An Uplifting Addiction

Amy in her studio

One thing you should know about Amy Barrett… she is an addict. It all started about six years ago with a Christmas present and it has grown to take over her life.

I met Amy recently on Zoom where she was the guest tutor on Nina’s Zoomers at Haverford West’s VC Gallery. The subject of her tutorial was that very addiction and, judging by the enthusiasm of the group, I think we are probably all now hooked.

In case you were imagining the worst, let me explain that Amy’s addiction is: owls. From that first owl ornament given as an innocent gift, it has grown to take over her life and her home, in all the forms she can find them, except the real thing.

“Maybe one day,” Amy says, “a real owl will come my way.”

Not sure it would be my idea of the best companion but Amy knows her own mind and, far from being a problem, owls have helped see her through some very challenging times.

In March 2020, Amy left home for the first time and went into supported living with other housemates and support workers. With a range of impairments to deal with, including a learning disability and possibly autism, it was a good move for her but not the best timing.

“Lockdown happened just as I moved,” she said, “and I became very poorly. My mental health suffered, and I was very anxious.”

Not the best start to a new life in a new home but Amy found support from the VC Gallery and particularly from tutor Nina Camplin.

Studies in pointilism

“I had found going into the VC very difficult,” Amy explained, “because I was so overwhelmed, but with Nina’s encouragement I started going to the Zoom group and found I really loved it. It was a small group when it started, which allowed me to settle in. Now I have made friends and my confidence has grown.

“I am not treated differently from anyone else and when we have shared our difficulties others in the group have been so supportive.”

It works both ways. Nina told us that Amy is very entertaining… a great laugh. And looking at the messages the group all share, everyone finds Amy an invaluable member. The support is mutual.

Amy speaks very highly of the group and particularly of Nina. No stranger to travel, Amy has been an advocate at the Para Olympics in Beijing, was an active bowls club member until she injured her knee, is a great baker, particularly of banana and raisin bread, and loves her dog, Charlie Brown. But stepping back into the world after lockdown is a challenge she is not relishing.

Amy’s owl workshop at VC Gallery

“I have a lot of support from my family who are always at the end of the phone, and Steph who is the project manager at the VC Gallery is really great. They have helped me cope, but it’s the art group that has really given me confidence.”

And that confidence was present when Amy taught us all how to paint owls at a recent session of Nina’s Zoomers, a session that everyone really enjoyed.

What is next in Amy’s journey?

“I would like to develop my art,” she said. “I did once win first prize in a competition, and I hope to have my own exhibition some time in the future, but mainly I just want to be more confident and creative. To have more control over my life.”

That’s a great ambition, Amy. We wish you the very best and hope to hear more from you soon.

Kitty Parsons

Kitty has forgotten how long she has been here now but she loves Pembrokeshire for its beauty and it's people. She spends her time searching out stories for, swimming in the sea , drawing and painting as Snorkelfish and eating cake. She says " has been an opportunity to celebrate this beautiful county and its people. Keep the stories coming. We love to hear from you."

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