Bicycles can inspire more-fashionable eco-friendliness, according to 32-year-old Alexandra Rath, founder of Oak Park-based Recovered Rubber.
From necklaces to earrings, all Recovered Rubber jewelry is one of a kind and handmade from recycled materials, with bike inner tubes the mainstay. Rath creates peculiar items too, like rubber bow ties and masquerade masks.
She began creating the jewelry with her mother and sister as a hobby but didn't take it seriously until she was laid off from a longtime position at the Board of Trade. Her former boss encouraged her to pursue her hobby—and Recovered Rubber was founded in 2011. Rath now dedicates four hours a day to creating jewelry in her basement.
Rubber's malleable quality makes it practical. Rath receives inner-tube donations from bike shops and personal donors, collecting 40 pounds of inner tubes every three days.
"It's very affordable," says Rath. "Inner tubes can create delicate and beautiful pieces; it's a good alternative to leather."
Recovered Rubber jewelry is advertised and sold at street festivals, artisan retailer Local Goods Chicago, and online via eBay and Etsy. And Rath hopes to work with chain retailers in the future.
"It's as much art as it is jewelry," she says.