Octavia Akoulitchev meets Ben Gould - The man making bike chains into bracelets

Image credit: BEN GOULD

What inspired you to start LifeCycle?

I have always been experimenting with materials and interesting objects. I became especially interested in the parts left over at bicycle repair shops while living in Brooklyn. As I was studying industrial design at Pratt Institute, I was always on the lookout for supplies that I could integrate into my model-making and prototyping, and was amazed to find such a wealth of untapped material at every bike shop! I initially worked with the rubber from bike tire inner tubes; thinking that the bulk of used chain was just too filthy to deal with.

But, when I started to manipulate the chains, I discovered a way that they could expand and contract by alternating the direction of each link. The challenge then was to see if I could make them into a continuous loop - which I discovered was not so easy. The alloys that comprise each link are made especially NOT to bend, but with some simple tool building, I developed a method to induce an even bend in every link. The resulting form was naturally appealing as a bracelet. In retrospect, I did not set out to create a bracelet, or a company, or anything in particular. I allowed myself to experiment with a material that fascinated me, and developed my own challenges and conclusions as I went along.

The most difficult part of starting any creative exercise is identifying the problem. That gave me the direction I needed to begin solving one problem after another, until I found that I had created something totally original.

 

What advice would you have for someone wanting to create an upcycled jewellery brand?

There has been a wave of upcycled jewellery over the past decade. Looking even farther back in human history, people have reused found objects for ornamentation probably from our very beginning. I would caution an artist starting out not to allow themselves to fall into the same aesthetic of ‘reclaimed’ ‘crafty’ ‘boutique’ just because it seems like the market is fertile. It is very easy to blend in when you’re trying to stand out in the same way as other artists before you. Remember to experiment, create challenges for yourself, and execute everything exquisitely...oh, and some more practical advice: Finding great materials is as valuable as finding great partners. My work with Lifecycle led me to partner with bike shop owners, jewellery stores, online retailers, metal smiths, and electroplaters. I learned a TON from each of these individuals, and quickly found myself at the center of a community that cared about my product.

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