Metchosin potter Ann Semple

Potter gains new artistic vision after going legally blind

After losing her sight, potter Ann Semple found a way to carry on with help from a friend

When Metchosin potter Ann Semple started going blind, she was devastated.

The thought of losing her vision also meant losing her love of art and pottery.

The 64-year-old has been a potter since she was 24 years old and feared she would have to give up her craft and sell all of her tools and supplies when her vision began to drastically deteriorate a year ago.

Semple is a member of the Coast Collective Art Gallery in Colwood.

When painter Linda Anderson, also a member of the gallery, heard a fellow artist was thinking of throwing in the towel, she stepped up to offer support.

For nearly 50 years Anderson has been a volunteer with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. She has spent much of that time working with blind artists and developing coping strategies to enable them to continue their passions.

The first time the two met, Semple refused to even go into her studio. She was riddled with depression and couldn’t fathom how she would continue.

“At that point she hadn’t been in her studio in three months,” Anderson said.

“I used to go in there everyday,” added Semple.

At the second visit, Semple returned to the studio and Anderson started helping her transform the cluttered room into a space where Semple could move freely and grab what she needed without having to see anything.

“I had millions of tools all over the place,” Semple said.

The pair began to organize and place similar tools in small plastic tubs with letters stuck on the outside. Semple could then feel the letter and know what was in each  bin.

Her chemicals for glazes were labelled with puff paint so she could feel what they were.

“If I mixed the wrong ones together they wouldn’t work anymore,” Semple said emphasizing the importance of the labelling.

Once the space was organized the tough part began.

Semple sat down at the potter’s wheel and Anderson asked her what she saw.

With her eyes focused on the wheel, Semple responded, “I see you,” to Anderson who was standing beside her at an angle that Semple’s eyes could still see.

Anderson used her talent for problem solving and placed mirrors all around the wheel so Semple could use the reflections to see what she was working on.

With the mirrors in place Semple has been back working in her studio for the past year.

“Don’t give up, it’s amazing what you can do,” Semple said.

The women continue to work together in the name of art, and have formed a close friendship.

Legally blind

Potter Ann Semple is legally blind, meaning she has lost most of her vision but is not completely in the dark.

“In my right eye, sight is very limited. It’s all black and white and warped,” Semple said. “It’s like looking into a fish bowl with a fault in the glass.”

Last summer, Semple began to rapidly lose the vision in her left eye as well. She has Neovascula AMD, which means blood vessels form behind her eye and leak blood into the retina.

When she looks at something the centre of the image is completely black and then gets a bit hazy. The border of the images she looks at come out clear.

She has been receiving some injections from her doctor and her vision has been improving.

“I just assumed (the vision deteriorating) was going to continue,” said Semple.

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