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In 2009 I lost a breast. Diagnosed with cancer, I decided not to have a reconstruction after the mastectomy. My health was my priority and trying to re-create a symmetry which was no longer there didn’t seem a positive way forward. I learned to accept and love my lopsided body instead.

I remember drawing a nude self-portrait after the mastectomy. Standing naked in front of the mirror, I had halted my brain from joining the dots and making assumptions. I had created a space to explore my lop-sidedness, the damage and the wholeness.

Wearing the Elppin brooch does a similar thing for me. Pinned on my mastectomy side, it helps me mourn the lost breast but equally celebrate my lopsidedness. This piece of jewellery draws attention to what is there instead of trying to hide it.

As a piece of jewellery it seems to have taken inspiration from the tradition of anatomical votives, breast plates, nipple shields even, a broad spectrum of historic references. Whenever I wear the Elppin brooch, it triggers the most diverse and engaging of conversations. A piece of jewellery that combines beauty and purpose.

I’ve experienced personally how curiosity and critical engagement with my health and body image has supported and inspired me. The more people are going to rock this piece of jewellery, the more we’re going to stimulate the conversation around the nipple, breast and body image.

When I lost a breast to cancer, I developed an obsession for anything related to the mammary gland and started researching, writing, making and collecting, to explore the breast in a very broad context. This allowed me new perspectives on my lopsided chest and helped me making sense of the major changes to my body and life.

Based on my breast archive I’ve set up @bbookproject and am working on compiling a book on breasts, along the lines of an almanac, a Cabinet of Curiosities.

By sharing my journey and inviting anyone to collaborate, I hope to connect people in their quests for acceptance, healing and happiness.

On the move, from barge to land and back again,
Anna keeps her nipple brooch tucked in a toiletries bag.
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