A woman left tetraplegic after a car accident is spreading festive joy – by painting detailed Christmas cards with her MOUTH.
Vanessa Haarhoff, 35, was just 19 when she suffered a spinal injury which paralysed her from the shoulders down.
She began painting by holding a brush in her mouth during her rehabilitation and can now produce intricate watercolours.
Vanessa finds festive greeting cards an artistic challenge because of the detail required, but wants to keep the tradition alive.
“I hate e-cards,” she said. “I want to keep the tradition of sending physical Christmas cards alive.
“It’s such a nice thing to do, sending cards. I mean it takes time but it’s valuable.”
Each card takes Vanessa two days to complete at her home in north Bristol.
She will create around five designs every year which are then turned into prints and sold by the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists (MFPA) organisation, which represents disabled artists.
Vanessa said the sudden transition from being able-bodied to being tetraplegic was difficult.
She said: “I was very sporty and then I was suddenly paralysed. I was studying physiotherapy at the time.
“I thought: ‘What am I going to do with life now?’
“I have always been quite creative and nice to be able to create something independently as I need so much help with most things and it is nice to create something that’s appreciated.”
Vanessa, who grew up in Zimbabwe, relocated to the UK ten-years-ago to do a Masters in journalism at the University of Bristol and continued to pursue her art.
She enjoys painting Christmas cards but finds them festive scenes difficult to master due to being brought up in a hot climate.
“I am not so good at the Christmas cards as I don’t know snow so well as I grew up in Africa,” she said.
The MFPA is currently made up of 33 British artists and almost 800 artists from over 80 countries across the world.
The organisation is self-funded through the sale of their art and offers a Christmas card pack.
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