Chris Fisher, also known as the Blind Wood Turner, started his channel in 2013, after learning his trade by listening to YouTube videos. With over 5,000 subscribers, his goal is to inspire and motivate both disabled and able-bodied people to demonstrate that anything is possible. Able Magazine interviewed Chris ahead of International Day of Persons with Disabilities to find out how he is breaking taboos on attitudes towards disability and proving that a disability doesn’t stop you from doing the things you love.
When you lost your sight through Toxoplasmosis, did you imagine yourself starting a new trade? What were your initial thoughts?
When I first lost my sight I was plunged into a world of uncertainty with everyday tasks taking forever to complete. After the first year of rehabilitation, learning to use a cane and how to live life as a blind man, I began to suffer with anxiety, together with muscle spasms, hallucinations and nausea. Going out was a challenge, even with a support worker and, eventually, I had bereavement counseling through the RNIB. Becoming a woodturner hadn’t occurred to me at all at that stage.
How did you get into woodturning? What inspired you to share your story on your YouTube channel?
Gradually, I began to turn a corner and I had the crazy idea of making myself a vampire stake – I’m a huge horror film fan. I didn’t want to just whittle a vampire stake but wanted to achieve a different effect. Woodturning seemed to be the approach to take.
Over a period of a few months, and for around 600 hours, I listened to YouTube videos assimilating as much information as I could from the many woodturning tutorials available. When I had sufficient information to start woodturning, I went to Axminster Tools & Machinery to buy a lathe and all the necessary tools and materials.
Once I realised that I might actually be a decent woodturner, despite having no sight, I felt that I wanted to share my journey and hoped that it might inspire and motivate people, and to demonstrate what could be achieved despite a disability.
3. You started your Youtube channel in 2013, learning your trade by listening to Youtube videos. How does your channel inspire both disabled and able-bodied people to achieve their goals?
Since starting my YouTube channel, the response from my subscribers and viewers has been amazing and so positive. Many people, both disabled and able-bodied, get in touch to share their own stories and say that my YouTube channel has inspired them to try something new or even take up woodturning. People tell me that, seeing me woodturn, makes them realise that anything is possible.
4. Do you feel your Youtube channel helps breaks taboos on attitudes towards disability, by proving that having a disability doesn’t stop you from doing the things you love?
Definitely! I have quite a gung-ho attitude towards life and I think this, together with my YouTube videos, makes people rethink their ideas about what people with disabilities can achieve. Experiencing a life-changing disability doesn’t mean you have to give up. It just means finding a different way. I believe, with perseverance, self-belief and passion, it’s still possible to do the things you love and, of course, have lots of fun doing them.
5. You also offer woodturning courses. Do you find that people are able to come away with an increased confidence in themselves and their abilities?
The students that I have taught in my workshop say that I have a natural talent for teaching and they love the way I describe the process in such detail. I do this, partly because describing everything helps me build up mental images as I work with each student, but also because it’s important for them to understand the steps they need to take in great detail. Several students have returned for subsequent classes to learn a new discipline such as pen turning or texturing. My students range from complete beginners to advanced turners and, recently, a friend who is also completely blind.
6. You use a process of “start, stop, listen, touch, feel” to create your work. What auditory cues are you listening out for?
I am always listening for sounds that might indicate a problem – these might be knocking, whipping and whooshing sounds. I also listen for noises coming from the tip of the tools. This gives me information as to how the cut is progressing. I also pay attention to the sound of the tool traveling along the tool rest.
7. What is your advice to other people with disabilities to get into the creative industry and start their own Youtube channel?
Without a doubt I would say ‘go for it!’. Try something new, do something you love, have fun being creative. Making YouTube videos is a great way to share your craft with others not just in the UK but also around the world. I have made many new friends from all over the world since I took up woodturning, several of whom I’ve had the opportunity to meet. Being creative might be a challenge sometimes but there is great satisfaction to be derived from working through problems and finding unique ways to get the job done.
Find out more about Chris Fisher here: https://christopherfisher.co.uk/
Visit Chris’s Youtube Channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkkxNOUNP8kNT7Gvpc1MjJg
Find out more about International Day of Persons with Disabilities here: http://www.un.org/en/events/disabilitiesday/