The church minister who fell in love with art after sight loss

Emma Major appeared on last night's episode of the Grayson Perry Art Club.
Emma Major appeared on last night's episode of Grayson Perry's Art Club.

A CHURCH MINISTER has shared her experience with art, faith, mental health and disability in the latest episode of Grayson Perry’s Art Club.

Emma Major, from Saint Nicholas Church in Earley, shared her journey on Channel 4 last night.

Ms Major said she was contacted by their production team who stumbled across her poetry collection, Little Guy and were keen to find out more.

She explained that her first conversation with award-winning artist, Grayson Perry took place over Zoom last week.

She said: “The video call was a treat. I’ve always been a fan of Grayson Perry which was obvious from my excitement when talking to him.

“I love Grayson because he’s just him. He enjoys art, is interested in people and is fabulous at what he does.

“We spoke for 20 minutes about various things such as the creative processes I go through when making a piece of art and the theme of this week’s episode which is a view from a window.”

Ms Major — who lost her sight four years ago — added: “When I draw I usually base my work on what I can remember from when I could see. So if I’m drawing a tree in front of me and can see the outline I fill in the gaps with my memory of what a tree looks like.

“Grayson, however, was interested in knowing exactly what I can see now and asked me to do a pen sketch of it.”

Emma’s drawing of a view from her window which will feature in Grayson Perry’s post-lockdown art exhibition.

The pair also discussed how the coronavirus crisis has proven an ideal time for practising creativity and helping individuals to overcome the feelings which accompany isolation. 

Drawing on her experience of living with Functional Neurological Disorder and having to isolate herself long before the pandemic, she said: “Before I lost my sight I was useless at art. Since then I have found my passion for creativity and have learnt to embrace the process without worrying that it is going to look bad.

“For me, art is relaxing and something I enjoy doing, not something that needs to be beautiful, amazing or published.”

Ms Major’s art collection consists of mosaics, needle felting, drawings, paintings and sculptures, all of which are crafted from her dining room table. 

Her most recent project is a 25-strong collection of poems and drawings which tells the story of an ink silhouette called Little Guy and his journey through hope, trust and self-discovery. 

The book — featuring her own poetry and drawings — was published on Friday, May 1 in electronic format, with audio description for those who require it.

Emma’s Little Guy Publication

Ms Major explained the importance of technology to her, as she struggles to get up close to artwork in a gallery.

She said: “The internet is so useful to me as it allows me to zoom in on photos and artwork and appreciate it in a way that I wouldn’t be able to do with physical pieces. 

“Visually impaired or not, I’d encourage anyone to make the most of the internet for creative inspiration. There’s so much out there and now is the perfect time to give something artistic a go.”

And offering her advice to those considering taking up an artistic hobby to keep them occupied during lockdown and beyond, she said: “Just go for it and don’t worry about how it is going to turn out. Even if it’s just with a pen and paper, have fun with it and see what happens.

“Art is so valuable to our mental health as it stops us feeling constrained and gives us a new way of finding ourselves. Since becoming disabled, art has freed me up and made me fall in love with something I’d never considered in this way before.”

To watch the show, visit www.channel4.com/programmes/graysons-art-club. And Ms Major’s Little Guy book can be accessed at: www.ionabooks.com/product/little-guy-downloadable-book/

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