Ner Tamid Pendant

December 2011
Alabaster, sterling silver

After I finished making the ner tamid for Congregation Etz Hayim in Arlington VA, I had several large chunks of alabaster left over from the process of scuplting the flame. I also had leftover silver that I'd cut off the square sheets that I used to make the top and bottom domes of the base. Because of the significance and import of the work of art they'd come from, I didn't feel like I could simply recycle or throw away the remaining material. It occured to me that I could make a series of pendants with it, to use as a fundraiser for the shul—interested congregants could literally own a piece of the ner tamid itself.

For inspiration, I looked back to the design of the ner tamid. The inscription on the bottom dome is the third chapter of Proverbs, which I chose because Proverbs 3:18 is the famous phrase "it is a tree of life (etz hayim) to those who hold fast to it, and all its supporters are happy" (עץ חיים היא למחזיקים בה ותמכיה מאשר), whence the congregation derives its name. At the time I was making the ner tamid I made the audacious choice to include the entire chapter, but I obviously couldn't do that here—so I scaled back to the relevant verse. The leftover silver was melted down, rolled back into a sheet, and separated into strips with Proverbs 3:18 cut into it in the same font that I used in the base of the ner tamid.

Next, I cut the stone into discs and carved a stylized image of the front of the ner tamid's flame into the disc to represent it. I used the silver strips to create a backless bezel around the stone discs. The combination of the translucency of the stone and the cut letters led to one of my favorite features of this piece, which is that in the right light (as in the main image above), the letters of the verse glow just as they do in the base of the original sculpture. The fact that the stone is friction-set in the bezel and has no back also allows light to shine through the entire piece, emulating the glow of the internally-let alabaster flame on the original.

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