(Credit: the Alternative Limb Project)
The Alternative Limb Project not only creates realistic limbs for amputees, it also creates bespoke, one-of-a-kind pieces of wearable limb art.
It's hard to imagine life without a limb — not just the physical difficulties, but how it affects your relationship with your body, and the way you're perceived by the world around you. One prosthetist, though, is taking into account not just restoring function, but also the wearer's personality.
The Alternative Limb Project is the work of Sophie de Oliveira Barata, who, taking her first-class honours degree from the London Arts University studying special effects prosthetics, went to work as a sculptor for a prosthetics company. In her eight years there, she created realistic limbs and digits for amputees who wanted their new limb to blend into their bodies.
This is work that de Oliveira Barata has continued with the Alternative Limb Project, and her realistic limbs, moulded from casts of the customer's own body, are incredibly detailed — but some prefer to stand out in a crowd.
And that's where the "alternative" part comes in. "An alternative-style limb can help to break down social barriers, delight the eye and provide an unusual talking point," according to the website. The limbs created by de Oliveira Barata are stunning works of art, each bespoke piece created especially for the individual wearer's taste, personality and style.
De Oliveira Barata's oeuvre includes more subtle options, such as an arm with henna patterns, but it's the more surreal options that are the most stunning — such as singer-songwriter Viktora Modesta Moskalova's leg, which is studded with crystals and speakers, and para-triathlete Jo-Jo Cranfield's arm, featuring a sinuous snake slithering out from inside.
"I ... saw it as an opportunity to regard the leg as a fashion item and art project that seemed rather fun and exciting," said Modesta Moskalova in a testimonial. And Kiera Roche, chairperson for the charity Limb Power, said, "Having a beautifully crafted limb designed for you makes you feel special and worthy."
The work de Oliveira Barata is doing is beautiful, yes — but, perhaps more importantly, it seems to give amputees a wonderfully positive new way of seeing their own bodies.
Check out the rest of de Oliveira Barata's work at the Alternative Limb Project.