A student from Sheffield Hallam University has turned a disability to her advantage by producing a set of cutlery for people with arthritis.
Charlotte Simmons, aged 22, is studying for an MA in product design at Sheffield Hallam University and developed rheumatoid arthritis in her final year of a jewellery and metalwork course.
But she found her calling making ergonomic, hand-crafted cutlery.
Charlotte’s designs draw upon the city’s heritage by using reclaimed Sheffield steel, British Silver and hand-carved olive wood and caught the eye of potential manufacturers at Arthritis Research UK’s Marketplace event, where products aimed to help arthritis sufferers are showcased.
Charlotte started developing unexplained pains in her legs, back and neck in summer 2011.
It took doctors two months to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis after initially thinking she had been stung by a bee.
She said: “I could hardly walk, my sister tried to take me shopping but old people with walking sticks were moving faster than me.
“At no point did the thought cross my mind that it could be arthritis. It isn’t something you think can affect younger people.”
Charlotte’s condition affects her whole body, meaning she could not carry on with her jewellery and metalwork course. She was given some ergonomic cutlery by occupational therapists.
Charlotte said: “It was huge, blue and clunky. I hated how they looked so medical - I was embarrassed to use them. So, I decided to make my own.”
“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 research fellow at Sheffield Hallam, said: “Arthritis is stigmatised as a condition associated with old people, hospitals and disability. The fact 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 to eat out.”