Saturday, June 5, 2010


Founded by, and named for, executive Max Adler, the Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum is an 80-year-old fixture located in Chicago, Illinois. The structure houses three, full-sized theaters that include the Sky Theater, which simulates the night firmament by way of the Zeiss projector. Illinois is also home to featured jewelry designer Tamra Gentry.

Choosing a long, scenic route to travel to a destination or taking an analytical approach to resolve a problem are some ways that our left-brain, and right-brain peculiarities surface.

For some people, the subtle clash between pragmatism and visceral tendencies manages to exist in relative harmony.

For others, the polarized cerebral hemispheres cause a full-blown war of one's will. Gentry felt the tugs and pulls of intellect and instinct since childhood until a catharsis finally occurred.

Instinctual yearnings manifested itself through the designer's unshakable attraction to color; her first step towards her inner creative stirrings.

"I have always had strong, visceral reactions to color. Things like texture, design, and pattern are all secondary to me. They rarely evoke the response in me that color does," says Gentry.

"The only thing I know with any certainty is that I have always loved color. I was a kid who had to have the brand new box of 64 crayons at the beginning of each school year," she recalls. "I never used them though. I loved to look at them. The colors inspired me."

A fateful, high school trip to the St. Louis Art Museum would hit an unexpected, emotional chord. "I saw a Wassily Kandinsky painting for the first time. My heart raced, my stomach dropped to my feet, I could not breathe, and I felt an overwhelming urge to cry.

Part of me believes that a lot of my reaction could very-well be based on Kandinsky's own theories about art, music, and emotion."

Despite her "Kandinsky-Creative-Crumbles," and the added issue that both her parents are artistically inclined, Gentry pulled the reins on her own artistic interests when choosing a life-long profession.

"I didn't set out to become a jewelry artist. At many crucial decision-making periods in my life, designing jewelry wasn't even a blip on the radar," she explains.

"I had always been one of those creative "artsy" types; my future however was firmly guided by the self-imposed need to pursue a "real" job that could provide some degree of predictability and a steady income.

So I majored in business administration--the ultimate in "safe" careers, but I ended up loathing the extent to which conforming was required and I changed my major to physics."

After completing the physics program, for 10 years Gentry remained internally conflicted vacillating between art and science. Hoping to soothe the raging hemispheric war, she put to use her business administration knowledge looking to pursue a career in university administration.

She met the opportunity with initial enthusiasm; however, her gusto quickly faded, "It felt like I was finally moving forward after all the time I spent flip-flopping, but I started to see all the things I hated about the corporate wold in academia, and it seemed to be a greater degree of dysfunction."

Finally, on Mother's Day in 2004, Gentry made an unanticipated breakthrough. She made a couple of "beaded Swarovski crystal jewelry sets" as gifts for her mother and mother-in-law. "The moms loved the jewelry and I gained a huge sense of satisfaction having created the items myself."

After working with beads and wire wrapping, Gentry eagerly pursued more challenges. "Once I began metalsmithing, my hunt for what to do with my life ended abruptly.

I did not even think about it. This was it, and there was nothing left for me to figure out. My background in physics, chemistry, geology, and metallurgy are all integral components of metalwork."

A major element of Gentry's jewelry is Fordite. Also known as Detroit Agate, Fordite is a colorful remnant of automobile paint hand-sprayed on newly built cars during the 70s.

Lifted from the tracks and skids beneath the cars, Gentry takes these hardened, kaleidoscopic layers of paint cuts, polishes and places them alongside peacock topaz, garnet, sapphires, and vintage glass in designs that are clean, sleek, and modern.

The swirling ripples of multi-colors set against classic outlines of sterling silver, 14- and 18-karat gold is a distinctive visual language evoking tiny, abstract portraits.

The jewelry is elegant, sophisticated, and somewhat whimsical. It is ultimately a culmination of fiery internal yearnings expressed in smooth, sleek proportions.

"It is my need to go through the creative process in particular that regulates how I respond to our complicated existence.

The creative process is my religion in a way. I will do what helps me maintain my sanity and I will create, as I am so inspired. Because of this, I do not seek to become a "production house."
Photo 1 (top right): 14- and 18-Karat Gold Fordite Car Necklace with Brilliant Diamond and Sterling Silver
Photo 2 (bottom left): 18-Karat Gold and Sterling Silver Flare Adjustable Wrap Bangle Bracelet with Garnet
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