Originally published by The Leicester Mercury. View original article here

An art graduate who has gone blind has turned adversity on its head by producing new work through touch.

Claire Lawrence, 29, of Syston, who is registered blind, is exhibiting new work at the Ellerington Fine Art Gallery in Leicester's Clarendon Park Road, and is urging other budding artists with sight loss to keep following their dreams.

Despite losing her sight to autosomal retinitis pigmentosa – a degenerative eye condition – Claire has produced work focusing on tactile materials.

Techniques include freezing, burning, deconstructing and rebuilding materials.

Claire said: "I finished my art degree at Reading University in 2007, but my eyesight took a sharp decline. I gave up on creating art work as I couldn't see the point.

“However, last year, my frustration at my lack of creativity peaked. A moment of inspiration came from the gift of a blow torch and a desire to express myself kick-started and revived my creative passions.”
"The pieces in this series were created by burning, stitching, varnishing and layering canvas. The burnt holes represent the disintegration of my retina and the way I view the world.
"The delicate webs of thread represent the fragile nature of my sight and the varnish holds it altogether. This is the hope that nothing will change."
"I would encourage other blind and partially-sighted artists not to give up. You can still find ways to express yourself and be creative."
"I was diagnosed with the condition when I was eight and was told I would be blind by the time I was 20, so I've had some borrowed time."
"I have always loved art, it was always something I loved and I wanted to have a degree.
"I try to combine different senses with my work. What I like is when sighted people say it is beautiful, but that it also feels nice."

Claire has 11 works in the exhibition which are for sale, ranging in price from £75 to £495.

Claire said: "Louise has that much confidence in me. I have a unique selling point."

Gallery owner Louise Ellerington said: "It is beautifully abstracted organic forms which relate to her blindness.

"You can touch them, they are stunning and are beautifully displayed. We have already had somebody in who wants to meet her."

Claire works for the Royal National Institute of Blind People as a regional campaigns officer and is involved in issues which affect people with sight loss.

The artwork will be exhibited at the gallery from Wednesday to Saturday, between noon and 5.30pm every week until the end of May.