Much like car tires, bike tubes are not recyclable in local curbside recycling programs. Because of this, local bike shops often offer recycling programs, where bikers can drop off their tubes for free.
Ava Miller took things a step further and found a way to use bike tubes to make a wearable form of art. Miller created Velo in a Jar, a jewelry line created from bike tubes and other recycled materials.
Miller moved from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Flagstaff to attend Northern Arizona University, and was working at Babbitt’s Backcountry Outfitters downtown when she first arrived. She always had a passion for mountain biking, along with a passion for the environment, so she found a way to combine the two. What started as a hobby, turned into more when her manager suggested she try to sell her earrings in Babbit’s. At first, she began with only a small supply list: bike tubes, scissors, a hole puncher.
After a few months, she began to sell her creations in the store.
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“I never thought anything of it, I started selling them a couple of months later for the first time,” Miller said. “People bought them, they were so excited, and seeing their interest really helped me continue navigating through working with bike tubes. As they got more complex, I started to realize that they’re worth something and that people want them. My business came about because of people’s interest.”
Now, it was time to name her business. Miller wanted to call her jewelry line “Trash Earrings,” but got a hard “no” from those she asked for advice. So she kept brainstorming. Velo means bike in French, and Miller wanted to tie her business name back to the recycled nature of her jewelry. Jars, often reused in her household for crafts, projects, to drink out of, reminded her of the sustainable efforts behind her earrings. Velo in a Jar was created.
Since its genesis, Miller has added other recyclable materials to her lineup like sea glass from Milwaukee, and gutter scraps. She now sells her earrings online through her own shop, at Babbit’s Backcountry Outfitters, Snow Mountain River (SMR), a shop in Wisconsin, a coffee shop in Colorado and at the Flagstaff Community Farmers Market.
While Miller is a fulltime teacher at Flagstaff High School, she appreciates having the business on the side, as it gives her an outlet to take time to herself out of her busy schedule. She hopes her earrings and her business motivate people to become the person they want to be and to present themselves as they would like to be seen. For her, that means showing off the importance of sustainability with items like her earrings and clothing.
“It’s hard as humans,” Miller said. “We have this idea of who we are and this idea of what other people think we are. I think clothing and even earrings play such a large role in how we walk out into the world. When you feel confident in what you wear and confident in who you are, you are this completely different person. You’re internally happy, not happy because people have a certain perception of you. You’re happy with yourself, and I think my earrings helped me become who I am and helped me follow my dreams. The fact they are sustainable is just another step toward who I want to be in this world and the impact I want to make.”
Velo in a Jar was a business plan Miller never meant to make, but she’s proud of the impact it has had on her life so far. She wants anyone wanting to start a small business to realize they can think outside the box, and dive into something that doesn’t seem like it would fit their life mold.
“Art is an opportunity to express yourself and make an impact,” Miller said. “Once a year I think I should stop. And then I can picture myself 15 years from now and I’m still doing the same thing, just maybe in a different state. The idea that my jewelry can be timeless and placeless is really exciting and helps me think about all of the possibilities in the world. They don’t have to fit into this neat little box. Being able to do that is really freeing.”
To learn more about Velo in a Jar, visit www.veloinajar.com/ or follow the shop on Instagram @velo.in.a.jar
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