Southport artist Clare Wright on survival instinct
PUBLISHED: 23:03 12 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:39 20 February 2013
Former Merchant Navy officer Clare Wright went from high flyer to invalid - then she discovered art. <br/>Emma Mayoh reports
CLARE Wright is used to navigating rough waters. She chose a career in the male-dominated Merchant Navy and her burning desire to succeed saw her reach the top.
She was Esso International's first female cadet officer, the first woman working for them in international waters, the first female maritime manager for Mersey Docks and the first vessel she controlled was one of the world's largest ships.
Quite a record of achievement when you consider she also had to cope with a boatload of jokes from her male shipmates.
But her biggest challenge came close to defeating Clare. She was diagnosed with a severe form of arthritis, which forced her to quit life at sea, and then a complication threatened to paralyse her.
Leaving the navy was a bitter pill but she decided to pursue a new career as an artist and no one was ever in doubt that she would be anything but successful.
'I ended up quite ill through arthritis,' said Clare., who has lived in Southport for 25 years. 'I was diagnosed in 2004 and being a very active person, jumping on and off ships, it was hard to handle. I ended up in so much pain that I couldn't carry on working.'
Clare, 39, started painting and had early success. Then her condition deteriorated. 'I was told something was touching my spinal chord and that I could have been paralysed. I lost about 25 per cent of the feeling in my left side and I didn't have any reflexes,' she said.
By the time she went for surgery a year later her work was being sold in local galleries and shops. Determined her illness would not jeopardise her chances, she decided not to tell anyone about the operation other than family and friends. Despite being told it could take at least 12 months to recover, Clare was up and about within nine weeks.
'I didn't think people would request work from me if they thought I was ill,' said Clare, who has raised a family with husband, Chris.
'With more and more orders building up I knew I had to get myself better. I started painting again and I got myself strong again. I think if you really put your mind to something then you can do it.'
Now, under the business name Zenith Art, Clare has already produced work for venues across Lancashire, including Liverpool's JR Bar and The Lower Place Restaurant at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, the Left Bank Restaurant and Don Luigi's in Formby, The Lounge Inn in Southport and The Grand Hotel in St Annes. She also created 400 pieces of art work for the redevelopment of Ribby Hall Village at Wrea Green.
The numbers of private commissions are on the up, she has clients here and abroad and she is in talks with both Burnley Football Club regarding their multi-million redevelopment project and also the team behind ITV programme 60 Minute makeover. She has also just launched her new artwork using metallics and liquid glass as well as Swarovski crystals.
'It's all a bit overwhelming,' said Clare. 'I never expected for it to take off this well. I worked hard to get better and it's paid off.
'I've gone from navigating a ship to being an artist. It really pained me to leave the sea.. The people I worked with were absolutely fantastic. But it's all worked out. I couldn't be happier.'