Unorthodox Crafts
Necklace made from a metal plate
As an orthopaedic surgeon I fixed lots of broken bones.  Sometimes I put on a cast.  Sometimes I did surgery.  Sometimes surgery involved using orthopaedic hardware: screws, plates, pins and rods.  The metal hardware is used to hold bone fragments in position during the healing process.  Once the fracture is healed, the hardware can be removed, especially if it is bothersome.

When I removed hardware I often handed it to my patient and commented, "Maybe you can find someone to make this into jewelry for you. It's really sort of pretty."  I never anticipated that I might become that person.

Five years ago, I reconnected with a friend from high school.  She was in the middle of a series of foot operations and ultimately had a plate and screws removed from one foot.  She brought the hardware to me when she came to visit last fall and asked if I could use it to make jewelry.  It took me a while to envision a design plan and even longer to execute it.  Finally, a few weeks before I was scheduled to visit Laurie in Atlanta, I had a quiet night with no obligations.  After several hours (and many spilled beads) I had produced a necklace and earrings that I was happy with - designs that I thought were attractive and wearable.

Earrings using metal screws
Laurie opened the box with the earrings first.  Initially, she did not even recognize the screws - she thought they were lighthouses.  Then she saw the necklace and realized that I had successfully transformed her hardware into jewelry.  She wore the set several times while I was visiting, and seemed excited to explain to people what the jewelry was made of. 

Laurie models the necklace
For someone who has undergone one surgery to have hardware put in and another surgery to have it removed, the hardware represents the completion of a process:  the bone has healed and the metal is no longer needed.  They have come full circle.  Wearing the removed hardware as an accessory demonstrates this to the world.

Laurie models the earring
When I was working as a surgeon, I truly felt honored to help people - to fix their fractures and improve their lives.  Now I feel honored to use my hands in a completely different way - artistically and creatively.  I know that I do not impact peoples' live in the same way that I used to, but I hope that my creations at least bring smiles and enjoyment.  I especially love the challenge of using unusual raw materials for my products - paper for jewelry, neckties for purses, ribbon for knitted accessories.  The challenge of transforming Laurie's plate and screws into jewelry was especially meaningful.  I was able to see materials from my past in a whole new light.  I always knew they were beautiful.  Now I can share their beauty with the world.  I have come full circle also. 

If you have orthopaedic hardware sitting in a baggie on your dresser (or know someone who does), I would love the opportunity to transform it into something wearable.  We can come full circle together.