Public radio from Western Michigan University 102.1 NPR News | 89.9 Classical WMUK
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
0000017c-60f7-de77-ad7e-f3f739cf0000Arts & More airs Fridays at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.Theme music: "Like A Beginner Again" by Dan Barry of Seas of Jupiter

What do you do with an old billboard? Jewelry artists reuse it as part of green practices

Kara Aubin filing down a metal pendant.
Rebecca Thiele, WMUK

What do you do with a 14 by 48 foot, vinyl billboard? That’s what Kara Aubin and her husband Daniel Juzwiak of Kara-Daniel Jewelry had to figure out after the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts selected their art for the 2012 Billboard Art Contest. 

“We thought about, you know, what would we do with this huge billboard. And didn’t know at the time, but we also knew that if we didn’t take it that it would probably just get tossed,” says Aubin.

Six months later, they finally found a way to use it.

“Since our work has a sustainable spin—we’re working with ethical materials trying to work in ethical ways—it made sense to try and do something with that as well," Aubin says. "So we have decided to make—they’ll be small jewelry totes out of our billboard and it will tell the story of what the material was before it was this jewelry tote. And we’re working with a company called priorLIFEthat’s out of Traverse City that does this with old billboards.” 

Daniel Juzwiak arranges a diamond on a stainless steel ring.
Credit Rebecca Thiele, WMUK
Daniel Juzwiak arranges a diamond on a stainless steel ring.

Juzwiak says being green has always been a part of their lives. Aside from using conflict-free diamonds and gems, they also use scrap stainless steel and other recycled metals in their work.

“When we first met we worked on an off-grid sustainable farm, DreamAcres in Minnesota, part of Tillersif I can plug them as well. But we lived out there for about three years and we did a timber frame, straw bailing filled studio that we lived and worked out of," Juzwiak says. "And just have always been interested in low-impact and being able to use things in a way that make sense and are sustainable for not necessarily us, but for the community in general.” 

A close-up of Daniel Juzwiak arranging the diamond.
Credit Rebecca Thiele, WMUK
A close-up of Daniel Juzwiak arranging the diamond.

It was at DreamAcres that Juzwiak says he developed his artistic style.

“Their rural, non-mechanical means of existence and they’re doing their blacksmithing," he says. "And I use a lot of those early techniques in order to make something in jewelry scale, instead of like a gate or something.”

The hand forged technique is pretty obvious in jewelry like their chain mail.

“It’s almost meditative to put together chain like that,” Juzwiak says. “We do all handmade stainless steel chain and we do accents of 22 carat gold, just to kind of give it that little bit of an edge.”

Aubin says there are a lot of conflicting ideas in their art: rough and smooth textures, symmetry and asymmetry.

“That’s part of what makes the work really strong is sort of this push and pull between our two styles," she says. "And Dan, as he said, having this architectural training—it’s very structured, it’s very linear, it’s very symmetrical. And you know as a dancer and a yogi, I have really brought in definitely the color—how color plays out and color palettes. But also how things move and how you relate to them as the wearer.”

Kara-Daniel Jewelry will be holding an open house this weekend at the Willard Street Studios at 610 West Willard Street in Kalamazoo. The studio hours are from 3-to-8 p.m on Saturday, December 1 and from 11 a.m to 3 p.m. on Sunday, December 2.

Related Content