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Making prostheses into art 

Rachel Pritchett

PORT ORCHARD, Wash. – Prosthetic-tattoo entrepreneur Dan Horkey believes he’s a step ahead of the competition. 

“I’m the original,” said Horkey, who just started a business to turn clients’ artificial legs and arms into pieces of customized art. “I want to add color to people’s lives.” 

Horkey lost the lower half of one of his legs in a motorcycle accident in 1985. Two of the prostheses he uses today have fiery orange and yellow flames shooting up the sides. Both resemble detailing that might be found on cars, and Horkey calls on some of those car-detailing techniques in his business, Global Tattoo Orthotic Prosthetic Innovations. 

Now he’s ready to offer custom art to others, be they diabetics who’ve lost limbs, soldiers injured in wars or accident victims like himself. The art might be a nature scene, album cover, or any type of design the client can imagine – even solids to match skin hues. 

“I want to try to cheer these people up,” Horkey said. 

And he’s starting up a business that caters to a growing number of people. In the United States, there are 1.7 million people living with limb loss, according to the National Limb Loss Information Center. That’s one out of every 200 people. And the number is expected to rise as obesity rates climb and more are plagued with diabetes and vascular disease, which can lead to limb loss. 

For now working out of his home, Horkey and his helpers can apply “tattoos” to the socket, or cup, part of prosthetic limbs employing different techniques with a range of costs. 

The least expensive technique, from around $150 to $375, would entail a process where fabric with a design is applied to the prosthetic. The high-end technique would be airbrushing – like they do on cars – to the tune of about $450 to $600. 

“They supply me the art; I get it airbrushed,” he said. 

Customers would have to give up their limbs for a week to allow for the work, and fall back on their spares. 

In two years, he’d like to have a prosthetic and orthotic fabrication and tattoo shop, drawing on labor from the local Suquamish Tribe of American Indians. 

Beyond that, Horkey plans to make and offer a number of items related to artificial limbs that he has trouble finding now at reasonable cost. That would include covers, or limbs that could be traded out when wearers go to the beach, go swimming or take a shower. 

“I’m tired of sitting on a shower chair at the age of 44,” he said. 

Photo courtesy of Kitsap Sun

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