By Jacob King
An inspirational dad-of-one who suddenly became completely blind almost 10 years ago, has taught himself how to create stunning pieces of wooden art from listening to YouTube videos.
Chris Fisher, 48, learnt the skill of woodturning after he decided he wanted to make himself a vampire stake and do a proper job of it as an avid horror film fan.
In October 2008 Chris was diagnosed with Toxoplasmosis, which is a disease that can be caught from animal waste and can lay dormant in adults, which Chris believes he could have picked up while playing as a young boy.
Woodturning helped Chris to gain a focus and motivation after becoming completely blind as he uses hand held tools to shape a piece of wood while it is rotating on a mechanical lathe, to create bowls, candlesticks and goblets.
Before purchasing his own kit and making the first cut Chris spent 480 hours listening to YouTube videos and tutorials online.
Now Chris, from Eccles, Salford, tours the country holding workshops, exhibiting at national exhibitions and inspires other people through his motivational talks.
Chris said: “It all started at the end of October 2008. I woke up one morning with blurred vision, I didn’t think too much of it but when it didn’t change I went to the opticians.
“He looked at them and my eyes weren’t responding to any drops which he found concerning.
“He looked at the back of my eyes and they were really badly swollen so I was sent to the eye hospital for further tests.
“Within the first week I started to notice that my blind spot was more extreme and within four weeks I was completely blind as a result of Toxoplasmosis.
“At first it wasn’t too hard to come to terms with, I think it was because I didn’t have time to think about it. I went straight into the rehabilitation stage and had to learn how to do everything again.
“A year afterwards, after all the rehab had started to slow down I started with severe anxiety as I realised that this was it.
“I used to be sick with anxiety and often had panic attacks over the fact that I’ll never see again. I was so scared but as time passed it gradually started to subside.
“A couple of years later I decided to teach myself how to woodturn. I wanted a vampire stake because I am a huge fan of horror films, but I knew I wanted a proper one and to do a proper job of it.
“I didn’t just want a spike at the end of a stick so I decided to learn how to do it myself.
“I started listening to YouTube videos and forming pictures in my mind of what the tools and materials looked like and how to stay safe.
“After listening to the videos for four hours each day for four months I felt ready to do it for myself.
“I bought the tools and went for it. It was terrifying at first, I was anxious but as soon as I made the first cut it was amazing and I was fine.
“It’s still scary making the first cut, I’m in a room with all this heavy machinery so I think it’s normal to feel a bit anxious. I make all sorts, fromgoblets, to candle sticks, I also make bespoke wooden pens.
“I also do workshops now and sometimes I even have people come to my house for workshops and I often get asked to do woodturning demonstrations at national exhibitions and in hardware shops.
“People don’t believe it when I tell them I’m blind and I think that is one of the attractions. They’re even more impressed when they find out that I taught myself after going blind.
“I also do inspirational talks for business groups to try and motivate them and show people they can do anything they want to do.”
Chris also has his own YouTube channel which he uses to showcase his new-found skills and inspire other people to go and try something new.
He also hopes to help showcase other disabled artisans through a television or online series to show people that disabled people can master a craft too.
Chris said: “I use my YouTube channel to inspire people.
“A lot of people reach out to me and tell me that they find my videos really inspiring and that they have motivated them to get up and do something. I use string to make sure I’m in the shot for the videos.
“It’s really heartwarming and humbling to receive such great feedback from people. In the future I really want to do more public speaking.
“I also want my own series to help showcase the talents of people with disabilities.
“The Paralympics get a lot of coverage which is great and rightly so, but I want to show other ways disabled people are empowered.
“I want to showcase disabled artisans and look at it from the artistic side, an alternative angle.
“I am an artisan and everything that I make is my favourite piece because whenever I finish something I can’t believe that I’ve actually made it.
“It takes me a bit longer than it would a more experienced wood turner to make a piece but I know I’ll get there in the end.
“I just have to persevere and it is always worth it in the end.”