“AS A CHILD, I was always creative. I liked spending time sewing with my mother and with my grandmother, who in her younger years was a milliner.

We would spend many enjoyable hours together making miniature clothes for my bears and dolls. I loved creating, from the initial idea through to the finished product.

During my teenage years, I became attracted to the punk culture – I loved the whole scene, the music and the sense of belonging and individuality it gave me.

These days, punk seems to be about going to the right shop and buying the right thing. Back then, unless you were lucky enough to go up to London, you were always on the sewing machine.

I often couldn’t find the clothes I wanted on the high street, so I created outfits for myself and I was always happiest, drawing, painting and sewing. I realised that if I couldn’t find what I wanted, I could make it myself.

After school I worked in retail. It wasn’t long before my employers began utilising my creative skills and soon I was creating all the displays and dressing the windows.

I was still sewing and was selling some of my creations in Newport market. It was the early 80s and Newport was a great place to be. I was yearning for a job where I could spend 100 per cent of my time creating.

I come from a family of self-employed people. My father was an entrepreneur who always adapted his businesses to change with the times and was never afraid to take on new ventures. My mother and sister are also self-employed.

A few years later I began working as a ceramics technician for Ned Heywood at The Workshop Gallery, in Chepstow.

Mr Heywood’s professionalism was a great influence on me. I created glazes, loaded the kiln and other technical duties. I also managed the gallery when he was away and set up exhibitions in the gallery.

Just a year after arriving at the gallery, I began renting a studio from him to create my own work. I designed and made ceramic masks and sold them at various outlets, craft markets and exhibitions across the country. I was in my early 20s and was enjoying autonomy of self-employment.

I soon learned that being self-employed also comes with some major downfalls. There is no sick pay, no holiday pay and no security of income. I was working long, hard hours to make enough to live off as a sole trader.

During the recession in the mid 90s it became difficult to make a living all year round – many of my best outlets were closing down. I tend to ‘roll with the punches’, so I decided that this was a good time to reconsider my future. It was time to get some academic training in art at last.

Closing my ceramics business after three years of trading, I began foundation studies in art and design. Four years later, I began studying fine art at Cardiff University. My original plan to study ceramics was replaced by my love of painting. I specialised in oil painting and sold four paintings at our degree show.

What I love the most about art is being able to say to people ‘this is what I put together in my head’. It is a case of working with your materials – be it pencils or paint, for example.

At last I felt I was on the right path.

While I was studying for my degree, I discovered Arabian dance. I needed something fun to do, as a break from study. At the time, there was only one class running in Wales and it was in Cardiff.

Little did I know that my life would now run on two exciting parallel paths. I instantly fell in love with the dance as it helped build my confidence and self-esteem, and of course I began making dance costumes straight away.

When I dance, I love feeling the energy right through all my body. When you dance in a group, it is like you are in everyone and they are in you.

After my degree, I worked again in retail and as a receptionist while I was also selling my paintings.

I decided the time had come to utilise the skills I had acquired, and began teacher training. I loved the PGCE teacher training and was one of four who achieved a distinction.

I began teaching courses for community education under Newport, Torfaen, Caerphilly and Cardiff councils.

Initially I taught art, craft and ceramics and very soon after I also began teaching Arabian dance. All classes were very successful and I worked in adult learning for 17 years.

During this time, I also became a qualified YMCA exercise to music instructor and attained a level 4 City and Guilds in interior decorative effects.

My dance classes began to flourish and, at one point, I had nine dance classes running alongside my art classes. Some of my dancers have gone professional now.

My dancing has taken me all over the world – I have trained in Cairo, Dahab and Morocco and also taught Oriental dance in Morocco.

I have met famous dancers and teachers whilst making amazing dancing friends.

My costume business evolved too, creating dancewear that is comfortable and glamorous for Oriental dancers.

I have been producing Oriental dance costumes now for 15 years and nothing pleases me more than seeing my creations on the stage.

Three years ago, my bubble burst when local council cuts closed down the majority of community learning courses. I was made redundant.

After the initial panic I thought ‘If the job I want and love no longer exists...Why not create it?’

I formed Art School Wales three years ago. Adult classes not only educate but provide important social links within local communities.

I wanted Art School Wales to become an artists’ community, bringing like-minded people together.

Art School Wales began at Oxford House Community Centre, in Risca, and then the following year expanded at a second venue, the Share Centre, in Stow Hill, Newport.

The classes have gone from strength to strength, with almost 120 students now enjoying art courses.

Great friendships have grown and students also enjoy a variety of extra-curricular activities, such as trips to galleries and museums, and specialist workshops such as life drawing and Chinese painting.

Our big end of year exhibition, now in its fifth year, will be at St Woolos Cathedral on July 29.

I’m looking forward to the future of Art School Wales as I nurture it and watch it grow.

I am turning 50 today[WED], and I feel very honoured to have shared my story. I hope it inspires others to follow their dreams – sometimes we have to create our own opportunities.”

If you would like to find out more about Art School Wales or Hipsynch Belly Dance, visit artschoolwales.co.uk and hipsynch.co.uk”