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  • Sara Laura Wilson

Octave Prosthetic | Version 1: The Ballet Slipper

Updated: Jun 8, 2020


Lemelson-Vest 10K Innovation Grant, 2019

New York Foundation for the Arts Presenter (June 2019)

Position: Team Lead

Spring 2019

Octave Prosthetic is a series of elegant prostheses for musicians with congenital hand defects, leveraging the strength of the user’s wrist to provide support to and lengthen underdeveloped digits. The goal of this work is to empower musicians to overcome physical limitations and confidently perform with a beautiful and functional prosthetic.

In addition to finger dexterity and controlled strength, most instruments require a certain threshold of finger length to play advanced pieces. Octave Prosthetic maintains the digit’s existing mobility, supports underdeveloped knuckles, and extends the hand span to at least an octave, which is sufficient for the majority of an advanced pianist’s repertoire. The prosthetic is also suitable for other instrumentalists, particularly those who play wind and string instruments, as they would benefit from lengthened fingers. The design, inspired by ballet slippers, is created to have the aesthetic appeal of jewelry with the functionality of a prosthetic appendage. The light-weight, polymer clay prosthetic is covered with a thin fabric to mimic the feel of skin, which is necessary to replicate the sound a finger makes when striking a piano key. Furthermore, the pieces are interchangeable, allowing for versatile design options and easy resizing.

"The Ballet Slipper" is the first piece in the Octave Prosthetic series.

Each year in the United States, 2,000 people are born with congenital hand defects, which manifest in the shortening or absence of bones. While orthotics and surgery can gradually lengthen the bones in the hand, these procedures are expensive, time-consuming, and risk potential nerve damage. Octave Prosthetic offers musicians with congenital defects a non-invasive opportunity to ease their playing with an aesthetically pleasing device. One component of the prosthetic lengthens the finger while another supports the knuckle. These components can be used independently if one function is not needed.

"The Ballet Slipper" is designed to stabilize the knuckle of a musician with brachydactyly type e and leverage the motion of the wrist to apply pressure to a piano key.

Materials: pink crepe-back satin fabric, white lace trimmings, white faux leather string, polymer modelling clay, super glue

Measurements: ring size 7, length 9.4 cm, width 3.4 cm, height 1.6 cm

All photos by Sara L. Wilson.

15K Creative Arts Competition and New York Foundation for the Arts Presentation

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