As Megan Webber, co-founder of Know the Glow, discovered, it’s hard to believe that Christina had never intended to be an ocularist. A chance encounter with a classmate set the wheels in motion for her extraordinary career. While attending an art history class, the woman beside her shared that she had a prosthetic eye, taking it out and showing Christina. Fascinated, Christina asked for more information, and her classmate suggested she speak with an ocularist located close to the school. Taking this as an opportunity, Christina went to visit the ocularist lab, and it was there that she was offered an internship. This marked the beginning of her journey into a profession she had never envisioned.
Christina graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Design and Technology from the Art Institute in Philadelphia and launched her career as an ocularist soon after. During her nine years in Philadelphia, she developed her skills and had opportunities to work with the world-renowned Drs. Carol and Jerry Shields from Wills Eye Hospital and Drs. Bill and James Katowitz at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Christina specialized in working closely with children with microphthalmia with low vision. Microphthalmia is a genetic condition where the eye does not develop properly. Many other Ocularists were apprehensive about working with children that had this condition, but not Christina! She saw this as an opportunity for growth, and sought guidance from professionals at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to ensure her success. The experiences gained during this time strengthened her skill set and helped form her approach to working with younger clients.
Christina shared with Megan that her method of working with children involves kindness, connection, and support. She recalled an incident where she witnessed the old-school approach to fitting a young child for a prosthetic by strapping and restraining the child. This particular patient was young, and it was evident to Christina that this child needed a more gentle approach. During the interview with Megan, Christina physically demonstrated one of her techniques, explaining how it is better to lie down on the ground and hold the child in a firm yet supportive hold when inserting and removing a prosthesis. She makes an interactive game of it by putting on their favourite music, shows or dimming the lights, as most children respond well to anything fun and engaging. In the end, Christina feels that her approach applies to all of her clients actively involving them in the process and focusing on their connection with her as an ocularist.
After nine years working in Philadelphia, Christina moved to Portland where she trained with ocularist Fred Harwin, and slowly transitioned as the new owner of his practice. She was the first to create 3D-printed ergonomic impression trays, with the help of her partner, that helped many other ocularists with their fittings. The standard tray is cone-shaped, but her trays were shaped more like an eye (with an irregular curve). Another difference is that rather than fusing two separate pieces to create a tray the 3D- printed method eliminates bacteria that may be trapped between them. Christina has done very little marketing for this product but is happy to share her work. Anyone interested is welcome to contact her work email to find out more.
Her journey into her present-day success as an ocularist has been met with some challenges. Most ocularist across the board maintain traditional standards and like to stick to traditional eyes that match. She had followed these guidelines advised by her previous employers for most of her career; however, when confronted with the freedoms that came with her private practice, she allowed the natural flow of her creativity to lead the way. It was at this time that she met the effervescent Rachel McKenzie, a social media influencer who reached out to Christina seeking something traditional first, then approached Christina about a non-traditional prosthetic eye. What followed next was the beginning of Christina’s journey into social media fame and the world of “fun eyes”.
Rachel was one of Christina’s first clients for “fun eyes” and she wanted a prosthetic eye made of gold! Christina saw this as an opportunity for growth and embraced this project’s creativity. Rachel shared her new prosthetic eye on social media, and Christina’s popularity skyrocketed! Soon, Christina was being contacted with requests worldwide for “fun eyes” to be made for them. Christina discovered that “fun eyes” greatly impacted her clients’ self-esteem and their healing journey. It made them feel empowered and more positive about themselves. It was an opportunity to showcase their uniqueness, something that had not been present with traditionally made prosthetic eyes. Her clients did not want to blend in but wanted to stand out, be a leading example to others and embrace their difference rather than hide behind it and Christina helped them accomplish that with flair!.
Currently, she is working with Rachel McKenzie to raise money to enable others who don’t have the funds to afford a “fun eye” through a fundraiser called Fun Eye Fund. This fundraiser is on Rachel’s website and she plans to keep it open until there is no one remaining on her waitlist. Donated money has allowed Christina to make 25 fun eyes to date, but there are still 130 people on the waiting list.
Fun Eye Fund (FEF)
Please visit the link below if you are interested in learning more or want to donate.
Christina also excitedly shared some upcoming projects currently in the works. She will be running an interactive “Right between the eyes” session with a small group of popular influencers within the monocular community in early April. The sessions will also feature interactive components of Q & A to help answer questions such as “How often should my prosthetic eye be cleaned? When do you get an eye? Do you qualify for a new eye? Insurance for each state?” She recognizes the gap for those living with prosthetic eyes after surgery and hopes this project will help fill that space for many. She also plans to feature well-known doctors in her community as well to help bridge the gap between ocularists, doctors and clients.
Continuing her outreach within the monocular community and beyond, Christina will be a guest speaker at a virtual conference hosted by Eyehesive on April 22. She is excited to share her approach with clients, the importance of continued education for her profession in PTSD, trauma, and depression to better serve clients and her vision of what it means to be an ocularist in the future.
KnowTheGlow is pleased to highlight the incredible work that Christina King provides for all her patients and the amazing gift she is bringing to people around the world. We look forward to watching her revolutionize the paradigm of ocularistry.