HANDCRAFTED cutlery created by an Astwood Bank designer could be used to help people with debilitating conditions.
Charlotte Simmons, a former St Augustine’s High School student, began developing unexplained pains in her legs, back and neck in the summer of 2011 and was later diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis while on a work placement at British Silverware.
The 22-year-old, who is studying for a masters in product design at Sheffield Hallam University, was given some ergonomic cutlery by occupational therapists soon after her diagnosis.
She said: “They were huge, blue and clunky. I hated how they looked so medical, I was embarrassed to use them. So, I decided to make my own.”
Charlotte tested some prototypes – made using reclaimed Sheffield steel, British silver and hand-carved olive wood – on a panel of people who all had arthritis themselves and has now attracted the attention of potential manufacturers at Arthritis Research UK’s marketplace event, where products aimed at helping people with the condition are showcased.
“The look on their faces when they tested the final design was a picture. I wish I had taken a photograph – one lady nearly cried,” she added.
“When I was diagnosed I became really depressed and I thought I was going to drop out of university. But my arthritis gave some purpose to my designs – I enrolled on the product design masters course which made me think creatively about how to solve problems and my work changed for the better.”
Alaster Yoxall, an expert in ergonomic packaging design and a principal research fellow at Sheffield Hallam, said: “Arthritis is stigmatised as a condition associated with old people, hospitals and disability, the fact that Charlotte can relate to this problem gives her an inspiring passion to help other people with the condition. Her impeccable eye for design has helped her to create a beautiful and desirable product which won’t make people feel embarrassed when eating out.”