Feverish schooling and a trans-Atlantic voyage has led me here, to this place. BELGIUM. I am currently living a surreal existance in a far off land, in a bizarre dreamscape of what only the half-mad could dream to call a "career".
I make limbs.
Yes, after decades of being fascinated by horror movie props, severed objects that polite society has referred to as "gory" and "gross", I have found myself on the other side of the fence, making life-like prosthetic apparatus which dance the fine edge of the Uncanny Valley... Oh, frabjous day!
My typical day goes as follows: Wake up. Coffee. MAKE SOME AWESOME GODDAMN BODY PARTS. Coffee. Play with dogs and the miss in the the Belgian countryside. Repeat. Life is good.
The V!GO Group (not to be confused with Vigo, the Scourge of Carpathia, the Sorrow of Moldavia), is primarily an orthopedic company, which makes braces, mobility devices, prosthetics, and so forth. I work for a smaller branch of the company which specifically makes facial prostheses and aesthetic silicone covers for prosthetic limbs. They make the guts, we make 'em purdy. When I was hired, I was basically put in charge of all things legs and feet, something I had never done before. While in the BVIS program in Chicago, I primarily worked on eyes, noses, and ears, which I felt very comfortable with. Arm and leg covers are a whole different ball of wax (no pun intended). Making silicone covers for limbs is completely different from what I had learned, and proved to be a rather daunting, intimidating task.
Now that I've been at the new job for several months, things have definitely gotten easier and I feel like I'm finally starting to find my niche. I have learned a TON of new information regarding prostheses and orthotics, more than I could have ever hoped to learn with facial prosthetics alone. The world of orthopedics is massive, and there are a lot of really interesting things going on in it. New bionic and myoelectric technologies, engineering, 3D scanning and printing - it's insane. Luckily, I fell in with a group that was willing to test my mettle with something that was not really in my wheelhouse.
Making silicone covers for a prosthetic limb, as with facial prostheses, is basically artistic sculpting, but in a completely new and different way from what I was used to. I've sculpted in wood, plaster, and wax, and I've welded metal armatures and whatnot, I've carved and laminated, and I've made molds and castings. But this was a process unlike anything I had ever done before. Dealing with massive sheets of silicone, covering cast models of legs, sculpting toes and veins and arteries - that's difficult enough. But this requires extremely realistic painting ON TOP of that, followed by more silicone and meticulous patterning and fine detail work in order to make (what will eventually just be vulcanized rubber) look like human flesh. All the pores, wrinkles, creases, pimples, moles, blemishes, ruptured vessels, scars, scabs, excema... And each one of these skin types and conditions requires some ingenious texturing tool to be created out of strange and mundane household items. I've MacGyver'd more toothbrushes and bits of string into glorious texturing tools than I could ever hope to list.
I really love the work. Getting the opportunity to spend the majority of my day sculpting is phenomenal, and the bonus of learning completely new information, new materials, and new techniques is like getting an additional education. And above all else, I'm gettin to do something that legitimately impacts people who have suffered through a physically and psychologically traumatic event, which is an incredibly rewarding experience.
And, ya know, I get to wear a lab coat with my name on it.