How To Make A Joseph Merrick Body Pillow Cover

Joseph Merrick died in 1890, but he was better known as The Elephant Man because he had a rare condition that gradually disfigured his bones and skin. His head eventually became so heavy that he had to sleep sitting up, but when his body was found he was lying on a bed and the official cause of death was asphyxia from the weight of his head. The doctor who performed the autopsy concluded that Merrick must have tried to sleep lying down because he wanted to sleep like other people. Joseph Merrick never got to sleep in a bed with another person his entire adult life, so this body pillow is designed to mimic the experience of cuddling him since that’s something he never got to experience.

The fabric of the body pillow cover was produced using a hacked domestic electronic knitting machine, which can knit digital image files. Although the digital technology used to create the design did not exist in Merrick’s time, the type of fabric created with the machine did exist, so this pillow also mimics the type of bedding one would have experienced in his time.

Thanks to Matt Corey, Loren Edrich, and Jess Marvin for helping me out with this project.

The background music is “Cryin’” by The Les Paul Trio, free download here.

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  • [...] you’re in Los Angeles this weekend and you’d like to see Joseph Merrick in life-sized knitted body pillow form, then swing by the opening of Sacred Memories: Cross-Cultural Celebrations of Day of the Dead on [...]