THE EDISON PROJECT
Luke Jerram
2005

I've been making gifts for people for as long as I can remember. Its only recently I've recognised that this is part of my artistic practice.

My question was, how could I create an engagement ring with information on it? My answer came from a photograph I saw of a proud looking Thomas Edison, sitting next to his phonograph in 1877.

Sneaking out of the house at strange times of night I worked with the record manufacturer in his basement. Spinning a wax ring beneath a diamond stylus we cut a message 20 seconds long into its surface. We cast the ring into silver and played it back by spinning it under a stylus. There was nothing.

We tried to cut directly into a silver ring and still nothing. As a last ditch attempt we cranked up the weight forcing the diamond into the silver, using 100lbs of pressure per square inch to make our mark. Finally as the ring turned beneath the stylus a thin trail of silver anti-sound poured out of the rings surface.

The 20 second recording was my proposal to my partner, Shelina. 3 months later I presented the ring to her in a hot air balloon over Bristol. I'd built a miniature record player to play back the ring. Thankfully she accepted my request.

It turns out Shelina knew all along I was going to propose as many months back, to gauge the size of her ring finger, I had unusually, massaged her hand in the bath.

Word got out through a friend about our engagement and the story made the local, the national, then international news. Its featured on many feminist websites and in 'Jane' magazine in the US. Editors of Jane wanted to take their own photos of the ring and said it would be safe as they'd courier it over with an armed guard?! I said the ring was glued to Shelina's finger.

One year on and we're still not married although our first baby's due on the 29th June. I've begun drawing up plans to make wedding rings that will project images using the light from a candle.

Luke Jerram (UK). Luke Jerram's sculptural practice has been described as a poetic fusion of science, perception and memory. He has created a number of extraordinary art projects which excite and inspire people around him.
The Sky Orchestra is a major new work beginning its international tour. The project aims to deliver a sculptural experience to the space on the edge of sleep by playing especially composed music from 7 hot air balloons which fly over a city at dawn. As a part of the research for this project Luke is building and testing a Dream Director with Psychologists from University of West of England which they hope will have both clinical and artistic applications.
Luke also makes artwork on a very different scale such as the talking engagement ring he made for his girlfriend in 2005. Although they are still not married their first baby was born in June!
Luke is currently the AHRC Arts and Science research fellow at the University of West of England. More information can be found at http://www.lukejerram.com

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