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The Blind Woodsman’s Creative Vision

You may know him from Instagram, TikTok or his recent profile in People Magazine - but here, our friend John Furniss talks about how he uses aspects of his blindness to help him imagine the creations that come out of his wood shop.

John Furniss, The Blind Woodsman, wearing a craftsman apron and a big smile stands in his workshop, using a screwdriver to work on a piece of wood

My name is John Furniss and I’ve been blind since the age of 16. I am a woodworker known as The Blind Woodsman who works mostly with a wood lathe making bowls, canisters, rolling pins and even furniture.

Even though I am fully blind, I slowly started having “hallucinations” in my mind a couple months after becoming blind. The first visual was a bright yellow happy face.

Eventually the visuals started becoming more like an abstract screensaver and changed over time. It caused really bad insomnia for me all through high school. It was extremely distracting because I could not turn it off. It’s not like I could close my eyes and make it go away. Since the images are always there, I had to learn how to make it the background of my mind.

Visualizations that fuel creative vision

I learned there is a name for my hallucinations: Charles Bonnet Syndrome. For some people, it can be frightening. Some people have disturbing imagery, but mine are just colors and shapes.

Because I’ve always had a photographic memory, I’ve been able to use my visualization skills to my benefit as a totally blind person. And I believe the Charles Bonnet Syndrome has helped me do that. I feel very fortunate that this is the case because from what I have read about it, a lot of people are disturbed by it.

I use my visual imagination very much like a computer design program. I’m able to create whatever images I want in my mind. This allows me to generate any pattern I want.

Then I turn my designs into a real object. I love that I can “see” the finished project before I even begin to build it. Then I make a physical object that I can hand to you and say “This is what I saw in mind.”

Here are some samples of my recent work:

A deep wooden bowl made with alternating stripes of dark and light wood
A deep wooden bowl made with alternating stripes of dark and light wood
A deep, cherry-colored wooden bowl with multiple tiers and grooves carved along its outside
A deep, cherry-colored wooden bowl with multiple tiers and grooves carved along its outside

About the author

John Furniss has overcome remarkable obstacles in his life.

At age 16, he survived a suicide attempt that left him blind and without a sense of smell. John had to learn how to navigate the world with total blindness as a teenager. Followed by years of drug addiction, John was able to clean up and the healing began.

Today he is an artistic woodworker known as “The Blind Woodsman,” and an inspiration to millions worldwide. With the help of his wife Anni, he uses his social media platforms to spread awareness about blindness, mental health and art. He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and his dog Pickle.

Want to know more? Check out John’s work on his website, Follow John, Anni and Pickle’s adventures on Instagram, TikTok and Facebook. And read John’s previous #MyBlindStory post, The Blind Woodsman or get to know him in this recent profile in People Magazine.

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