A disabled March woman is hoping to spread Christmas cheer by selling cards that she paints with her mouth.
Abbey Leigh Phipps (26) was born with Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita (AMC), a rare condition which leaves her wheelchair bound.
She was also diagnosed with autoimmune disease, Pyoderma Gangrenosum, which leaves her with open wounds on her legs that spread from her knees to her ankles, leaving her in “immense pain”.
However, the mother-of-one came across mouth painting in 2015 after meeting Steve Chambers from the Mouth and Foot Painting Association at a support meeting for The Arthrogryposis Group (TAG).
She said: “He encouraged me to go home and try it and just see how I felt because he said I would be surprised by the outcome.
“I got a piece of paper, a pencil and corkboard and I lent the board against something like an easel and pinned the paper to it.
“I put the pencil in my mouth and I sketched a stag and, after I had sketched it, I posted it online. It travelled very quickly across social media.”
Abbey suffers from various health problems but has set up a business selling her cards and paintings on her Facebook page and at craft fayres.
She said: “I got my business cards and got my Facebook page up and running and within a few minutes I was getting orders - four people wanted me to paint for them.”
After a few months of practising Abbey posted online asking if people thought she should turn her images in to Christmas cards.
“The response I got from that was very positive and people were looking forward to buying Christmas cards off me. I did one Christmas fair that year in a nursing home and I made £70. I also attend craft fayres when I can as I like to do demonstrations of how I mouth paint,” she said.
There are difficulties that Abbey faces in creating her work, though.
She said: “Mouth painting can be incredibly difficult. One of the struggles I face is that I get neck ache from holding my head still when I am doing quite intricate work on a painting.
“It definitely makes me feel useful - it’s hard being unable to work due to my conditions. I find that I have felt worthless in the past, like I don’t add an awful lot to society.
“However, being able to paint and have people admire my work makes me feel good about myself.”
It can take up to 10 hours for Abbey to create an image and she has to spread this over days in order to add more detail.
AMC effects one in 3000 babies, but Abbey says she is happy with her life. She added: “Both of my conditions can be overwhelming, however I have learnt so much about myself over the years due to the struggles I have faced.”