Q&A: Learn about Sifa Wzuri Jewelry, reclaiming the past through jewelry Q&A: Learn about Sifa Wzuri Jewelry, reclaiming the past through jewelry
While a photographer captured Michelle Ramsey’s handcrafted silver jewelry for her new brand, Sifa Wzuri Jewelry, as part of members’ free product photography service, the Bronx-born maker shared how she got into jewelry making.

Ramsey has been using Hacker Lab and taking services part of Maker-to-Market, Hacker Lab’s suite of programs designed to help entrepreneurs step into their making and grow their businesses.

By day, Ramsey helps high school students with credit recovery via one-on-one programs. She took her first jewelry class — a lifelong love — to make jewelry for her mom on her birthday.

Michael Rottman, who helps organize Maker-to-Market as Hacker Lab's Maker-in-residence, suggested she start a business.

Her art is informed by African Fusion styles as well as Adinkra West African symbols and culture and is a way to connect with her roots, she said.

“I said okay, ‘to those who are given a great deal, much is respected’ - I felt it was my responsibility to give back.

As Mike Battey took photos, Ramsey worked on a piece of jewelry and shared how after joining via a Pathways scholarship, she’s worked on an Etsy page, launched her branded Instagram account @sifawzuri and is selling at the farmer’s market.

“This is such a great gift to me,” Ramsey said. “I need to share that maybe someone else will come along and say, ‘maybe I can do something like that.’”

Find and follow her art, jewelry and work at @ sifawzuri .

 
Interested in joining Maker to Market? First, join as a member or take a free tour


Then RSVP for product photography and sign up for business office in our member-only classes; and join our slack.

Hacker Lab: How did you get started?

Ramsey: This has been such a blessing for me — it’s a childhood dream of mine. I didn’t know I could make it; I’ve loved jewelry since I was a kid. When I was a kid I was a tomboy, even though I often lost gifts all the time, I always loved wearing earrings and bracelets, getting dressed up.

Now to be able to purchase a precious stone and knowing exactly how to set them, making really beautiful things as I go forward is amazing. We’re Black and from the projects; we get to touch rubies and it’s crazy. It’s really awesome.

As an educator I wish all young people have aspirations and be able to see them to fruition. This is a teacher’s dream — this is exactly what students need.

Hacker Lab: What did you do before you started making? 

Ramsey: I do credit recovery program in high school, helping facilitate students’ instruction online as well as one-on-one.

I’ve worked as a technology educator, graphic designer and my ability to learn technology easily made it possible for me to be able to help facilitate learning through other people and technology.

Hacker Lab: What led you to making at Hacker Lab?

Ramsey: 
I was researching and looking around, wanting to learn jewelry when I found it online. I saw classes and started with the membership for about four months. I had experienced discrimination in housing and was able to take courses afterwards with the compensation.

From there I was recommended to join the Pathways program, went to orientation and started with group designing and prototyping PPE last year.

With the program I get to work on designing and making the pieces, coming up with afro- and fusion/ African inspired jewelry. It’s about going back and reclaiming your past — it’s a project of learning about my ancestry and pan-africanism and where’s my place as an artist in this whole thing.

Hacker Lab: What do you focus on when making jewelry for others?

Ramsey: Usually the best way to do the piece is to do the sizing of the owner first I can’t make something for them if I don’t know what their ring size is; I can do things like wire-wrapping, but I like to use thicker pieces.

So I prefer to meet the client, spend time with them, I have stones and all kinds of things — if I can go shopping and buy things particularly for them, I love that.

I like to create sets – earrings and a bracelet, necklace and a pendant, say.

I’ll ask people, “what are your colors? What is important to you? What is your sign?”

Hacker Lab: How has your business leveled up with Maker to Market?

Ramsey: After making my first pieces, I designed my logo and plan to put them on little bags.

I took some classes as, including leather design, so I can make them. But Michael Rottman gave me a resource with other bags online that I can use and then lasercut over them. He’s also got me working on business cards with the same symbol.
 I never expected to be able to sell. I wanted to first make something for my mother on her birthday.

Michael Rottman suggested it after seeing my work and I said okay, ‘to those who are given a great deal, much is respected’ - I felt it was my responsibility to give back.

This is such a great gift to me, I need to share that maybe someone else will come along and say ‘maybe I can do something like that’

In New York this kind of jewelry-making education just wasn’t available to us but Brooklyn has started doing stuff.

Hacker Lab: What led you to Sacramento?

Ramsey: I came out to California for the weather after living in the Bronx. I researched the country and believe it, Sacramento was the best place to live.

I grew up with PTSD and dealt with a lot when I was younger — this is like my second childhood. I get to be a teenager again, experiencing life — at 50 you have a lot more insight into the world. I have a whole new perspective for how life is so good

A lot of stuff has happened this past year with COVID and the protests, as a Black person it’s just a lot — there’s so much more than just the color of our skin, everyone is just unique and we need to celebrate that, and that’s what’s come to light more.

This is an opportunity to do better; let’s see if we can do the right things.

Hacker Lab: What else do you make?

Ramsey: I do live cast-masks, making as well. We make ancestral masks in the culture. You might make one of your grandfather and grandmother. In the culture, you adorn your home with masks of your ancestors.

I would like to do a series of 50 masks, hers and his stories talking about their history and background.
Ten questions and ask 50 people the same 10 questions and have them sit for their masks with their responses surrounding them, telling their stories.

Follow Michelle’s art and work and see some amazing jewelry on Instagram @sifawzuri.

Interested in joining Maker to Market? First, join as a 
member or take a free tour. Then RSVP for product photography and sign up for business office in our member-only classes; and join our slack.

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