Hallux Valgus

Ace Tilton Ratcliff


Stay Weird Be Kind Studios
Boynton Beach, FL, United States

1.25 x 1.25 x 0.25 inches

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Photo credit: Ace Tilton Ratcliff

I have a rare incurable degenerative collagen disorder called hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. It causes many difficult symptoms, including unstable joints that dislocate extremely easily.

In 2014, I had surgery to correct an agonizing dislocation in my left foot. My surgeon removed portions of my toe bone, which I asked to keep. The moment I held those bone pieces, I knew I wanted to make jewelry from them—even though I had no formal training as a metalsmith.

It took almost a decade, but I finally cast the bone (seen beside the necklace) in silver using the lost wax method. I also hand-carved a wax crown to halo the bone and flush set a CZ for sparkle.

That surgery failed & I have had many more since. I will live with pain for the rest of my life, but being able to turn my hurt into something beautiful that I can wear gives me a sense of control that I do not and will never feel over the rest of my body.

Ace Tilton Ratcliff is a disabled and nonbinary multidisciplinary artist whose work grapples with the discovery of self through difficult life experiences that make for bad chit-chat but damn good art. They’re a metalsmith & photographer who also works in fibers and watercolors.

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