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Category: Artwork and Do It yourself Corner

Artistic visions for prosthetic design X - mechanical bionic Becker Lock Grip Hand going Red Arm

Cite this article:
Wolf Schweitzer: Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Artistic visions for prosthetic design X - mechanical bionic Becker Lock Grip Hand going Red Arm; published August 14, 2009, 13:54; URL: https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=218.

BibTeX: @MISC{schweitzer_wolf_1571792354, author = {Wolf Schweitzer}, title = {{Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Artistic visions for prosthetic design X - mechanical bionic Becker Lock Grip Hand going Red Arm}}, month = {August},year = {2009}, url = {https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=218}}


Original appearance

The Becker Lock Grip hand ([where to order, technical info]) ships with a sandpapered smooth but uncoated bass wood body. For my purposes that is just about the best thing that can ever happen to me - wood, a surface that can be carved, stained, painted, sprayed, covered with plastic shells or modified in any other way. It is the best possible material ever. Let me exaggerate - it is bone hard, feather light, dirt cheap and very beautiful. Plus, it's organic (any Californians reading this?). There is no better understanding of the condition that I am in.

So I wasn't going to let it stay like that....

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Stump socks / protectors for different applications II

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Wolf Schweitzer: Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Stump socks / protectors for different applications II; published July 11, 2009, 06:30; URL: https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=197.

BibTeX: @MISC{schweitzer_wolf_1571792354, author = {Wolf Schweitzer}, title = {{Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Stump socks / protectors for different applications II}}, month = {July},year = {2009}, url = {https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=197}}


The PET bottle trick (step by step instructions here) looked so cool.

I am on my way to working out comfortable and functional interface solution, to get robust and functional arm stump protection. Also I am slowly getting my hand/s dirty in the domain of building some of my own stuff - and if just for testing out some 'spare parts'. Second last but not least I should also create a feel of 'amateur' and 'enthusiastic' not as to scare off our 'professionals'. Also, I always believe in full step by step documentation of stuff, and if only for later referral. Even in instances where it seems that I failed. No one can learn if failures are not available for reviewing.

So trying this one out came naturally.

Required material:

  • Alginate (cheap, web order)
  • Plaster cast (cheap, supermarket or web order)
  • PET bottle (try to get something a bit bigger than the correct size)

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Artistic visions for prosthetic design IX - taking a leather and steel brace arm towards Red Arm III

Cite this article:
Wolf Schweitzer: Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Artistic visions for prosthetic design IX - taking a leather and steel brace arm towards Red Arm III; published July 8, 2009, 00:50; URL: https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=196.

BibTeX: @MISC{schweitzer_wolf_1571792354, author = {Wolf Schweitzer}, title = {{Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Artistic visions for prosthetic design IX - taking a leather and steel brace arm towards Red Arm III}}, month = {July},year = {2009}, url = {https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=196}}


This is part of my Red Hand Series.

Summer approaches and I need a stylish arm. Wearing just one shirt (and not another one underneath) looks weird with the cable controlled arm - and wearing the harness directly on the skin is uncomfortable.

Being a resourceful person, I was able to snatch an almost unused mint condition 1964 prosthetic arm made from leather and steel - see photos - that fits my stump perfectly. This arm oozes style. It is definitely going to be my Red Arm III.

I am about to change that glove to something else that will obviously be red - but not right now. Things need to be in proper sequence here. But this leather steel prosthesis definitely does not look as nauseating or disturbing as the average setup - it has far more aspects of a saddle, of a thing you'd put on a horse. It looks much less like these undefinable prosthetic modern but still timeless if not outdated functional body replacements that work well but that just look so lost - lost in time and space, lost in style.

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Artistic visions for prosthetic design VIII - taking a mannequin shop window arm towards Red Arm II

Cite this article:
Wolf Schweitzer: Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Artistic visions for prosthetic design VIII - taking a mannequin shop window arm towards Red Arm II; published July 2, 2009, 01:53; URL: https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=193.

