A guest post from Matt Day, currently studying for an MA degree in contemporary design craft and studying the Sculptural Aesthetic Potential of Prosthetic Limbs. Matt visited the collection in April and wrote this blog about his experience, you can contact Matt on Instagram @3dprintedsculpture or LinkedIn.
I am a sculptor who works primarily through 3-D printing. I am currently studying for a Masters degree in Contemporary Design Craft at Hereford College of Arts. My current focus is on the sculptural aesthetic potential of prosthetic limbs.
My journey to my MA began when I started researching into how 3-D printing can enhance people’s lives. This extended from potentially 3-D printing sustainable homes, to vets in places such as South America who are 3-D printing beaks for parrots that had lost their beaks through viruses or accidents. I stumbled across an image of a prosthetic limb that had been created by the Alternative Limb Project in London. This prosthetic was something like I’d never seen before. It was an alternative limb to the one this person had lost, but it was also a work of art. I could see this prosthetic as a sculpture in its own right and that was really exciting for me. But also the story behind why this person wanted this limb to be the way it was and what that limb did for him was also very inspiring. I subsequently came across a selection of Ted Talks by X Paralympic in double amputee Aimee Mullins. Some of these Ted Talks dated back to 2009 where she talked passionately about how she wanted to see artists, interior designers, engineers and scientists coming together to create prosthetic limbs. This was the start of my journey.
During an early stage of my MA I visited the Makeshift Conference run by the Craft Council which was to do with craft and well-being and a lot of the talks were on prosthetics. One particular talk was by speaker Paul Sohi, lead designer for Autodesk. He was a trained architect, but when he moved to Autodesk his first role was to create a prosthetic limb for a German Paralympian for Rio 2016. He had never trained to design a prosthetic limb but he was able, using 3-D scanning and collaborating with other designers across the world using cloud based technology, known as the fourth industrial revolution, to create this limb. This inspired me to learn how to use 3-D scanning and to discover how I could apply it to my practice. I also started reading an article titled ‘How Digital Artist Engagement Can Function as an Open Innovation Model to Facilitate Audience Encounters with Museum Collections’ in the International Journal of the Inclusive Museum by Sarah Younan and Haitham Eid. It was this journal article that inspired me to contact Worcester’s Medical Museums.
I wanted to use the skills that people working in prosthetics are using and apply it to my sculptural prosthetics. So I wanted to approach a medical museum so that I could engage with them and their collections. I asked fellow MA students whether they had any recommendations of museums that I could contact. A lot of people did suggest the Wellcome Trust however being in Hereford and at an early stage of my MA I felt that I wasn’t quite ready to approach them. One fellow student mentioned contacting Worcester Medical Museums.
Being that Worcester was so close to Hereford this was really appealing to me and I thought being quite a small museum I might get quite a quick response. I contacted the museum and arranged a viewing of the collection with Louise Price. Louise told me about what prosthetics they had in their collection and we arranged a time to meet to view the collection.
My experiences with Worcester Medical Museums really enhanced this third part of my MA. Itimproved my confidence and my practice and led to me creating a selection of really interesting sculptural pieces that have been getting a lot of attention, not just from Hereford College of Arts but also on social media from people who work around the worlddoing amazing work within prosthetics and orthopaedics. I was contacted by one American who works within prosthetics and orthopaedics expressing his interest in the use of my aesthetics within my prosthetic sculptural sockets and spoke of interest within a collaboration or project.
This experience of contacting Worcester Medical Museums and arranging to view objects from their collection was really a big encouragement for me. As this was the second time I contacted a museum about viewing parts of a collection I felt that this was the best visit I had had with a Museum so far. I had the opportunity of taking a prosthetic socket out on loan which I was able to 3-D scan and start working with the digital scan and applying a new concept to the object, turning the functional object into a sculptural piece.
When I started experimenting with 3-D scanning I was practising on objects that I found inspiring such as the interior structure of seashells.
The visit to the Worcester Medical Museums really was a big step forward for me and just being there and speaking with Mark and Louise about my ideas, and how prosthetic limbs have changed over the years from being strictly functional to sculptural pieces, was a really empowering experience.
What’s next for my MA is to continue to explore this idea of the sculptural aesthetic potential of prosthetic limbs and to incorporate the aesthetics of my work into a prosthetic limb for someone. Celebrating the idea that a prosthetic doesn’t have to just be a functional object, it can be a work of art - allowing the wearer to be the architect of their own body.
More of my work can be found on my website at http://matthewdaysculpture.wixsite.com/2016