These prosthetic limbs are walking works of art

Arts

The Alternative Limb Project is on a mission to transform lives, one limb at a time. Set up by Sophie Oliveira Barata in 2011, this first-of-its-kind company is rewriting the rulebook on prosthetics. From legs made of crystal, to arms spouting snakes, every piece is completely bespoke. It is medical treatment crossed with craft and technology, with a human being right at the end of it.

“I had a seed in my head of doing something different, but I wanted to take it that much further,” said Sophie, who started the company after nearly a decade working with medical prosthetics. “I wanted to create pieces that would be seen as art in their own right.”

Her walking pieces of art have been commissioned from as far as Papua New Guinea, Brazil and the United States. Sophie works in collaboration with the AltLimbPro team to design and create limbs to bring each customer’s proposal to life. Prosthetic self-expression doesn’t come cheap, however, with a limb costing anywhere from £6,000 to £12,000.

Sophie says the possibilities for design are endless. Wood, plastic, ceramic, you name it – these are the prosthetic limbs of the future.

James Young and his Metal Gear Solid Phantom limb

“Once I read a great line which stuck in my head, where a prosthetic user said, ‘I want to take off my limb and leave it in a room, and people will recognise it and know that it belongs to me. It reflects part of my personality’. I totally connected with that idea.”

Grace Mandeville wearing her Feather Armour

“I’ve worn prosthetic arms that look real and they just get in the way. They look normal, but I don’t really want to look normal, so this is like the perfect prosthetic arm. I’m into fashion, and I thought, ‘What’s more awesome than wearing an arm like that?’”

Kiera Roche and her Floral Porcelain Leg

“In the first few years [of being an amputee] my focus was on trying to be normal – wearing clothes that hid the fact that I was an amputee. Over the years I have become more comfortable with who I am. I think losing a limb has a massive impact on one’s self esteem and body image. Having a beautifully crafted limb designed for you makes you feel special.”

Ryan Seary, ex-serviceman wearing his Anatomical Leg

“Whilst carrying out a high risk search in Helmand I stepped on a LMC pressure plate, it partially detonated which removed my left foot and hand at the scene. My team provided initial first aid before I was flown back to Bastion in a record of 17 minutes (record at the time) . At Bastion my left leg was removed above the knee and my left arm above the elbow.

When I received the leg it was better than I could have imagined. I can’t get over how realistic the foot looks. Many people have taken a few seconds to get their mind round the fact that it’s not real. Often young children will be confused and want to ask about or touch my leg but that’s only natural curiosity.”

Viktoria Modesta, the world’s first amputee pop star, Spike and crystal leg

“I’ve been asked if I feel I represent disability, and I don’t think I do. I represent the feeling that you have a choice to create your own identity.”

Snake Arm, worn by Jo-Jo Cranfield, British Swimmer, Motivational/Inspirational Speaker and Swimming Teacher

“I’ve never seen the interest in having a prosthetic arm. They are heavy, uncomfortable and not at all practical. I love the fact that having one arm makes me effortlessly different to the majority of people. My alternative limb is so different to any other prosthetic limb I have ever had. I wear it with pride. I’ve never seen a two-armed person with snakes crawling into their skin, and even if I did I don’t think it would be so comfy! My alternative arm makes me feel powerful, different and sexy.”

Images Credit: Omkaar Kotedia