BibTeX: @MISC{schweitzer_wolf_1571792354, author = {Wolf Schweitzer}, title = {{Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Artistic visions for prosthetic design VIII - taking a mannequin shop window arm towards Red Arm II}}, month = {July},year = {2009}, url = {https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=193}}


Moving on, I found that I really want a 'hand looking something'. Just because I like its shape look so much better than any other things there. Call me an anthropomorphophiliac.

I still feel significantly quieter, safer, relaxed and self sufficient wearing the hook whereas the hand is not giving me that feeling of being able to rely - but the shape of the hand itself is dear to me, it has a nice to look at aspect.

As other people definitely stare no matter what, I found out that wearing Red (instead of skin colored attempts) appears to shift responses from stressful childish or confused responses to far more mature or matured ones. Obviously we are dealing with each other in terms of "what type of person are you" before we deal with each other in terms of "who as an individual are you".

So in case you want to see the past and future rest of this project, click on the link to my Red Hand Series.

I am significantly inspired by designers' attempts to be 'proaesthetic' (Hans Alexander Huseklepp) or to 'translate an arm into a prosthetic arm' (Marek Gut). Current prosthetics generally lack humanity, style and grace. Often, current prostheses look much like landing gear and make the wearer uncomfortable, self aware, and sometimes depressed (Johanna M. Hawley).

There are certain hard minimal requirements - a prosthesis must be fully reliable, it must be stable and solid up to a point, and the socket or stump mount should be really comfortable and it must not hurt. But other than that, we are free in choosing material and appearance.

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Artistic visions for prosthetic design VII - Red Cable Controlled Arm Experiment

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Wolf Schweitzer: Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Artistic visions for prosthetic design VII - Red Cable Controlled Arm Experiment; published June 22, 2009, 01:49; URL: https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=184.

BibTeX: @MISC{schweitzer_wolf_1571792354, author = {Wolf Schweitzer}, title = {{Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Artistic visions for prosthetic design VII - Red Cable Controlled Arm Experiment}}, month = {June},year = {2009}, url = {https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=184}}


What works for my "cosmetic" prostheses can be applied to my body powered prosthesis as well. Why red at all? Red works anywhere. Here we go.

If you want to check out the whole set: this is part of my Red Hand Series - nothing to buy at all, just art work in progress.

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Artistic visions for prosthetic design VI - Why on earth RED? What happens when you wear a RED ARM?

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Wolf Schweitzer: Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Artistic visions for prosthetic design VI - Why on earth RED? What happens when you wear a RED ARM?; published June 22, 2009, 01:45; URL: https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=183.

BibTeX: @MISC{schweitzer_wolf_1571792354, author = {Wolf Schweitzer}, title = {{Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Artistic visions for prosthetic design VI - Why on earth RED? What happens when you wear a RED ARM?}}, month = {June},year = {2009}, url = {https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=183}}


3 Comments

Red is the color we are talking about. Red is not a new color for wearing stuff though.

After trying my "cosmetic looking" prosthesis - both the cosmetic arm and the very realistic silicone covered hand - at work and at play, at parties and when meeting people, they all felt very comfortable to wear and put me in a good mood. But comfort was only what I got - the others got a different ride out of it.

Actually, my initial reaction to the skin colored hand as well as the first hook that I saw was that of nausea. When I first saw the options for prosthetic arms I felt like going to the toilet and puking maybe for two or three weeks or so. But I didn't. And instead of the void, the nothing, I do like that bit of ugly ass plastic there, at least I liked it better than non-disabled folks. They often react like I reacted for the first time.

I am not alone to be appalled by how prosthetic limbs look. Typical reactions of amputees when seeing artificial limbs for the first time are similar (cited from [1]):

I don't think I realized, but I thought I was getting my leg back and when I saw the prosthesis for the first time, I cried and cried. And I look back on that day and not the day of the accident but that day as the worst day of my life and I cried and cried and cried...

