Mary Ann Scherr's Lifesaving Jewelry

Mary Ann Scherr's Lifesaving Jewelry

Heart-Pulse Sensor Bracelet

Heart-Pulse Sensor Bracelet (1973) by Mary Ann Scherr; metal. Includes a sensor monitor for the heart with an electronic light that indicates the beat rate; a radical change in the beat triggers a sound device and a small compartment that contains medication.  

Women's Wear Daily, in a January 5, 1973, article, quoted jewelry artist Mary Ann Scherr as saying "I believe jewelry should have a function apart from its adornment qualities." That same year Scherr certainly stuck to her words, crafting several high tech utilitarian accessories including a waist-cinching, stainless steel belt accented with liquid crystal spheres that change color to indicate air pollution, a necklace with a pendant containing an oxygen mask, as well as a silver bracelet that lit up to indicate any changes in pulse (see image). Curators at the Museum of Contemporary Crafts were so impressed with Scherr's designs they invited the artist to participate in the "Portable World" exhibition, held October 5, 1973, through January 1, 1974. This show featured objects designed for the increasingly mobile existence of mankind. 

According to interviews she gave at the time, Scherr became interested in making "body-monitoring jewelry" when she designed an astronaut's costume for Miss Ohio to wear in the 1970 Miss America contest. On the belt of the costume she designed dials which would monitor the "astronaut's" body functions. While teaching in the metals program at Kent State University, Scherr worked with faculty scientists to create prototypes of her designs. The research and development she contributed to these stylish, potentially lifesaving body-monitors led to a patent for her work in 1977.

Following the success and reception of her work in "Portable World," Scherr has gone on to participate in more than 250 shows and exhibitions thus far in the course of her career. Her work is in museum collections the world over. She was nominated to the ACC College of Fellows in 1983, and subsequently presented with several other titles in later years - including a Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Museum of Women in the Arts in 1993, a Distinguished Woman of North Carolina award in 1994, and the Society of North American Goldsmiths' Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007. Today, Mary Ann Scherr continues to design jewelry and metalwork out of her studio in Raleigh, North Carolina. 

Throwback Thursday is a weekly series highlighting visuals from the American Craft Council Library's Digital Collections Database. Check back on Thursdays for more.