The INSIDER Summary:
• One Tumblr user sent her amputated toe to another Tumblr user to use for a necklace.
• The internet went nuts over it.
• Haley, whose toe it is, says it’s important to her.
On Friday, a Tumblr user who goes by Lana posted about a package she received in the mail containing an “amputated human toe.” She was delighted. She’s planning on changing the preservative solution, putting it in a nicer, gemstone-studded jar, and turning it into a pendant for the toe’s owner.
“Taking on this project is so super meaningful to me, more so than any other jewellery project I’ve taken on,” Lana wrote. “I’m so appreciative of her trust in me, and I’m so excited to get to work on this!”
Lana makes taxidermic jewellery. She takes animal skulls, teeth, and bones, and turns them to decorative pieces. She uses Tumblr as a way to display and sell her creations (not all of them involve animals). And sometimes she takes requests. In this case, another Tumblr user, who goes by Haley, asked her to turn her toe into jewellery.
“Literally brought tears to my eyes,” Haley wrote in response to Lana’s post. “I am so grateful and excited myself. Not only do I absolutely trust your artistic expertise [Lana], but I also feel my body part (yes an actual piece of me) could not be in more capable hands. I know you will respect and care for my little piggy. I appreciate this more than you’ll ever really know!”
Haley didn’t cut off her toe just for the sake of jewellery. She told INSIDER that she got it removed six years ago, when she was 17 years old, on the recommendation of a doctor. She had a condition where the second-to-last toe on her left foot was smaller than the rest and overlapped with the toes next to it instead of being aligned with them.
“I’ve known intuitively, since a young age, to keep my body parts,” Haley wrote. “When I die, I’d like to be buried or cremated whole. I’ll let my loved ones decide what to do with my remains, but it’s important to me, for spiritual reasons, that I’m all together.”
Preserving the toe is important for Haley. She was teased for having a “deformed” foot when she was growing up. Dealing with the teasing made her tough-skinned, she said.
“My toe, as odd and strange as it is, is a badge of courage for me,” she wrote. “My cousin once locked me in a pantry and called me ‘Stubby’ with his friends for hours until my aunt came and let me out. I’d be lying if I didn’t mention that I have guilt for removing something that really helped to form my grit.”
Until now, she’s spent the last six years keeping the toe in a plastic jar full of preservatives. By having Lana turn it into jewellery, she hopes to connect to the story of the toe once again.
“I actually get depressed sometimes, just thinking about how it was a part of me and now it’s not,” Haley wrote. “I know, that sounds insane, but whatever, it’s just true. I’m hoping that by giving myself the option to wear it again I’ll be able to let go of some of the guilt I feel for removing it.”
Lana told INSIDER that she’s worked with human teeth before, but not any other body parts. And now that this whole situation has gone viral, she plans on working with more human body parts in the future. She’s since gotten requests for “other amputated appendages, slices of brain tissue, bone calcifications, and removed medical implants.”
“I normally work with animal parts, particularly bones, skulls, and wet specimen,” Lana wrote in a private message on Tumblr. “But I’m totally open to working on human projects and I’ve had a bunch of people reach out to me since this toe thing went viral.”
Lana also wrote on Tumblr that she’s “helping [Haley] get closure from the whole situation of needing her toe amputated.” Haley has tried for years to get her toe turned into jewellery, only to be let down.
“I’ve contacted so many artists over the years to take on the project and everyone was so weird about it they usually didn’t respond. Lana was excited and eager to do it for me,” Haley wrote in a private message. “I really can’t imagine she has worked with human body parts previously.”
The culture around turning body remains (human or animal) into taxidermy is colloquially called “vulture culture.” When Lana’s initial post went viral, it struck a nerve with some outsiders — of fascination, mockery, and eye-rolling on Twitter and Tumblr. A lot of them didn’t realise that Haley didn’t hack off her toe herself.
facebook: sunday night football!
twitter: westworld was crazy
tumblr: a girl cut off her toe and sent it to another girl to make a pendant
— leon (@leyawn) November 28, 2016
Others, though, were more understanding once they learned that Haley’s toe was removed for medical reasons.
Tumblr, for its part, is happy for these users.
“We’re happy these two ‘solemates’ have connected over their shared passion, as well as to see the Vulture Culture community find their oasis in the desert, so to speak,” Leah Linder, a communications manager at Tumblr, told INSIDER in an email.
Now we’ll just have to wait and see how the necklace turns out.
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