I’m pleased to announce my good friend, Victoria Claire has launched a new VIP Community Resource. VIP or ‘Visually Impaired Person’ is an acronym that’s been fondly embraced by fellow VIPs. The resource, www.victoriaclaire-beyondvision.com, is a website and community where VIPs can find inspiration, support, and advocacy-related information.
Victoria, who is losing her sight to Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) has an extraordinary story about how she found personal freedom in acceptance. Today, as an Ambassador for Retina UK, she’s a beacon of hope to others as she shares her acceptance journey. A journey, shared through her artwork, writing, and speaking engagements.
Losing eyesight can be a lonely and scary experience but it doesn’t have to be. If you or someone you know is going through sight loss I’d like to direct you to www.victoriaclaire-beyondvision.com.
New VIP Community Resource Featured Image Description:
The image is a screen capture of Victoria’s website landing page. It includes her photo and the site’s logo. In Victoria’s photo, she is sitting and leaning forward, with her eyes downcast. Her straight blond hair parted in the middle frames her face. She is stunning in minimal makeup and is wearing a sleeveless black dress with a keyhole neckline. The logo is on a black background with white and purple text and wings on both sides of the text. The copy reads “Victoria Claire beyond vision | Inspiring Supporting Advocating for the VI Community.” At the bottom of the image are social media icons.
Broken Glass From Pushing Boundaries | A Dedication
If you happened to come across my ramblings over the weekend I excitedly announced my latest project. CAPTIVATING! a new and soon to be fully accessible digital lifestyle magazine.
In case you missed it, in my attempt to be clever I did a little Coming Soon teaser post. Then later in the day, Digital Magazine Accessibility Experiment IRL went into a little more detail. I was so proud of my accomplishment of being a “cool kid” by using the IRL acronym I didn’t realize until after publication I didn’t define the acronym. You’ve probably already known IRL is “In Real Life.” The first time I saw it I Googled it.
I’m not afraid to admit that I’m seldom in the know when it comes to pop culture, never have been. Case in point, as I was streaming some music while working on the follow-up post, one song caught my ear. It sounded so good I had to play it again and again and then looked up the lyrics. Here I’m thinking “wow, I found a new song”―wrong! I shouldn’t have been surprised that the song now at over 9 million hits came out last year such is the story of my life.
Dancing On Broken Glass
Okay to the point of this post. The song “Broken Glass” by Rachel Platten really spoke to my heart in light of what our team at CAPTIVATING! accomplished. One person in particular, Victoria Claire, made us all look good by creating our sharp logo. I had no idea she was a graphic designer in another life and when she offered to create the CAPTIVATING! logo, I accepted her offer.
Vicky has appeared on Bold Blind Beauty several times as we’ve become great friends. The thing that gets me about this lady is her talent. I mean I don’t there’s anything she can’t do. She’s a sculptress, composer, singer, speaker, and if that weren’t enough she surfs, skateboards, and boxes. And, while I don’t like doing this, in this case, I think it bears mentioning, she does all of this partially sighted. Yes, Vicky is losing her eyesight to Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). Like many of us who experience sight loss, she had to go through some stuff before reaching the point of acceptance. To be clear Vicky isn’t phenomenal because she does these things without seeing, she’s phenomenal because of who she is.
Generally speaking, society has a hard time understanding the capabilities of people with disabilities let alone those who are blind. Like anything else in life when the desire to learn is in place there’s almost nothing we can’t accomplish. I dedicate this song to Vicky and all of my persistent, strong-willed, resolute friends who constantly push boundaries―we are survivors!! Thank you!! Enjoy!
Broken Glass From Pushing Boundaries | A Dedication Featured Image Description:
In this photo, Vicky is sitting, leaning forward, and looking directly at the camera. Her straight blond hair parted in the middle frames her face. Wearing minimal makeup she is stunning with pink frosted lip color and intense green eyes. She is wearing a sleeveless black dress with a keyhole neckline.
CAPTIVATING! logo: captivating, is written in white bold All capital letters except for the ‘V’ in the magazine name is drawn with an artistic style font in bold red and looks like a big check mark. At the end of the word, ‘captivating’ is a red bold exclamation mark. Under the text is the tagline “The power and possibilities of inclusion are limitless.”
