Undra Heard, owner of Stone & Alchemy on Harrison Street, has been making jewelry since November 1999, when he was laid off from his job as a communications tech. Looking for something to do, he signed up for a beginning jewelry class. And although he felt somewhat self-conscious when he discovered he was the only male student, he decided to stick with it anyway.
Although Heard didn’t see it at first, his teacher, Veronica Fremont, insisted he had a knack for making jewelry. After the class was over, he made up a dozen pieces and took them to a store owner in Wicker Park, who promptly bought the whole batch and wanted to know how soon he could make more.
Only six months later, Heard opened his Oak Park store. He uses alchemy in its name, he explains, because he feels that it’s similar to the creative process and is a particularly apt metaphor for the work he does?#34;transforming his ideas into jewels.
“I’m surprised that I’ve stayed with it for so long,” he says. “I’m usually someone who takes things as far as they’ll go and then moves on. Maybe it’s a sign of how passionate I am about jewelry. But it’s also that there’s so much flexibility in jewelry-making to take it in new directions.”
His work does indeed take a tremendous variety of forms, including charm bracelets, necklaces made of wooden beads, and custom wedding rings.
The work inspired by Heard’s love of astronomy is particularly intriguing. His meteorite series is actually made from various meteors that have fallen to Earth. One of the interesting aspects of seeing these pieces is the recognition that a meteorite isn’t just a meteorite. Each one has its own characteristics, due to differing metal compositions, how hot it became traveling through the atmosphere and where it crashed. They also each have names, such as the Shikote meteorite or the Gibeon meteorite.
Another series, made of semi-precious stones, appears to be very different on the surface. The fossilized palm wood, imperial jasper and yellow turquoise glow with luster. Nevertheless, the influence of astronomy remains in stones that are arranged in patterns similar to star formations. One piece, for example, includes cubic zirconia like a sun in its center, with a ring of gold set with a stone circling it, like the orbit of a planet. In another piece, a large slab of Brazilian agate is set with quartz at its center, suggesting a black hole.
Heard’s geometric series is somewhat more subtle, full of perfectly formed triangles, rectangles, tear drops and circles. Yet the same forms keep reappearing, circles within circles like a series of planetary orbits, with gems set in significant locations like suns and planets and moons. This makes a striking contrast to his chaos series, based, of course, on the theory of chaos, with long jagged lines that seem to move in entirely random directions. Then, hanging on the end, is the small semi-precious stone, like an atom, which might have followed this path.
Stone & Alchemy, 140 Harrison St., is open Wednesday from 5 to 9 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Other days can be arranged by appointment by calling 445-2607. Also, don’t forget that Friday evening, Nov. 19, is Harrison Street’s third Friday of the month open studio, when all the galleries and studios will be open for business. Hours are 5 to 9 p.m.