An athletic man with a prosthetic leg getting ready to run track.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Prosthetics have come a long way from the the original papier maché toes used in 600 B.C. With the medicine, robotics, sensors, and 3D-printing industries now working together, prosthetics are both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

Bespoke Bodies: The Design & Craft of Prosthetics,” an exhibition and education program on display at the Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) in Portland, Oregon, showcases the global evolution of prosthetics, from ocular prostheses to mind-controlled bionic limbs. It debuted on Feb. 15 and will run through May 9, 2018.

The exhibit is free and open to the public, and it includes a wide variety of program events for all ages. March 1, April 5, and May 3, visitors can enjoy exhibition tours and refreshments at PNCA’s open house event. Or, for some interactive fun, guests can attend “Workshop: Hand Built Hands” on April 7 from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. and help build 3D-print prosthetic hands for those who need them most.

Visitors can not only discover the history of prosthetics in the exhibition, but also the design process behind special pieces, such as DIY inventions. In addition to real prosthetic pieces, the program also invites guests to explore prosthetics through videos, interactive models, and visual stories that highlight everyone in the prosthetic design process, from the patients and doctors to the artists and designers.

Some of the prosthetics and the stories behind them at the exhibition include Jordan Reeve’s “Project Unicorn,” a girlish glitter cannon that turns her into a “superhero”; D-Rev’s “ReMotion Knee,” a prosthetic knee with a wide range of motion wearers can use to squat, kneel, and even ride a bike; and Dani Clode’s “The Third Thumb Project,” which she says, “investigates the relationship between the body and prosthetic technology in new ways,” on her website.

Durability, cost, and comfort continue to be some of the top concerns for future prosthetic limbs, but “Bespoke Bodies: The Design & Craft of Prosthetics” reminds visitors of how far prosthetics have come and how new technologies will not only shape the future of prosthetics, but also the future of people living with limb loss.