I remember the first day h put the limb on and I remember the emotion was to start crying. It just wasn't the same. That was your immediate reaction to it you know. Subconsciously you are thinking that you are going to be put back together.

Authors' further comments, also from [1]:

Thus, a common response to seeing a prosthesis for the first time was of extreme shock and disappointment. Furthermore, it was also generally agreed that it was an emotionally charged experience and that living with an amputation did not simply involve getting a prosthesis made and returning to a relatively unchanged life.

My prosthetic technician's officially defined attempts - so far - at camouflage and emulating a normal hand/arm did not at all manage to communicate 'ease', 'beauty', 'comfort' or 'relaxed attitude' to other people. Of course not. People cannot see that I like the way the snug fit of the liner compresses my stump and they cannot see that my brain even believes there is still a hand and that things feel not at all what they look like from outside. Alright, it's called 'phantom' hand for a reason. Yet, all that has no bearing and how and what I feel is not what plays out at the other end.

Signaling 'ease', 'beauty', 'comfort' or 'relaxed attitude' in relation to the disabled arm could even be wrong for any prosthesis to attempt. Non-disabled people by nature and by all we know will be nervous or irritated. So if the people you encounter are at all to be given a chance to chill, to go "phew", trying to communicate 'ease', 'beauty', 'comfort', 'chill' or even 'humor' could go down the wrong way.

Conversely, wearing a standard issue cosmetic looking hand, I will likely be understood as communicating 'this has been taken over by specialist replacement, it is a taboo zone and ought not to be talked about'. It may communicate in our society also 'we are all tense and hope you accept the prosthesis as suitable attempt for perfection, please look away'. That seems to cause conflicting emotions and appears to be a rather solid basis for relatively stressful further encounters.

So the issue is complicated, but bear with me here.

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Artistic visions for prosthetic design V - Red Arm I

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Wolf Schweitzer: Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Artistic visions for prosthetic design V - Red Arm I; published June 22, 2009, 01:30; URL: https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=182.

BibTeX: @MISC{schweitzer_wolf_1571792354, author = {Wolf Schweitzer}, title = {{Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Artistic visions for prosthetic design V - Red Arm I}}, month = {June},year = {2009}, url = {https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=182}}


1 Comment

This is part of my Red Hand Series.

This prosthetic arm is now very clearly recognizable as a replacement part that does not attempt to camouflage but to replace a shape. And I am all for anthropomorphic shapes - don't get me wrong. Just because I really like my sturdy and reliable hook function does not mean I want to look that way. I want to look as complete as possible, and while that is not possible it appears as if I am currently negotiating a compromise.

So currently we put good old Steiner's Rudy and his ideas about nervous people to use after establishing that nervousness is a real issue. Who'd a thunk it, there is a logical thread, a theory and a strategy.

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Artistic visions for prosthetic design IV - wooden design model hand

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Wolf Schweitzer: Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Artistic visions for prosthetic design IV - wooden design model hand; published June 20, 2009, 17:59; URL: https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=180.

BibTeX: @MISC{schweitzer_wolf_1571792354, author = {Wolf Schweitzer}, title = {{Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Artistic visions for prosthetic design IV - wooden design model hand}}, month = {June},year = {2009}, url = {https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=180}}


This is part of my Red Hand Series.

We all agree that cool options for a prosthetic hand do not have to necessarily be hugely expensive. Myoelectric options are not an option right now and at this moment, as I am not a glutton for painishment.

So I got a wooden hand with adjustable fingers. I banged it up so it'd fit on my wrist and here is how that looks. I can use that to try to look cool and for typing (that is noteworthy as that is just about what other people use ridiculously expensive prostheses such as the iLimb for).

By no way is this meant as a way to put down iLimb users but for a total cost of 78'000 CHF out of my own pocket (see how much is that in dollars!) I rightfully expect the combined performance of a luxury car with all the electronics, and a high end power tool, and a high end computer workstation - all in one. And for the iLimb I see more like a total cost of five small electric motors, a number of cast plastic pieces and some screws. And if they sold them for 5'000 CHF I'd have gotten one on my own right now.

