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A Day in the Life of Hecho en Harlem Jewelry

Jun 13, 2017

by Valerie Rains

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

Jewelry designer. Photography teacher. Museum educator. Airbnb host. With a CV like this one, we’re not sure when Ifétayo Abdus-Salam of the Etsy shop Hecho En Harlem Jewelry sleeps. But then Ifé, who started selling her original jewelry designs in the gift shop of the Studio Museum in Harlem when she was still in college, has never really been short on ambition. After she graduated, Ifé spent 10 years working in non-profits and teaching art at a public high school in the Bronx. In 2014, she returned to the medium that first captured her imagination as a young girl, and she’s been honing her style ever since, crafting simple, statement-making pieces in copper, silver, and brass. “There’s something so cool about working with fire and metal—watching it go through the stages from a piece of wax to a finished, beautiful thing. That whole process is magical to me,” Ifé says.

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Today, Ifé juggles jewelry making with teaching photography and leading tours at New York City’s International Center of Photography, along with a slew of other pursuits. It helps that her biggest sources of inspiration are right at her fingertips in her Harlem neighborhood. From its rich hip-hop and jazz heritage to the inimitable style of the women in the community, “the cultural aesthetic of Harlem is all about being bold and never afraid to experiment,” she says. “I’m so inspired by that.”

We tagged along with Ifé on a typically atypical day to see just how she does it.

7:30am First things first

As soon as I wake up, I feed Farai, my cat, make some tea, and start checking email to make a plan for the day. Before I begin working in the studio, I need to mentally prepare for the tasks of ahead of me: Do I have orders that need to be filled or shipped? Do I need to restock inventory for an upcoming market? Is it time for me to start working on a new line?

9:30am Into the studio

I’m really, really lucky to have a home studio. I have a three-bedroom apartment, and I use one room to do my design work, which includes fabricating and polishing my jewelry and building the wax models for my cast pieces. I usually carve out four-hour blocks of time for studio work: one in the morning, and another in the afternoon if I’m not teaching or leading a tour.

Earrings by Hecho en Harlem, from $40

1pm Mid-day break

I have lunch at home as often as possible, but when I go out for a lunch date, Chai Wali is one of my favorite restaurants in the neighborhood. The food is healthy and affordable, and the space is gorgeous. I’m so impressed by how perfectly they’ve executed their design aesthetic. I also love working out in the gym and riding my bicycle around Central Park; it’s a great way to push aside the pressures of running my business and focus only on what I’m doing in that moment. Afterward I feel strong, accomplished, happy, and ready to dive into the next item on my to-do list.

2pm Nature fix

I live across the street from Morningside Park, which is an ideal place to walk and think—there’s so much texture and visual inspiration there. I detour through the park whenever I can. When you live in New York City, the chance to surround yourself with greenery is priceless.

3pm Supply run

For some of my jewelry pieces, I carve molds out of wax and send them out to be cast in metal. The caster I use most is in Midtown Manhattan, a block away from the photography school where I teach. I love when I have weekday classes there, because I can drop by the caster and then go teach, all in one trip.

4pm School’s in

Currently I’m teaching two beginning black and white darkroom classes at the International Center of Photography. Throughout my life, being in learning spaces with other people who have the same natural drive and passion has been important for me. Hands down, the thing I get the most gratification from in my creative life is the opportunity to build community.

7pm Time to unwind

I’m a member of my local community garden, and I love planting vegetables and herbs to cook with. It’s all kind of the same idea: exploring the possibility of what we can create. I typically water my plot in the afternoon or evening, when the sun has passed its peak. Ending my day in the garden is one of my favorite pastimes.

8pm Nights and weekends

Running a small business can be overwhelming, so every now and then I have to give myself a break to be inspired by someone else’s craft. I often check out museums on the weekends—I love Uptown Fridays at the Studio Museum in Harlem, a summer series with a dance party in the courtyard, free guided tours, and live performances.

Photographs by Cody James.

Shop Hecho En Harlem

28 comments

  • aostudio9

    Adrienne from DabAndDabble said 10 days ago

    So great to see the arts booming uptown! Making me miss NYC. Love the Studio Museum and ICP! Congrats! Great feature!

  • maggiesraggedyinn

    Mary Robertson from MaggiesInn said 10 days ago

    What an interesting article. Very inspiring and so enjoyed how you go about your days creating your beautiful work and taking in your fascinating city. Thank you!

  • JewelMeShop

    Georgia from JewelMeShop said 10 days ago

    You're so talented, your daily routine is an inspiration to all of us!

  • GTDesigns

    renee and gerardo from GTDesigns said 10 days ago

    what a beautifully planned day!! beautiful jewelry line too!! ...love the planting in your garden especially!! Lovely feature and super congrats!!!

  • bellehattie

    Jacqueline Harris from BelleHattie said 10 days ago

    I am thrilled to see this talented and color-full artist featured. Ife, your hands were made to create. I feel such peace, power and purpose emanating from your spirit. You are a breath of fresh air, and I wish you much success!