When I was first diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) at the age of 19 was a very pivotal point in my life. I was already studying at art college and had just been offered a university place on a figurative sculpture degree course. With only 28 offers in Europe, was one of those 28.
After extensive tests, I just remember the words “you are going to go blind.” My world just shattered, the room spun and I just had to get out of there. I drove home and dropped off my mum and then drove off. Ending up on the beach, I sat on the end of the jetty. The sky was grey and the wind was howling, I just cried, and thought the tears would never stop.
That was 24 years ago and my sight loss has taken me on one heck of a journey. I was registered legally blind back in 2002. Currently, I have between 3-5% residual vision, this is hand movement in the left eye and shapes and light in the right.
Although I had to walk away from university I could not deny that sculpture was in my veins. After taking some time to adjust to my new circumstances, picked up a chisel and mallet and begin creating. This was really for therapeutic reasons at first but then I began to put my work into local galleries. In a short amount of time, I was gaining private commission work. Since then my work has gone from strength to strength. I’ve worked in teaching for many years and this was a nice way to diversify my artistic skills and share them with others.
Turning The Corner
My personal epiphany with my attitude towards my sight loss came only 3 and a half years ago. I had always dodged the need to use a long cane. For years organizations tried to introduce me to using a cane without success. Then about 5 years ago I had a very big wake up call.
I was out walking my little Westie dog. It was November and the autumn sun was very low in the morning sky. I had on my sunglasses but it was very difficult to see and I misjudged a left turn. Instead of turning onto the pathway leading to the park, I fell 6ft into a culvert.
The fall damaged my right knee severely, tearing my inside medial ligament. It was extremely painful and I could not walk and it took 3 months to properly heal. This was when I decided I could no longer keep on struggling without a mobility aid.
Initially, I thought perhaps I needed a Guide dog so I contacted my local Guide Dogs Association. After some initial training, I had to stop my application, when we realized our Westie would never let another dog in the house! So there was no other option for me than to bite the bullet and learn how to use the long cane.
After 3 months of long cane training with my incredible trainer, I passed and became a proficient cane user. I now have gone from a cane hater to a cane lover, owning 4 long canes including my faithful purple one and a bamboo one that I created myself.
Crucial Component To Acceptance
Self-development has played a very important part in my acceptance of my sight loss. I worked very hard with my holistic counselor. For nearly 4 years we worked on my self-worth, learning how to love myself, and embracing every part of myself. It’s been the most wonderful journey, connecting on a spiritual level feeds me with all I need. This is the very reason why I am where I am today, through an acceptance of who I really am and a love of all my imperfections. It is truly a beautiful lesson, and I look forward to all the future lessons ahead.
I am happily married to my husband, who is an incredible support, he has such a positive outlook on life and helps me find solutions to how I can continue breaking boundaries. My parents have always been there for me, providing practical help and support throughout this journey.
True Work/Life Harmony
My work has been my source of connection to my inner self. It has seen me through some very tough times and has brought me the success I now enjoy today. My work is symbolic, based on form and shape and I use piercings in many of my pieces–I create my sculpture from wood and I like to suspend gemstones.
I have exhibited all over the South East of the UK, including central London, the Houses Of Parliament and America Square. Also, I have been featured by the BBC and in many national magazines; my work is owned internationally.
A national gallery is reviewing my Blind A Sixth Sense exhibition for inclusion in their exhibition programme for 2020-2021. This exhibition explored a unique concept of placing 6 sculpted pieces depicting the senses into a pitch black gallery space. The public was invited to interpret the work by using their other senses. This was an incredible success seeing over 500 people visit the exhibition and a sell out on work.
Sight Loss Change Agent
As an Ambassador for the national charity Retina UK, I advocate the work of the charity. This includes social media, public speaking and offering support to those newly diagnosed with RP. This advocacy work is very dear to my heart. I want to offer help to those who may be struggling with their sight loss by helping them navigate their own pathway through this very life-changing time.
I share my experience of sight loss through public speaking, exhibiting my work and will be writing my memoirs later this year. I’m also designing a new website which will act as a central hub for those with sight loss. It will be a place where the blind and VI community can connect, share stories, and support one another.