These wooden hands here, however, sell for 25 CHF (some 1/3120th of the iLimb cost) and so may I introduce the term adequacy. I can and plan to use these as experimental substrates. There is no expected performance. I may wreck some material during tinkering and trying.

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Artistic visions for prosthetic design III - playing with instructions and materials

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Wolf Schweitzer: Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Artistic visions for prosthetic design III - playing with instructions and materials; published May 22, 2009, 11:46; URL: https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=176.

BibTeX: @MISC{schweitzer_wolf_1571792354, author = {Wolf Schweitzer}, title = {{Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Artistic visions for prosthetic design III - playing with instructions and materials}}, month = {May},year = {2009}, url = {https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=176}}


I started out being surprised by the visual attraction and emotional impact of a primarily artistic (rather than functional) prosthetic arm. I continued to walk in amazement for a while.

Then I tried a simple but very powerful design variation myself - my Red Hand Experiment that started with a mannequin hand that I had painted plain red using glossy acrylic paint. I loved it. I loved the idea of having come up with this myself, of having painted it myself, of having worked on constructing the wrist myself.

Thirdly I feel that I know best what's good for me in terms of artwork. I may be wrong, obviously - there are far better artists that can draft and showcase prosthetic designs. But they don't call me, they do not send me their prototypes, let me wear them, they don't see to it that their designs make it into production - nothing of that kind. Not until recently that is, when Dan started his business. Furthermore, prosthetic artwork is not insurance covered and so price plays a huge role. Otto Bock, Hosmer or TRS do not carry artistically enhanced prosthetic parts - and if they would, I probably could not pay for them.

And so one of the things I consider is doing it myself. Even if other people will never understand it - being able to creatively shape the way I can fill in my own missing part helps greatly to live with it. I find that working on my arm is good just to feel better about it. That creative process feels like a necessary part of healing to me.

So now seems like a good time to look at technical aspects.

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Artistic visions for prosthetic design II - Red Hand Experiment

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Wolf Schweitzer: Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Artistic visions for prosthetic design II - Red Hand Experiment; published February 19, 2009, 20:20; URL: https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=169.

BibTeX: @MISC{schweitzer_wolf_1571792354, author = {Wolf Schweitzer}, title = {{Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Artistic visions for prosthetic design II - Red Hand Experiment}}, month = {February},year = {2009}, url = {https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=169}}


3 Comments

This is the first part of what now evolved into my Red Hand Series.

I am not sure how much I would anyone allow to actually rate this idea. It seems to be obviously cheap and stupid as mannequins hands sell for just about 5-25 bucks.

So if I have not missed something there I could use and wreck about 2'700 of these hands in these three to five years it takes for a professionally painted so-called "cosmetic" prosthesis to wear down - and still be cheaper and still be - ... arguably ... - better looking?

I mean - don't act stupid, but a cosmetic prosthetic hand should make me look competent (while it obviously doesn't move its parts) and a mechanical prosthesis makes me move, act, manipulate in a competent fashion (while there are certain restrictions on how competent it looks), at least that'd be the expectation. Now: my hook looks proficient yet we like it for its industrial and tool like looks. My silicon gloves for the prosthetic hand try look realistic yet we love them for their affordable rubbery charm. A body powered prosthesis is light, fast and silent and appears to allow for a far more proficient function than a myoelectric or bionic prototype would - more than once did I get surprised positive reactions. And walking around with an uncovered arm stump at least conveys some degree of honesty.

But none of these, and none of the current bionic prototypes do seem to convey being competent - if anything, these artistic designs look competent. Now: in my experience, not looking competent is by far the more significant disability going along with missing a hand than being manually incompetent - and while one can go in depth about the background, about the ins and outs of being perceived as incompetent as disabled person, while one can try to counter-act this through active communciation, it remains a major factor. Studying the appearance of competency therefore seems to be a worthwhile thing to do.

