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Brailliant: Blindness has given artist new insight

Cathy Dobson Adversity and a creative mind led Sarnia’s Susan Woodhouse to start producing ceramics and adorn them with braille.
After losing her sight, artist and United Church minister Susan Woodhouse began incorporating braille into her pottery. Cathy Dobson

Cathy Dobson

Adversity and a creative mind led Sarnia’s Susan Woodhouse to start producing ceramics and adorn them with braille.

“It’s unique, and I like that,” says the minister at Shiloh-Inwood United Church, one of 22 featured artists at Gallery in the Grove’s latest exhibition.

Woodhouse, a former elementary teacher, was ordained 10 years ago and immediately began using watercolour paintings and stained glass she created to illustrate her sermons.

“I find they stir the imagination,” she said.

But her eyesight deteriorated to the point she lost her drivers’ licence in 2012 and acquired Fisher, her own vision service dog.

Painting and stained glass are no longer an option.

“I thought, what will I do now? Then I thought about texture and decided that a ceramics course was a good idea.”

She signed up at Lambton College while learning braille at the same time.

Now, with her sight completely gone in one eye and 20% vision in the other, Woodhouse is able to work with her hands and create beautiful ceramic pieces she decorates with braille, using a piping nozzle normally used to decorate cakes with icing.

Most of her ceramic pieces also have regular font that translates the braille.

“One reason I love this so much is that I can demonstrate that people with disabilities are not less than people without disabilities,” she said. “I am just differently abled.”

Most of her pottery pertains to worship. She makes vessels that say “Cup of Blessing” for communion, and plates that say “Bread of Life.”  Woodhouse also crafts pieces for lent and advent.

Her ceramic work is now on display at the Gallery in the Grove as part of the “Those who Inspire” exhibition. It runs until April 18 and features the art of current and former teachers from elementary and secondary schools.

In total, there are 60 pieces ranging from oils and acrylics on canvas, to silkscreen prints, photos, pottery and more.

It’s the first time the gallery has mounted such an exhibition, which will be followed by the annual student art show in May.

Gallery in the Grove is located at 2618 Hamilton Rd. in Bright’s Grove and is open Monday – Thursday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Closed Friday.


Children ages 6 – 12 years are invited to register for March Break Art Days at the Lawrence House, corner of Christina and Wellington. Classes run 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. from March 16 – 20. Cost is $44/day or $150/week.

Every day has a different theme. Registration is through the City of Sarnia’s Parks & Rec department (519-332-0330 ext. 3217). Art materials provided. A cover up and old clothes are recommended.

If you have an idea for a future Arts Journal, contact Cathy Dobson at [email protected] or 226-932-0985.

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