She says they just “get in the way.” Fingers, that is. Annette Gabbedey was born without them, on both hands, and has spent her entire life adapting to a world that expects its inhabitants to sport the nimble digits. Though many would assume a profession that requires dexterity is no place for a jeweler with no fingers, Gabbedey wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I do find that people have that usual question of, how do you manage and how do you manage to create jewelry, let alone the day to day things as well,” Gabbedey, owner of Gabbedey Goldsmiths, said as part of a short documentary. “And my answer to that really is that I tend to really look at people and think, how can you manage with fingers? Because they must get in the way. So it’s really just your own perception of self and how you look at it.”
Gabbedey’s shop has its modifications. She uses a milling vice to clamp the jewels in place while she works — “not the normal tool,” she says. And around her wrist is a heavy leather strap with buckles that she uses to keep tools in place — a dinner fork holster reengineered to hold files. “You just find a different way of doing things, really.”
Happily, Gabbedey encourages children to explore their curiosity and ask questions about her hands, which have full sensitivity and dexterity she says, just without the fingers. Parents are often quick to hush their inquisitive kids, but Gabbedey believes they need to learn about “all sorts of different types of people” in the world. Suppressive parents only serve to reinforce the taboo Gabbedey wants to erase.
“They won’t learn unless they ask the questions,” she said, “but adults sometimes, I think, they should think a little more before they speak.”