Two thousand and seven hundred? Seeing as if artwork was one way to go in prosthetics I figured 'why not', I went into 'just do it' mode - particularly since no one of these art creationists ever seems to build a cool art project for me. They may be very inspirational - but they all hide in their ivory towers of pure design and forget that we are out here.

2'700!? OMG. On second thought, I must have missed something. Best to try out.

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Stump socks / protectors for different applications I

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Wolf Schweitzer: Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Stump socks / protectors for different applications I; published November 15, 2008, 15:24; URL: https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=114.

BibTeX: @MISC{schweitzer_wolf_1571792354, author = {Wolf Schweitzer}, title = {{Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Stump socks / protectors for different applications I}}, month = {November},year = {2008}, url = {https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=114}}


3 Comments

I am not always wearing the prosthesis or keeping my stump uncovered to air it out. Often, some protective clothing or stump socks are helpful.

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Stigmatization and demonization I - does the Uncanny Valley make us getting terrorized by the public?

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Wolf Schweitzer: Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Stigmatization and demonization I - does the Uncanny Valley make us getting terrorized by the public?; published October 5, 2008, 15:18; URL: https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=49.

BibTeX: @MISC{schweitzer_wolf_1571792354, author = {Wolf Schweitzer}, title = {{Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Stigmatization and demonization I - does the Uncanny Valley make us getting terrorized by the public?}}, month = {October},year = {2008}, url = {https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=49}}


9 Comments

"You're different because one or more of your physical attributes doesn't work properly, and that difference makes me uncomfortable but intrigues me at the same time" (prime perception of mainstream society, see The Cinema of Isolation, p. xii).

I would not go as far as attributing negative experience with other people to causes such as stigmatization and demonization each and every time. That itself would mean to somewhat demonize others. We are all different and not everyone has a great day always.

Yet there is little left to guess in a recent 2009 campaign of the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie. There I feel that we are very clearly equated with fake watches and fake people. Yet, the question of authenticity is a serious issue not just in prosthetics but in society. What is it that we see as 'real'?

On the other hand, no other person that looks at me as disabled person would ever admit to stigmatizing or demonizing me because of visible disability. Yet, it is undeniably one of the bigger factors that may affect a non-disabled person and at the same time mostly outside of reach as this is a matter located anywhere but even remotely close to an acceptable dinner table subject.

And particularly initially - but also for some people still after two decades of being an amputee - the stigmatization and demonization by the public has something deeply terrorizing and intimidating about it. It is worth dedicating some time to this subject before starting to talk back.

Example: I regularly attend a swimming pool, and there, I participate in a club training. A while back, a well educated lady who also is a member of that club told me she could not swim there any more. She said it would deeply depress her to see "someone like me" swim so much faster than her. I then took that as a compliment and asked her whether she considered that I had been even faster when I had two hands and whether she was not at all depressed by the presence of such two handed and even faster swimmers in our club? - She did not come back to club trainings. Seeing a person with a visible disability outperform her was far more threatening than being outperformed even more by non-disabled swimmers. So, there appears to be a threat that makes people go out of their way.

Ultimately we will have to look at design principles from their social meaning. For that, both sociology of disability and design principles are relevant areas of observation.
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Artistic visions for prosthetic design I - review

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Wolf Schweitzer: Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Artistic visions for prosthetic design I - review; published August 16, 2008, 22:03; URL: https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=35.

BibTeX: @MISC{schweitzer_wolf_1571792354, author = {Wolf Schweitzer}, title = {{Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Artistic visions for prosthetic design I - review}}, month = {August},year = {2008}, url = {https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=35}}


5 Comments

While most prosthetic replacements focus on function and camouflage of the visible disability or stump, others try to be as bionic as possible, some prosthetic design drafts are interesting and cool because they do neither - they fit in or they stand out. Like my Red Hand Experiment (below).

Check out some of the options or check with Dan Horkey to get your own artwork.

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