Sophie de Olivera Barata studied Art Foundation at Winchester Collage or Art, then got a first honours degree at London College of fashion for special effects. She learnt how to make realistic prosthetics at Steeper group in London. She set up The alternative Limb Project in 2011 in London and she now works alongside Chris Parsons at Design Prosthetics in Lewes.
WHAT IS CREATIVITY FOR YOU?
Creativity for me is mixing themes, materials and minds. I love bringing a team together of people with different expertise to create an exciting piece.
WHY CREATIVE PROSTHETICS LIMBS?
Prosthetic limbs to me are the perfect canvas for art: I reimagine the space as something unique that reflects the wearer style / interest and challenge perceptions of what the body and has to look like.
WHAT IS YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS?
I will meet the client, discuss their needs and desires, I will work on a moodboard and sketches with the client. I work alongside in-house prosthetist Chris Parsons to realise what is possible from a comfort and practical perspective and depending on what the design is I will get the relevant team of skills on board to create the piece and drive the project to the end. There will be various stages where I will check in with the client for fit and shaping.
It’s important this piece reflects the wearer, so therefor it’s essential they are involved in the process as much as they would like to be.
HOW DOES YOUR ART MAKE AMPUTEES FEEL IN YOUR OPINION?
Our work is more for exhibition and performance, so it mainly serves as an inspiration for amputees to think outside the box and demand more from their limb, if that means personalising it themselves or seeking services to help them achieve this. Alternative looking prosthetics give a sense of power to the wearer, claiming control about how they feel about their body and changing the narrative behind what’s there as opposed to what’s missing.
CREATIVITY AND FUNCTIONALITY. THESE TWO WORDS SEEM TO FORM AN OXYMORON: IS IT POSSIBLE TO COMBINE THE TWO?
There is a triangle and in each corner one word Comfort, Functionality and Aesthetics, if you pull hard in any one of these directions the others can suffer. However I feel with creativity it’s possible you can achieve all 3.
The running blade is a perfect example of this.
WHAT IS THE MOST MEANINGFUL PIECE YOU CREATED AND WHY?
I recently made a hand for a lady in her 60s she was born with fingers and her mother had always felt guilty and had tried to find a prosthetic she wanted to wear. Her mother since passed away. The lady contacted me having been inspired by the work, she commissioned a crystal and metal ornate finger piece and gave me some of her mum’s ashes to work into the piece letting her mum know she had put this journey to rest with a piece that brought her hand joy.