I could be creative through touch. My glue gun and blow torch became my brushes. Yes, I’ve lost lots of skin along the way, but I can now engage with art in the way I used to.
“I was taking back control, so I also decided to train as a gym instructor. And I started to take my bodybuilding more seriously. I love to compete, as it’s one of the few things I can still be involved in on a level playing field.”
Claire is undoubtedly a truly inspirational human being. She has already achieved more than many people with 20/20 vision have. And there are no plans to slow down anytime soon.
She said: “I always like to push myself in everything that I take on. Anything I can control or change I’ll do it. My mentality is one of self-motivation. I love to change attitudes and challenge stereotypes.”
Claire’s advice for people in a similar situation
Claire has learned a great deal about what it takes to succeed in life. She has achieved many of her ambitions despite her profound disability, and that is a source of inspiration for the people around her.
She said: “The best advice I can give to anyone is to keep trying. Don’t let problems stop you. Expect to get knocked down along the way, and then you’ll be ready for it. And surround yourself with people who will support you.”
Claire’s art speaks for itself
Claire already has an impressive body of work behind her. Not only have her collections won many professional plaudits, Claire’s reputation and talent have attracted the attention of national publications — as well as BBC3.
Collections such as “Feeling is Believing” focus heavily on tactile art, which is something that many art lovers are attracted to. One thing we’re told never to do in most art galleries is touch the works. However, touching is part of the experience.
“Feeling is Believing” was made with bright colours, sand and varnish — and the result is astonishing. The combination of texture and colour reflect how Claire sees the World.
“Lexus — The Hard Way” is another of Claire’s most popular works. This combination of leather, varnish and stitching comes together with one of Claire’s trademark blowtorches to give us a completely different perspective on leather. This job was commissioned by Toyota for a national advertising campaign, and it is certainly one of Claire’s most intriguing works.
What does the future hold?
Claire’s condition inspires her to live for the moment. She’s having lots of fun with her art, and that won’t stop anytime soon. But she’s philosophical about the future.
“I tend to live in the present. I know I will lose all of my eyesight at some stage, so I prefer to set one goal at a time.”
Claire’s story is truly remarkable. When asked what superhero she’d be, she said Daredevil — the blind acrobat who fights crime in Hell’s Kitchen. All joking aside, however, Claire is a real-life superhero… an inspiration to other artists and people living with a disability.
She said: “If I were to give someone like me some advice at the beginning of their journey, it would be to find their ‘happy’. Decide what will make you happy, and then go for it. Oh, and never stop treating yourself to the things in life you love.”
Claire Lawrence’s art isn’t defined by her blindness; it’s defined by her talent, her compassion and her determination to overcome adversity.
What Do You Do?
I’m a tactile artist and competitive bodybuilder. I also work as a regional campaigns officer for the RNIB.
If you could have any superpower what would it be?
See myself as the love child of Daredevil and Wonder Woman, so super strength please.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I don’t think further than a year ahead at a time. My eyesight could go completely at any point so I don’t like to think about the far future. I just choose a new challenge each year. Or bionic eyes… Part machine in 5 years time.