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Think Out Loud

On the Job: Ocularist

Pete Springer/OPB

Our On the Job series continues with a window into a profession that blends science and art.

Fred Harwin thinks of himself as an artist, but you won’t see most of his work in galleries. If he does his job right, you won’t even notice his art at all. Harwin is an ocularist, which means he creates prosthetic eyes. Though they’ve commonly been known as “glass eyes,” they’re actually made of acrylic. These eyes don’t see, of course, but they do provide aesthetic symmetry for someone who has had to have an eye removed.

Harwin was the subject of a short documentary film, which follows the process he goes through to work with a patient and create a prosthesis for them:

He started out as a medical illustrator and, for the last three decades, he’s been making acrylic eyes. People come back each year to have their prosthetic eyes polished and, in some cases, replaced. There are medical reasons to keep the eyes clean and make sure the fit is right. And Harwin says replacing them over time gives him a chance to continue striving towards perfection.

Do you wear a prosthetic eye? Do you know someone who does? What was the process like to create the prosthesis? What would you like to ask someone who makes artificial eyes?

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