Bling your bike

Bling your bike

Bling your bike

First published in Business: Odd Jobs

Ever wondered what it’s like to be... a bike blinger?

Elli Eitan, 60, who designs and makes jewellery for bikes as well as more conventional pieces.

What made you think of making jewellery for bikes?

I have been cycling since I was five-years-old. But I didn’t cycle for a very long time – I didn’t even look at a bike for about 20 years. But in 1997, I saw a new type of bike – a mountain bike – and I started cycling again. I liked it as it had all the stuff I need – gears and suspension and all the things I didn’t have as a kid in Israel – and I have been cycling ever since.

With time, I looked at the bike and thought I could make it look better. I thought, ‘Where can I put my stuff on this bike?’ I saw a place under the handle bars and I made a big ring, like a wedding ring – I thought it was a good place to start. I made it as if I was making a piece of jewellery. I tried it with silver, I tried it with gold. I tried different stones and different settings. Then I also made some other bits which I can attach to different parts of the bike – bits for the top of the steam and bits which go on the pedals.

I think it looks really good and I have quite a large collection myself.

How did you get into jewellery making initially?

I am originally from Israel and I started making jewellery when I was maybe ten-years-old. I used bits of metal, bits of copper, hammered it, flattened it, made it into chains and pendants. We went to live in Austria when I was 17, as my father got a job there. I was going to school but my father said, ‘You are wasting your time here’. He went to the University of Applied Art, and spoke to one of the professors there, who said I could attend the classes.

I didn’t end up doing any exams there – I didn’t really want to – but learned a lot. I was there for just over three years until my father’s job finished and we went back to Israel. I never did a BA. I am not interested in bits of paper; I am interested in actual work.

I kept making jewellery in Israel until I met a girl from Sunderland, married her and came here.

I never dreamed of working and making any money from jewellery, but my mother-in-law went to a shop here and said I was a jewellery maker, new in town, and did they have any jobs. Jewellers were thin on the ground here, and they hired me.

I became self-employed after two years, then I moved to Chapman’s Jewellery, where I am today.

What is your process to design and make jewellery?

I do everything from melting the metal to polishing the finished piece.

I never really draw any plans or designs, I have never been someone who does that. I prefer to go straight into the three-dimensional process.

I like to work with the metal itself. Everything’s been done before – nothing is completely original or innovative. I work with the metal and the design evolves. It is a matter of using a bit of imagination. The best metal for me to work with is gold, but a lot of the jewellery we do now is silver – that is the fashion. People have stopped buying gold as much.

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