Elves and fairies have long been depicted as having ear cartilage that peaks in a lilting sylvan way. Ms. Wood, who travels to festivals to tempt humans with her assortment of 13 fantasy ears in species including troll, faun, Hobbit and high elf, said she took her shape inspirations from “Faeries” by Brian Froud and the Victorian illustrators Edmund Dulac and Arthur Rackham.
Ms. Wood, 28, who lives in Floyd, Va., and has been selling ears on Etsy since she was 18, credits “Lord of the Rings” — who can forget Orlando Bloom as J. R. R. Tolkien’s “fair of face beyond the measure of Men” Elven prince, Legolas — for causing a spike in her business.
At the NY Faerie Festival in the hamlet of Ouaquaga, N.Y., this summer, people of all ages lined up at the Caravan so Ms. Wood could scan features and jaw lines to determine the most flattering ears for undecided patrons and then artfully tint them with makeup before affixing with spirit gum.
High elf were the ears of choice for Elaine Stuart, 46, of Nanticoke, Pa., attending with an entourage of five teenagers, all wearing latex ears and staying on the campground for the three-day festival. Upon seeing an image of Ms. Black’s new ears, Ms. Stuart gasped. “They’re real?” she said. “I would seriously do this.”
“These people who come to me are influenced by fairies and goblins,” said Mr. Von Cyborg in a phone interview. Elf ears do not quite overshadow requests for points, à la Spock on “Star Trek.” Based in Britain, Mr. Von Cyborg said he has performed some 50 modifications so far this year.
“I made this thing popular, I believe, because before me there was just old-school folding method, and they were unfolding all the time and they just don’t look good,” Mr. Von Cyborg said, adding that he developed the technique a decade ago after training with an ear, nose and throat surgeon. “The whole point is to have ears that look natural, that you can’t tell are modified.”
Of course, looking naturally elflike is not everyone’s goal. Luis Padron, 25, who owns a cosplay business in Argentina, said he has spent over $35,000 in surgeries and procedures including skin lightening, nose surgery and hair removal for his sylvan shape-shifting. His look has been influenced by Katherine Cardona, a contemporary illustrator specializing in fairies, and Sakimichan, a gender-bending fantasy digital artist.
Mr. Padron plans to change his eye color to violet using an intraocular implant procedure in New Delhi (not approved by the Food and Drug Administration), because “it is the color of magic, fantasy, dreams and imagination,” he said. The idea is on point, elfishly speaking, when you consider that Mr. Bloom, who wore blue contact lenses in the Tolkien film, once described elves as “incredible angelic spirits who create and appreciate great beauty.”
To complete his elflike transformation, Mr. Padron is planning a heart-shaped hairline implant and PRP scalp injections in Beverly Hills, Calif., because “elves have long hair,” he said. He is also planning more plastic surgery in Korea, including Adam’s apple reduction, jaw reshaping and limb lengthening, and plans to finish his look with ear-pointing surgery, which he calls “the cherry on top.”
Waiting time for ear pointing, however, is over a year, and over 40 percent of elf-ear wishers don’t have the right cartilage to perform the modification, Mr. Von Cyborg said. Ms. Black was one of the lucky ones.
“People said, ‘Well, what happens when you’re old?’” she said. “And I thought, imagine the joy I will give someone in a nursing home to take a tray to the old elf down the hall.”