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The Art of Limb Preservation

As the child of a leg amputee, Louise Mitchell learned firsthand how profoundly limb loss can affect someone’s health. But that’s only one reason she chose to become a prosthetist. The other?

“I consider making sockets for people to be somewhat of a sculpture project,” she says, “and I’ve always loved sculpture. I enjoy the art aspect of the job. You’ve got to be creative in doing it.”

Images courtesy Louise Mitchell

That explains Mitchell’s unusual side gig. In addition to practicing as a full-time prosthetist in Colchester, England, she’s the proprietor of Odd Limb Art, an online boutique of upcycled items made from discarded prosthetic components. Combining her artist’s eye with her mechanical know-how, Mitchell puts old legs on an imaginative new footing.

“I just hate seeing things go to waste,” she says. “And every day I was seeing how much we were throwing out—metal bits and bobs, bolts and pins, plastic sockets, a lot of single-use material. I had a few patients tell me they had converted [old sockets] into plant pots. So those were the first things I started to make.”

After perfecting her molding and sanding techniques via trial and error, Mitchell discovered that alcohol inks produced a luminous stained-glass effect. The flowerpots turned out so well that Mitchell started experimenting with other designs, turning Blatchford adapters into candleholders and check-socket shards into suncatchers. She rekindled her interest in linotype printing, combining random prosthetic components into abstract designs and whimsical posters.

Mitchell donates half her profits to Legs 4 Africa, which ships used prostheses to sub-Saharan nations with scarce resources for amputees. Find her shop on Etsy.

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