We had the good fortune of connecting with Leah Abucayan and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Leah, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
Honestly, there was no thought process at first; it fell into my lap just by doing what I enjoyed most. I started my first little business when I was 11. I used to make duct tape wallets and bags for fun. My work had a great reaction, and people wanted a piece, so throughout middle school and high school, I created a website and sold custom duct tape art pieces globally. I would handcraft these duct tape pieces and design them with custom images made from tape as well. I had this little side hustle that just evolved from a hobby, which allowed me to explore the realm of design and find my passion in making. Currently, I wouldn’t necessarily say I have a business, but a side-hustle. I work for a well-known media company as a graphic designer, and I do freelance and commissioned art pieces in my spare time. So now, my thought process behind being a designer and artist is always to have balance. By day as a graphic designer, I’m continually working digitally on the computer doing more corporate style work, so when I get home, I’m able to take on freelance projects which allow me to express myself and get more hands-on. I still create duct tape pieces, but I focused more on layered portrait work rather than duct tape wallets, and I also do illustrations and murals, which is my newly discovered passion right now.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I specialize in creating duct tape portraits. It’s not a common medium for art, often times duct tape is just a house hold item for easy fixes. I’ve been able to take that passion for scrappy crafting and create a platform for myself that combines my career as a graphic designer and my hobby. In my work process the most difficult part after the design is thinking in layers and how to stack the tape so that it reads well in a larger picture; it’s a different way of thinking. I think of it like manual vector art. I feel like I’m in a transition point right now with my art. I find myself doing a lot more painting and using my skillset for good like to help fundraise for Black Lives Matter and other social justice organizations. I want to be able to take my passion for design, mural painting, and working with duct tape to a larger scale. A few of my goals would be to maybe collaborate with different artists with different mediums on a larger scale, like a mixed media mural or hold my own tape art gallery show. I really just want to spread positivity, joy, and inspire or motivate other people to be creative.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Ponce City Market – my first stop always. It’s the most unique experience and they got some bomb food. I feel like PCM is the best first stop because it has such a good ATL vibe. The Beltline-since it’s connected to PCM already, the beltline is a nice little walk with a bunch of sightseeing and graffiti art TheHillsATL Saturdays at Piedmont Park-I love to workout, so if I had guests come to the city on a weekend, I would have to take them to The Hills meetup and workout with a bunch of great people, it’s all good vibes and lots of sweat UpBeet- after a workout at the hills UpBeet is my go to! It’s super healthy bowls and the place looks dope. Especially if you’re vegan, or vegetarian or have some kind of food restrictions, they got you covered so it’s just an easy stop for everyone. The Home Depot Backyard- Another one of my favorite free workout spots in the city. First you can pass through centennial park and see all the tourist things like the stadium and multiple museums closeby if you wanted to, but The Home Depot Backyard is slowing becoming one of my favorite kick it spots. They practically have different activities and workout classes everyday (before this pandemic of course). They also have this Night Market every once in awhile that’s just food, drinks, live music, and art. Can’t go wrong, it’s dop…and free! Krog & The Graffiti Tunnels- I love me some graffiti, street art says a lot about a city and it’s gotta be part of my tour, we just got so much great artists in ATL. Kamayan ATL – This isn’t necessarily a location or favorite spot, but Kamayan ATL is a Filipino food pop up shop. They aren’t open all the time, but that’s also what makes it worth the wait. Being of Filipino heritage myself, I’m just so hype that there is some kind of representation of our food out here. It’s very unique also because they serve “kamayan style” also refered to as “boodle fight” meaning you eat with your hands. The feast is traditionally served on banana leaves and you feast together on a long table. It’s all about food bringing people together in filipino culture. Buford Highway Food Tour and Farmers Market – One of the first things I researched when moving to ATL was where the Asian food was at. Buford highway is basically like little Korea town and they got so much great food all over that area. Theres a cool little food tour map by an organization called WeLoveBuHi and they know wassup. For the foodies out there, this would be the best activity. Castleberry Hill Art Stroll or Loft Tour – Castleberry is an underrated part of town. They have so much art and history there. I loved it so much I got close to buying a condo in that area. They have art galleries and loft tours and it’s just a dope concept and gets you really involved in the area, it’s so personable.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
First, I gotta start with a shout-out to my family for supporting me in my craft and believing in my vision. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to accomplish the things I have and get to where I am now. My parents fed my hunger for art at a young age because they saw my passion for it and supported my choice to go to art school in San Francisco even when there were hella opportunities for me to go to more affordable colleges. My older brother is also a graphic designer and inspired me to keep dreaming and see my potential as a graphic designer myself, he’s always inspired and motivated me to take chances and to be true to my art. He’s like a role model and mentor when it comes to being the best designer and business person; I strive to accomplish as much as he has in his design career. My sister is like my number one fan and always the first to hype me up. My husband pushes me to do more and think bigger; he puts up with my crazy projects and ideas, and his critiques help me make them even better. Lastly a shoutout to my old high school art teacher Mr. C for putting my art out there and helping me start an art club; I really learned a lot from him, he was like an art yoda to me.

Instagram: hellaleah
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/hellaleah/