Many new mums wanting a memento of their child's early years might opt for footprint casts or dipping their baby's booties in bronze, but there's a new option for those wanting to kick-start the keepsakes a little earlier - placenta picture frames.
While most women discard their placenta following childbirth, curiosity is piqued and stomachs are churned when one hears tales of new mothers burying theirs or eating it, respectively. Both traditions have been practiced around the world in different forms for centuries, and Mad Men actress January Jones caused a stir last year when she admitted to ingesting hers after her doula suggested she get it dehydrated and made into vitamins in an effort to increase energy levels and stave off postpartum depression. But now you can get your placenta repurposed as art thanks to London-based sustainable designer Amanda Cotton.
"We need to think of all waste in a completely new way - as raw materials, which hold huge potential," said Cotton. "Why not use human waste where possible?"
Cotton, who also creates jewellery and sculptures using earwax, hair, urine and maggots, first came up with the idea of using placentae to create picture frames when living with a midwife while studying 3D Materials at the University of Brighton. Intrigued by the fact that one of the most vital links between mother and baby during pregnancy is automatically discarded following childbirth, she set about finding a meaningful way to celebrate that connection.
"My work is all about our incredible bodies creating materials which we love and care for yet, once separated from us, we are repulsed by and we feel the need to discard them," she added. "It is quite common for people to keep their baby's byproducts such as the umbilical cord, first tooth or hair clippings to document their progress, along with photos and notes. The placenta is one of the first creations the mother and baby make together - why not celebrate that with a keepsake?"
To make the frame, which is inscribed with the child's date of birth, Cotton cooks the placenta so that it can be ground into smaller pieces which she then mixes with resin and casts in a mould. While some might recoil at the thought, the designer insists she has received plenty of positive feedback and already has a healthy line of clients. One of them, Ulrika Jarl, who is pregnant with her second daughter, says she'll be keeping her placenta for Cotton following childbirth.
"I can understand why some people might find this a bit yucky but what attracted me was the use of materials that we think of as waste," said Jarl. "'I have friends who swear by placenta capsules and say they give them much more energy, more milk and even combat the postpartum blues. You can donate placentas for training dogs to look for human remains. There are so many uses for these useful bits of tissue that kept your baby alive for nine months, yet the majority of placentas are just thrown away. That really is a waste."
- Sydney Morning Herald
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