Bespoke Bodies Opening Night Kicks off a Season of Inspiration!

February 26, 2018 | | View Comments

Last week, we celebrated the opening of our latest major exhibition, Bespoke Bodies: The Design & Craft of Prosthetics, at the Center for Contemporary Art & Culture at PNCA. We were thrilled to be joined by a passionate group of clinicians, experts in prosthetic design, and local students and community members!

The exhibition surveys past, present, and future prosthetic design, featuring 35+ case studies highlighting prosthetic design and the users, creators, clinicians, and artists behind leading innovations and new design concepts.

“Bespoke Bodies is all about innovation and impact. At the Design Museum we’re focused on how design impacts people’s lives and this awe-inspiring work is making a difference for so many – but so few people know about it. We know people will find these incredible human stories and engineering marvels inspirational on many levels.” – Sam Aquillano, Executive Director Design Museum Foundation


The opening celebration began with a tour from the exhibition curator, Amanda Hawkins, who led guests through the different themed sections of the gallery, including “Global Impact,” “Performance,” “Custom Style,” “New Tech,” and case studies profiling inspiring individuals in the many fields in prosthetic design. She was joined by a number of contributors to the show who spoke about their work.

Along a historical timeline of prosthetic design, local prosthetist Steve Rosenberg spoke about his work at Eastside Orthotics & Prosthetics and the collection of prosthetic feet they provided to be showcased. The collection features a range of unique designs created between 1990-2013 that were “retired” by patients in Portland OR.


Members from the local Hanger Clinic team, including Erin O’Brian, Jeremy Bilow, and Tim Zanas spoke about patient care and educational tools they use at their practice. Here, a visitor tries out tasks wearing a body-powered “demonstrator” prosthesis provided by the clinic. This device is used as an educator and practice tool for patients who may be undergoing an amputation, and allows able-bodied individuals to understand its function.


We then heard from members of the e-NABLE Community, a global community of volunteers—with a local chapter here in Portland—who use 3D printers and open-source design to bring prosthetic hands to children around the world. They spoke on the impact of shared design and how 3D printing is revolutionizing designing prosthetic devices, especially for growing children.


Tobie Hatfield, Innovation Director at Nike, told the amazing story behind working with former Paralympic athlete Sarah Reinertsen and the design of the Nike Sole for prosthetic running blades. Tobie recounted to guests that before this design, Sarah and other amputee athletes would spend hours fashioning DIY-rubber soles for their prosthetic running blades for better traction and performance. The Nike Sole design they created is a lightweight, durable match to Össur Flex-Run‘s carbon fiber blade, and cuts the prep time down from 60 minutes to 6 seconds.

Legendary University of Oregon track and field coach, and Nike co-founder, Bill Bowerman said, “If you have a body, you are an athlete.” Tobie explained how this has become a mission statement for Nike and a phrase he’s taken true to heart as a designer, expressing his gratitude to have worked on this project with Sarah.


Joined by Wilson Smith, Design Director at Nike, Tobie spoke further on Nike’s dedication to universal design and the story behind his design of the FLYEASE, a popular slip-on sneaker that’s accessible for all (and that he just happened to be wearing that evening!)

Wilson also leads University of Oregon’s Adaptive Design Program, user-based studio class, designed to challenge students’ problem solving skills and foster their capacity for empathy by collaborating with athletes with disabilities. He brought a group of students with him to the opening, and spoke about the impact of this experience on both his students and the athletes they work with. The exhibition highlights a few of the innovative student designs created during the course, some of which are currently being used by professional and Paralympic athletes.


Braden Leonard of Hand Made Prosthetics in Newport, RI spoke about how losing his hand in an accident led him to found a company dedicated to improving prosthetic design. Braden is a resident at the Autdoesk BUILD Space in Boston where he works to improve prosthetic sockets and adaptive performance devices with new design technology and 3D printing.


The tour continued through the “Custom Style,” section featuring a music video from Bionic Pop Artist Viktoria Modesta, one-of-a kind creations from The Alternative Limb Project, and custom prosthetic leg covers from ALLELES Design Studio, who’s stylish accessories are changing the conversation about designing for all abilities.


See all there is to explore at Bespoke Bodies, on view through May 9th at the Center for Contemporary Art & Culture at PNCA! 



Program Events

First Thursdays Open House
March 1, April 5, May 3 • 6:00-8:00pm 
Join us every First Thursday for an open house, complete with refreshments and exhibition tours!

UNITE: Human Tech Connect, Panel Discussion
March 8 • 6:00-8:00pm
A panel of experts discuss the importance of the human relationships in the field of prosthetics.

Viewing Party: Paralympics Opening Ceremonies
March 9 • 6:00-9:00pm
Join us to celebrate the opening of the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Games!

Workshop: Hand Built Hands
April 7 • 10:00am-12:00pm
Bring the whole family to build 3D-printed prosthetic hands for those in need.

Design Week Open House
April 17 • 6:00-8:00pm 
Celebrate Design Week with us! We’ll have an open house with refreshments and exhibit tours.

VIP Dinner with Dr. Albert Chi and Johnny Matheny
April 24 • 6:00-9:00pm 
Join this one-of-a-kind dinner with prosthetics legend Dr. Chi and his patient Johnny, who sports the most technologically advanced prosthetic arm in the world.


All events will be held at the Pacific Northwest College of Art, 511 NW Broadway.