  • mrsakarn

    cindy Q. said 10 days ago

    So glad to see shops featured on here about people who are inspired by colorful things in life, not just muted colors and simple lines and graphs. Life around us is so inspiring , and you are sharing your inspiration with us, thank you , congrats and continue to walk your walk...you're doing an amazing job!!!! CQ

  • jacobswoodentoys

    Tim and Brigita Cornwell from jacobswoodentoys said 10 days ago

    So inspiring. Congrats on the feature! All the best of success to you.

  • gerri716

    Gerri Lewis from GielDesigns said 10 days ago

    Wow! We're neighbors! I spent lots of time in Morningside Park as a child and continue to pass through it almost daily. Beautiful work and a wonderful feature. Congratulations and best of luck to you!!

  • rhondastubbs2

    Rhonda Stubbs from RhondaCorner said 10 days ago

    WOW! What a great story and inspiration. I love your work and your story. Keep up the great work and congratulation on your feature!

  • TropicalGarden

    TropicalGarden from TropicalGarden said 10 days ago

    Very inspiring! Congratulations on the feature, and best wishes to you!

  • DecoUno

    DeUno from DeUno said 10 days ago

    Great story and beautiful design! Congratulations on the feature!

  • gilstrapdesigns

    Debra Gilstrap from gilstrapdesigns said 10 days ago

    Ife, your jewelry is so beautiful and I can imagine that there is a lot of energy and inspiration in Harlem. I love your shop and your photos are really nice. You are on point! Much continued success!!!

  • rachelstefan

    Rachel Stefan from BeadAndBarJewellery said 10 days ago

    I think you are an inspiration. To be able to do everything that you love and manage to fit it all in one day, I really l think you are living the dream a lot of us want to have. If you really want something, sure it's going to be busy. But if it makes you happy then it is all worth it. You have amazing pieces, I hope you continue to sell your beautiful jewelry. Congratulations on the feature and good luck in your future.

  • gardenmis

    Priscilla from Gardenmis said 9 days ago

    Loved the peek into your day! Congrats on the feature and best wishes for achieving all your goals and dreams :)

  • infinitlit

    Farideh Nouri from FlairPaintings said 9 days ago

    Very nice and creative!!!

  • evolvewithmary

    evolvewithmary from evolvewithmarycrafts said 9 days ago

    Love seeing this inside peek to your daily routine! Thanks for sharing!

  • kgarrett1966

    R.M Garrett from ArtisticAcrylics said 9 days ago

    Reading your story leaves me feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, and enriched in my spirit; from your photography classes you teach, nature walks, taking part in community gardening, eating at your favorite restaurant... all feeds your spirit, and keeps you inspired to create your beautiful jewelry, and inspire your imagination. We can all get so bogged down, pushing to do all the things we think we should, that we forget to feed our spirits that feed our creativity in the first place! Through sharing your story.. thanks for the reminder to do so. I love your feature, and I wish you continued success and blessings for the future!!

  • bedouin

    Nicole from Crackerjackarma said 9 days ago

    Terrific story ~ Love to see your city day filled with positivity ~ possibilities and an abundance of art ! Yes inspiring ~ Great store ~ Beautiful inside and out.

  • sheherbanoiqbal

    sheherbanoiqbal from sheherbanoiqbal said 9 days ago

    Very nice run down of a productive and balanced daily life :) Best wishes for your success and life!

  • ladylaurad

    Laura Diaz- Alberto from LaDiwithaBaBy said 9 days ago

    Wow, so inspiring!

  • bonesbags

    viena bone from bonesreusablebags said 9 days ago

    I am loving your routine! What a well rounded day - very inspiring. Beautiful jewelry, too. Congrats on the feature and success.

  • elizabethforster

    elle and belle Forster from elleandbellejewelry said 8 days ago

    Your work is beautiful, Ife'! Loved this walk around NYC. So talented and organized. All the best!

  • RandMhandmade

    Renee from RandMhandmade said 8 days ago

    Congratulations.... Great Feature!!

  • dsimonestyle

    Dani Egypt from NuBridal said 7 days ago

    How awesome! I love the photos in this spread, makes me miss living NYC! Congrats on the feature <3

  • riveranancy

    Priscilla Cancel said 6 days ago

    This was so lovely to read!

  • tanharris814

    Tiffany Harris from Ibheboutique said 2 days ago

    Congrats on the feature! I love this article, so inspiring!

  • FreshRetroGallery

    Elizabeth Knaus from FreshRetroGallery said 2 days ago

    From Kansas to New York in 5 minutes via a blog post. Thanks for sharing Ifétayo’s art. It's interesting to see how she and I share common inspiration in vastly different environments.

  • robynypalmer

    Robyn Y Palmer from ArtOfRobyn said 2 days ago

    You are a beautiful soul which shows in your art. Congratulations on this feature!

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