“Sharing beautiful work with the public” has been Munya Avigail Upin’s dream for more than 25 years. Her fantasy is rapidly transforming to reality as she and her colleague, Kirsten Ball, prepare to open a contemporary jewelry and fine craft gallery in Belmont, Mass.
Munya, a member of Metalwerx’ Board of Directors, and Kirsten, a familiar face in the Metalwerx classroom, have seen their lives change dramatically in just a matter of weeks. From the day the idea was born to the moment they discovered the perfect location, the stars appeared to be in alignment.
When Munya is not teaching jewelry making at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School, she can be found in the metals department at DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, also in Lincoln, MA. Kirsten was one of her students at the Museum last December when the two began discussing the jewelry industry. Kirsten has sold her jewelry at the summer SOWA Open Market on Harrison Avenue in Boston, but she longed for a more permanent location.
”One day I said, ‘We just need to open our own gallery,’ Munya said. And from then the search was on to find a neighborhood that could support a fine craft and jewelry business.
They didn’t have to go far, as Munya lives with her family in Belmont. One day they met for coffee in Belmont Center when they saw an antique, two-story Victorian building at 48 Leonard Street. It housed a real estate agency that seemed out of place among the area’s other retail stores. Inside, they found the owner of the building, who told them he’d just bought another place and was moving out. The building was once a blacksmith’s shop. “We certainly like the connection,” Kirsten said.
“Here we were, a week into our project, and we had a retail space,” Munya said. Less than a month later, Alchemy 9-2-5 was born. They immediately met with lawyers to incorporate, and proceeded to order custom cabinets, computers, a web page and a telephone number, which just happens to contain the magic number 925.
Metalsmiths will recognize 925 as the Sterling silver mark; alchemy is an ancient philosophy that, among other practices, attempted to transform base metals into gold and silver. “We liked the idea of transforming the ordinary into something extraordinary,” Munya said.
Although Munya has had plenty of experience in jewelry retail, both as an artist and behind the counter, opening a gallery is new territory for Kirsten. Originally from London, her background is in historic decorative crafts, including the restoration and conservation of historic interiors. When she moved to Boston with her young family in 2007 after her husband was transferred, Kirsten was able to pursue a new path. Her specialization in gilding, a process by which gold leaf is applied to a hard surface, no doubt came in handy when she took up metalsmithing.
Kirsten built a studio at her home in Carlisle, MA, and began selling her work at craft shows. Kirsten ‘s style often features soumak, a metal weaving technique. “I’ll have my work there, but I hope to keep up with running the gallery while still creating my work,” she said. The shop also will offer custom design orders and some jewelry re-purposing.
Munya’s Judaica also will be on the shelves. Among other local artists, Alchemy 9-2-5 will feature artists from all over the country. Besides jewelry, the gallery will include glasswork, fiber, and ceramics.
“It’s been invigorating,” Kirsten said. “We are so lucky to have so many amazing artists that are going to let us represent their work. But we’re going to be accessible. We’ll have a price range that will introduce people to the world of quality handmade art.”
With an idea that quickly became reality, a space that practically presented itself, Munya and Kirsten are “going full-speed ahead.” A grand opening with Champaign and hors d’oeuvres is tentatively scheduled for April 28, from 3 to 8 pm.
– by Yleana Martinez
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