“When I started my bicycle tube art design in 1999, it was all about recycling (the term ‘upcycling’ had not yet been invented back then). I quickly realised that used tubes are much easier to process than new ones because they are soft and elastic. First the tubes are thoroughly cleaned, and then my working material is ready. Every incision with the carpet shears takes the stiffness out of the tube and opens the circle of the collier. It transforms and refines the raw material into a shape that easily adapts to the body. The stiff rubber tube becomes a supple piece of jewellery.”
The bicycle tube
Most of us deal with a bicycle tube for the first time when it is broken. We all know this situation: we want to get on our bike in the morning and notice that we have a flat tyre. Or we’re in the middle of riding, run over some broken glass and bang! that’s it – the air is out! Annoyance, stress and loud swearing accompany our first conscious encounter with a bicycle tube. What we curse in such situations – namely the hole in the tyre – is the principle of Regula Wyss’ jewellery: the more holes, the more permeability, the better. Thereby air gets into the bicycle tube again, but in a different way than we expected.
Regula Wyss only uses used bicycle tubes. This is a matter of upcycling, but also of material: worn-out tubes can be processed easier because they are softer and more elastic. Rubber also changes with temperature: the warmer the weather and the skin on which the rubber is worn, the more supple and pliable the piece of jewellery. Thanks to Regula Wyss’ upcycling, rubber finds its way into places where you would never expect it: as a necklace around your neck, as a ring around your finger, as an installation on the wall or as a room divider in the door frame. In this way, the recyclable material not only wanders in our waste cycle, but also in an art cycle to unexpected places.
The velo tube is black. Nothing can be done about that. Therefore Regula Wyss’ jewellery designs are sometimes subtle, sometimes drastic plays with shapes and contrasts. The black rubber stands out on almost all materials, especially of course on clothing and fabrics of all kinds. What emerges through cutting, turning, intertwining and knotting are contrasting images. Regula Wyss works with rhythms and repetitions: Incisions are always made at specific intervals, cut-outs are always deliberately placed. Depending on the various colliers, this results in organic braids or minimalist skeletons.
Regula Wyss’ jewellery has the tube principle in common with many plants. We all know the horsetails we used to dismantle piece by piece when walking in the forest as children. The relation between bicycle tube and plants is an important principle in Wyss’s work: necklaces nestle like moss on the nape of the neck, flowery ornaments rest on decoltées, huge jungles grow like plastic carpets over doors and walls, and so-called ‘creepers’ loop around objects as simple lianas. Of course, with every cut, the tubular principle of the tube becomes more and more alienated. But if we would succeed in returning each cut to its origin, even a metre-long liana would shorten back to a simple plastic tube.
Every bicycle tube is round. From the infinite of the circle Regula Wyss cuts holes, leaves, prongs, heart shapes. No matter how much space she leaves in the rubber, she never quite escapes the eternity of the circle principle. And when a chain or a vine is looped around the neck, a pole or an object, the circle reappears anew.
Regula Wyss’ bicycle tube jewellery is a play with the in-between and the thicket. She cuts a light, airy structure out of the thick rubber. She sticks neither to the inside nor the outside, but twists and turns the black rubber, until this stubborn material settles into its new shape. At rhythmic intervals, she weaves in new material, squeezes stripes through holes and bundles strips into tassels. In this way, she creates organic decorative objects reminiscent of a jungle. Plants are growing that we have never seen before. The everyday bicycle tube becomes something almost exotic.
But the tube never becomes completely natural. It is always artificial, plastic, rubber. In this respect, Regula Wyss’ jewellery bears witness to an unfinished metamorphosis, to a longing of art and culture, that can never be fulfilled: to become natural. Regula Wyss’ jewellery is definitely black and definitely made of rubber. But thanks to her art of cutting, it is also always something in between. Regula Wyss creates aesthetic objects between thicket and view, between knotted confinement and open space, between the infinity of the round form and the limitation by the circle.