Growing up in Scotland, a young Moira Purver was dissuaded from attending art college and instead studied economics at university before becoming a banker.

But a life-changing illness ten years ago led to her finally fulfilling her dream.

"In 2008 I had ME and I was sent to a residential clinic up near Stroud," says Moira, who now lives in Langton Matravers, near Swanage.

"If nothing else it was to give my husband a break, because he was looking after me 24/7."

During her stay, Moira enjoyed a bout of art therapy, which kick-started a whole new life.

"I was sitting in bed drawing my feet and hands," she remembers. "The doctor said to me they could give me all the medicine in the world, but if I was suppressing that, I was never going to get better. 'You need to go home and do art'.

"So that's how it started."

Moira set up an area in her utility room at home, doing a little bit of sculpting at the time. She quickly outgrew the space, and now works from a former stable block at the end of the garden, which is also used as something of a showroom when she opens her workshop to the public during Dorset Art Weeks and Purbeck Art Weeks.

"I just loved it," she smiles.

"In upper sixth, when I was doing art, I did a self-portrait, then a 2ft high rock climber. I just adored it as soon as I worked in clay. It was just the touch.

"I was drawing at first, but I soon got back to clay. It's just something about touching the clay. Sometimes I work with wax, but it's not the same. It's the texture - you can do so much with the surface."

Many of Moira's sculpture, which range in size from those you can hold in the palm of your hand to bigger, life-size models, have a smooth finish, while others have a rougher feel to reflect the subject matter.

"My life-size man is very textured, because he's a man - he's butch and rugged," she explains.

"I do anything with a curve - not sharp edges. I worked out that the curves are what I like. I prefer doing people because the anatomy is easier to understand. Animals are okay, but I prefer people. There's such a variety of people that you can do."

That variety includes mainly the male and female form in various poses, as well as animals such as pigs, deer and cats. She has also done a number of ballet dancers, as well as a couple doing the Argentine tango, inspired by Strictly Come Dancing.

Moira, who uses both bronze resin and foundry bronze in her work, prefers to work from live models, who sometimes pose for weeks at a time to get the right stance.

"It's not so much that you're trying to be realistic, I think of it as more naturalistic," she explains, "but the proportions have to be real.

Despite pursuing sculpting later in life, Moira has achieved huge success.

Her life-size Self Contained Man won a £250 prize at the South West Academy of Fine and Applied Arts Open Exhibition at Exeter Castle and she was last year invited to be one of just six patrons at the main auction of the Marie Curie Cancer Care Private View of the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, for which she has donated sculptures since 2012.

She has exhibited annually since 2009 as part of the Society of Women Artists annual exhibition in the Mall Galleries in London and, in 2011, was elected as an Associate Member of The Society of Women Artists (ASWA), being elected to full membership in 2014 (SWA).

"I was so excited about having letters after my name for being an artist," she smiles. "That's quite nice, having not been formally trained."

Moira, whose work ranges in price from £35 up to £4,000, also regularly exhibits in galleries in London, Berkshire and Devon, as well as locally in Dorset and Hampshire - at Gallery 41 in Corfe Castle and The Minster Gallery in Winchester.

But one of her proudest achievements is her most recent project, entitled WOMAN - World Maternal Antifibrinolytic, commissioned in support of a study aimed at reducing the number of women dying in childbirth.

"They did a study that shows that an incredibly cheap and tested drug that's been around for decades could be used to help prevent women dying in childbirth," she explains.

"A woman bleeds to death every six minutes. The point of this one was it was to be in the first few seconds after birth, because that's the point when her life is at risk. It's already installed at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine - they unveiled one on International Women's Day."

Not having had children herself, the project proved somewhat testing, but it was part of the appeal for Moira.

“Very different from my usual sculpture, I thrived on the challenge and was spurred on by the importance of what we were aiming to do through the sculpture,” she says.

“The idea of being able to help other women to be able to live to enjoy, love and nurture their babies seemed incredibly important. It is definitely the most demanding and absorbing sculpture I have done to date."