I was born in Croydon in north east Surrey, England to my Australian parents.
My father, Don Harper was a jazz musician and composer, and like many artists of his era, he was drawn to England’s thriving music industry. He was successful and made many appearances on both BBC television and radio and London Weekend Television. His music was used in several TV series over the years, most notably the World of Sport Theme which ran for 20 years. He was also a performer playing jazz violin in cabarets, mainly in England and other countries including Australia.
I was blessed that my father always encouraged my creativity, and I miss him greatly. My mother Gloria, was a stay-at-home mum, and kept our family organised and our home beautiful with her own artistic talent for interior decorating. I have two brothers, both born in Australia.
With such creative parents, it was inevitable that I became interested in the arts. From a very young age I loved to dance. I studied ballet as a child, and attended dance college until the age of 18. I did not end up pursuing a career in dance as I’d met the man who was to become my first husband and father of my children. I took up a position in retail at a local shop and begin saving for a deposit for our first home. I was married at 19 years of age.
A friend of mine at the time was a photographic model. She introduced me to her agent, and for a few years I was a photographic model. My first son and daughter were born in England, I emigrated with my family to Australia in 1983 where we had a son and two daughters.
Between the births of my children I would do the occasional modelling job. It was during this time that I met one of Sydney’s top photographers, Suzie Mitchell. She was to become my mentor and good friend.
I began a career in photography when my children were still fairly young by taking images for a stock photography agency. Images are kept on file, and companies, businesses or private individuals can buy the rights to use these images for a period of time. My images ended up on magazine covers, calendars, greeting cards and other editorial uses. Over time I’ve moved into the area of portrait photography and embraced the digital age.
I had other creative outlets including designing and making clothes for both my children and myself. During my youth, I would draw for hours and hours, and as my children neared adulthood, my love of art returned. I began selling my paintings through galleries, commissions and some Sydney arts and crafts markets.
The father of my children and I separated when our youngest child was six, and later divorced. I remarried an Australian man, then legally separated some years later.
In 2004 I changed my name legally for personal reasons to Tay Ashton.
I have five wonderful adult children and am now blessed with four beautiful grandchildren.
I support The Red Cross for obvious reasons, and White Ribbon because I have been a victim of domestic violence and emotional abuse.
Like many women who’ve suffered from domestic violence and emotional abuse, I wanted to pretend it never happened and move on with my life, however, the memories and impacts of this are always there in the background. One of the things that helped me to recover and move forward was the fact that other women have spoken openly of their experiences on TV, blogs, books, YouTube and more. Knowing I wasn’t alone and that there was help out there gave me the strength, courage and determination to get my life back on track.
With my art, it is my aim to help raise awareness and give encouragement to women who have suffered domestic violence and emotional abuse. I hope to help other women in these situations, to give them the courage to move forward and to know that they too, can once again, have a full and meaningful life where they are stronger and in control.
I was lucky in that I had a good network of friends and family to support me through my experience with domestic violence and emotional abuses. Leaving an overtly abusive relationship is difficult enough, but the fact that there is little doubt in a woman’s mind that she is being abused helps to make her decision to leave somewhat clearer. When I left a long term abusive relationship of this kind, I had a lot of support and encouragement from family, friends, and even the local police. However, it was a very different story when my abuser hid his abuse well. He was popular, well liked, and grew up in the area that we were living in at the time. There was never any physical abuse, nor shouting, so I often questioned my own reality.
Although I had support, there were still times when I felt lonely and isolated. No one really knows what goes on behind closed doors. The internet, books, support groups, helplines and professionals in the area of domestic violence go a long way towards helping women in this position to make some difficult and sometimes life threatening choices.
There are many good books, blogs and other resources available for women in these situation. Reading them can help a woman gain clarity. I personally found books written by Lundy Bancroft particularly helpful. Lundy Bancroft is an author, workshop leader, and consultant on domestic abuse and child maltreatment. In his book, “Why Does He do That” he outlines various abusers’ modus operandi.
After reading Lundy Bancroft’s personality outline titled “The Water Torturer.” I finally gained some much needed clarity into a long term, on/off relationship I was in for many years. I realised that he was highly unlikely to change, and I found the courage to leave despite the difficulties surrounding our relationship at the time. Along a similar vein is the term“Gaslighting.”
Below are links to various helplines and books: