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The Shape of Her Heart: A Chat with Ophelia Bolen

The way I first learned of Tampa small-business owner Ophelia Bolen, was through her jewelry sold right here at African Extravaganza. The earrings she handcrafts hang delicately from a black pinboard at the front of the shop that displays all types of ear ornaments from other local jewelry makers. But just like her avant-garde pieces, Ophelia really stands out.


USER-FRIENDLY “They can be worn everyday. They can be worn with anything you feel. Many people ask me how heavy they are and I will lift them from my ear and place it in their palm. They are always surprised by the lightness of them. Some of the larger earring designs out there now do damage to the ear. But the ones I make are lightweight.  I started with silver, gold and bronze, and now I’ve added more colors; I really feel that they are pieces of art.”

THE CREATIVE PROCESS The beginnings of jewelry making for Ophelia started with a little inspiration from her cousin who started

making rings with large stones and wrapping them with aluminum wire: “I would go with her sometimes to buy stones and gems at jewlery stores. When she introduced me to the aluminum wire, I began to make the rings for myself, and then I started playing with the textures and shapes. I started with beads and those rings. Then I just continued the creative process of designing things for myself. Initially I would look at websites at upscale shops to get inspiration. Now, it is however I feel.  The shapes just flow freely. Sometimes I could sit down and work the entire evening, just making jewelry, and then there are periods where I don’t touch it. I enjoy the most the different creations that just come forth and using the hands that God gave me.”

WHAT’S IN A NAME? Chances are you haven’t heard about her secondhand shop; it is not yet listed in the phone book’s Yellow Pages or on any Google search. Started in 1995, Nia’s Odds and Ends was Ophelia’s venture to resell items like dinette sets, end tables, chairs and more that she scouts at auctions and also the jewelry she designs. “Nia means purpose and goal,” Ophelia says as she explains about the name of the shop.  “[It is the name of a woman who] knows where she comes from and where she’s going. I named it after my daughter. And I didn’t want to be too specific about what I sold because I wanted a little of this and a little of that, so that is why I chose the odds and ends.” But the earrings are all her own; “I wanted to try new things,” she offers.

BACK TO THE BEGINNING “My father owns the building,” Ophelia explains of her shop’s Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd location. “That’s how I got here. I realize where I am, and my prices reflect where I am.” To put it in plain terms, her shop is in the ‘hood, but Ophelia’s vision for her shop encompasses more than a desire to garner big profits. “Because I am driven by my heart and not by dollars and cents, if I sense a need, I give. Some have come into my shop saying, ‘I just want to get my baby off of sleeping on the floor.’ I am blessed to be a blessing and if someone comes in with a need, and I see that there is a definite need, they are not going to go out of my store without. It’s where my heart is, and because I know who my source is, that is the bottom line.”

Nia’s Odds and Ends 4301 N 34th Street  Tampa, FL 33610 Email Ophelia Bolen with questions and inquiries: lillians21@verizon.net


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