The website will also highlight all of my activities, including my career as a professional sculptor, public speaking and my Ambassador work. I will share all of my other loves, this includes surfing, something that I learnt only 4 years ago. Surfing is one of the most freeing activities I’ve ever done. There are no obstacles in the ocean and the feeling of connection to the force of mother nature as you ride a wave is just incredible. I’m also a keen skateboarder, and again, like surfing it gives me such a sense of freedom. I use my long cane out in front of me in my left hand, this helps me navigate. I am learning to snowboard too, I think the board sports give me such joy.
I’ve been a musician for over 20 years, singing and playing in many bands as well as solo work. I love to write new material on my piano, it’s a beautiful form of expression.
I feel so very blessed to have found a sense of freedom within the acceptance of my sight loss. This acceptance has shown me the beauty within blindness–a sense of stillness, a sensory experience that you cannot gain when sighted. A connection to one’s own trust, this trust is what will open you to all possibilities.
I have learnt that blindness is not to be feared, it is to be embraced wholeheartedly, through acceptance, adaptivity, and accessibility. You can live a life that is full, joyous, successful and incredibly meaningful, with limitless potential.
Freedom In Acceptance Featured Image Description
In this photo, Victoria is stunning as she stands facing the camera with her bamboo long cane. She is wearing a beautiful cream lace dress and her straight blond hair frames her face.
Victoria & The Guardian. In this photo, Victoria, in a purple sleeveless sheath dress and matching long cane is posing with her sculpture, The Guardian. The Guardian is a wooden sculpture of a vertical wing. The photo was taken at the FLY Freedom In Acceptance exhibition in central London.
Shaded of Lillies is a lovely wooden tactile tabletop delight. Three graceful flowers, from light to dark shades stand atop a light wooden base. The slender stems of the flowers ever so slightly bend upward to the floral base which resembles raised cupped hands.
Surf, Sand And Spirit. This piece depicts a symbolic upright surfboard with an amber suspension hanging from the piercing. The base represents the ripples that form in wet sand, this piece is created from alder wood and oak wood.
Victoria Surfing: An action shot of Victoria riding a wave on her surfboard in a wetsuit.
The sculptures Victoria creates isn’t her only expertise. As a talented musician, she also enjoys surfing, skateboarding, and inspiring others. Like many of the women featured on Blind Beauty, Victoria connected with us on Instagram.
“Disability is not an Impairment to Creativity”
Next month, Victoria will be speaking at an upcoming conference in London. While at the conference, she will also unveil her new exhibition “Freedom In Acceptance.” If you are on Instagram, check out her exquisite bamboo long canewhich is part of the exhibition. While the long cane may look different than the standard white mobility tool its purpose hasn’t changed. Regardless of customization applied, the long cane’s primary function is to detect obstacles in the path of its user.
Victoria’s bamboo long cane is a beautiful work of art. What makes this cane so special are the Chinese symbols for “Freedom In Acceptance” burnt into it. This is a powerful statement that basically says with acceptance comes independence. When we lose our eyesight at times we can feel like we are losing control of our lives. However, we have a choice “Freedom In Acceptance” gives us this choice.
What we love most about Victoria’s work is how the images alone evoke the sense of touch. Her pieces express movement and float like a graceful, elegant, ballerina. The smooth, shiny, rounded edges look soft yet at the same time, the pieces are bold.
Blind Beauty Issue 36 Featured Image Description:
Blind Beauty is a mock fashion magazine cover. Victoria is on the cover sitting, leaning forward, and looking directly at the camera. Her straight blond hair parted in the middle frames her face. Wearing minimal makeup she is stunning with pink frosted lip color and intense greeneyes. She is wearing a sleeveless black dress with a keyhole neckline.
Additional Image Descriptions:
The Guide – A representation of peace, The Guide is a contemporary wooden sculpture of a dove in flight.
The Guardian – A wooden sculpture of a vertical wing.
Victoria Skateboarding – Victoria is using a skateboard on the pavement. Her long purple cane (aka white cane) is in her left helping her navigate. She’s wearing blue jeans, black sneakers & mitten, white winter jacket and a burgundy knit beanie.