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Eternal Flame Lamp

This project was designed for the 2004 Spertus Museum Judaica Competition in Chicago. After winning 2nd place, it was purchased for a sanctuary in Chicago for permanent installation and use. In a search to design a vessel for an eternal flame I looked to the origins of containers for light in the archaeological records of ancient Israel. This led me to the humble, clay, oil lamp designed to hang and shed its light from four wicks, burning from each of four spouts, suspended by loops of twine. Rather than recreate the form of this simple lamp, I borrowed the actual object from a private collection. I made a mold of it and from that mold, recast a translucent, resin version into which I mixed a high output phosphorescent pigment. This pigment mimics the chemistry of bioluminescent life forms that inhabit the deep sea and use light as a guide in the darkness. The result is an object that appears luminescent in natural light while absorbing a charge that enables it to glow more brightly in the darkness. This light lasts until the first rays of the morning sun allow it to revitalize its radiance therefore creating an object with a cycle of constant luminosity. A material transmutation has allowed for the vestige of an ancient object to become a new, self-sufficient vessel for light. The design of this ceremonial lamp is at once architypical and futuristic and reflects the origins and continuity of the culture it supports. Photography by Julie Marquart.