Alison Lee: Well I’m excited. I’m talking to someone today that I’m really looking forward to chatting with because, well you will see why in a second. I want to know how her brain works. Today’s guest is Kathleen Nowak Tucci. She writes that she is a Gulf Coast eco designer, an artist for 30 years. This is the part I loved. Has turned her creative focus to designing couture accessories constructed from, wait for it people, recycled rubber bicycle and motor cycle inner tubes and Nespresso coffee capsules. She has so many awards including the prestigious 2015 Saul Bell Design Winner in Alternative Materials and also the Niche Award for Fashion Jewellery. Welcome and thank you for talking to me Kathleen.
Kathleen Tucci: Thank you Alison. I am excited to be here.
Alison: Well here is what I want to know. I have an Nespresso machine. I use it every day and it has never occurred to me after making coffee and I bring my cubes, my tubes, what are they called? Capsules, to be recycled at the store, to turn it into fabulous jewellery! How did you make that leap? Let’s start there. How does your brain work behind all of that?
Kathleen: Right. I was visiting my graphic designer to get a website going. Her name is Ann Geiger. She does beautiful work and she had this open box, wooden box with these beautiful little capsules in it. And I asked her “Is this chocolate?” She goes “No. Those are the Nespresso coffee capsules.” And I was like” Well what do you do with them after you use them?” And she goes “We throw them away.” OK. This was before there was any recycling available for them. And I was like “Oh no you don’t. You save them for me now!” And so she did. She saved them for me. I was fascinated by the whole marketing that Nespresso used which I think is brilliant. Their colours that they used on their capsules and then realising that its metal. I work in metal. I can work in metal. But what am I going to do now? So they sat around in my studio for a full year where I kind of messed around with them. I did things like I put epoxy in them and then they were heavy and that didn’t work. I did all kinds of cutting with them and forming them. That didn’t really work for a long time. Then finally I did figure out a way how to incorporate them with the inner tubes I used. So I used recycle bicycle inner tubes and recycled motorcycle inner tubes which were actually on Harley Davidson motorcycles. So I figured out a way how to crush them and manipulate them and cut them. And then I had to figure out how can I glue them to the rubber? That was a tough one. I worked on that for a long time and really researched, talked to 3M a little bit how to do the adhesion well. Because I make so much jewellery and I’m so prolific, I don’t want things to come back. So it was probably a full year and a half of really playing around before I got something. So first I started with them incorporating with my jewellery with the motorcycle inner tubes and then I finally figured out a way to use them alone. And that was very exciting because I’m a real colour girl but I sell a whole lot of black. So It kind of filled that part of me that I needed to have filed with colour again.
Alison: So when you saw that box in Nespresso, you just were just immediately attracted to, the colours are gorgeous. They do have an amazing colour pad. And that’s what drew you in. You just said “Those are just like gems to me or something?”
Kathleen: Oh absolutely. Absolutely. And people threw them away. It was just like wow!
Alison: You are throwing away an incredible supply is what went through your head at that point.
Kathleen: Yes. Yes.
Alison: Yes. They are amazing. But still to take that and was that sort of one of those things that was always working on your brain at that whole year just thinking about well how can I use them and all that?
Kathleen: Oh absolutely. And that’s how I work, yes. I get an idea and I mull over it for a really long time and I have kind of an engineer brain. So I figure out how to attach things, how it’s going to work, how things are going to go wrong. I do a lot of mulling.