By Seth Fera-Schanes and Photography Copyright Lea Sophie Foto
Everyone has a favorite neighborhood or business in the city to find gifts for friends and family. One of my favorite places is the Artists and Fleas in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The space is filled with local artisans selling hand-made items from cell phone cases and unique screen printed t-shirts to paintings and jewelry.
On a recent visit to the market I noticed Mehla Atelier selling jewelry with a unique looking material. I was able to speak with Mehla Goodrich (owner and designer of Mehla Atelier) and ask her a few questions about her company.
Mehla is a New York native with time spent in and out of the city growing up. She had been considering the concept for a jewelry line for the past few years and started to put her plans into action in 2014. What stands out about Mehla’s work is the material she uses; recycled inner tubes from bike tires. Mehla has actually been using recycled material in her work since her college days at Bard where she studied sculpture.
The process for making a piece of jewelry starts with gathering materials. For Mehla this means visiting the numerous bike shops around the city and picking up used inner tubes. As you can guess, she usually gets questions about why she passes all the bikes, helmets and apparel found in the store and asks for this one very specific item.
With material in hand, the process continues by cutting the tubes open and prepping the rubber with a triple wash. These rubber strips are then hung in a bathroom or (in true New York City fashion) from a fire escape to dry.
Mehla’s design process is more freeform than pages of pre planned design. She draws inspiration from the city and likes the concept of using urban refuse to create something beautiful. She currently has two product lines: jewelry and handbags – with the leather used in the bags coming from scrap and recycled upholstery leather. A third conceptual line called Exoskelton is just starting out and is finding a place between functional-wearable pieces and fine art.
You can find Mehla’s work at the Artists and Fleas during the holiday season. She also attends some markets throughout the year but primarily sells her jewelry and handbags through her website, Mehla Atelier.