An Oregon-based artist is turning old bicycle inner tubes into wearable art and extending the life of the rubber in a fashion-forward way.
Urban Lace is a jewelry line that features earrings, bracelets, necklaces and masks made from recycled inner tubes. Barbi Touron, the lead designer for Urban Lace and an avid bike rider, began making the jewelry in 2006. She got the idea of reusing the rubber from a friend, who was using old tubes as bungee cords.
“I’m a fiber artist and a sculptor,” she said. “To me, it was just another fabric.”
The rubber, which can take several decades to decompose in a landfill, is strong, flexible and waterproof and when Touron’s through with it, it’s fashionable, too. Pieces in the line retail online for $30 to $50.
Touron started out selling the jewelry to family and friends and showcasing it at local craft fairs. She wasn’t sure if the recycled art would appeal to the mainstream.
“I didn’t even know what I had until some of my friends saw them and said, ‘You’ve really got something here,’” she said.
In 2011, Touron hired fellow designer Aaron Shear. The two design and manufacture all of the jewelry themselves. They gather the tubes from local bike shops.
“We live downtown and we have a dolly that we go and collect them with,” Touron said.
Eventually, Touron hopes to have a central drop off spot where the tubes can be collected.
For the self-proclaimed nature lover and longtime artist, Urban Lace is the perfect blend of Touron’s two passions. For the fashion-hungry environmentalist, it’s just as her slogan says: ‘Elegant design with the planet in mind.’