Electronic waste is a huge problem worldwide. Some 20 to 50 million metric tons are generated every year according to the UNEP, with only 27 percent of e-waste being recycled in the US. A lot of it ends up in landfills or being shipped to other countries for informal and unsafe processing, where they can leach toxins and heavy metals into the soil and damage the health of people handling them.
While electronic waste can be sent off to a conventional recycling facility, there are other, more creative, ways to get the job done. Jewelry artist Amanda Preske of Rochester, New York's Circuit Breaker Labs takes circuit boards from old computers, cell phones, calculators, monitors, and office telephones and transforms them into delicate necklaces, bracelets, earrings, belt buckles and cufflinks. Preske says:
We live in a digital age, so it’s only appropriate that computers, calculators and memory cards are put to good use when they break rather than being discarded. The boards, which come in a range of colors, are enhanced through the use of resin, which also protects each piece. Plus, all sterling silver items are made with recycled silver.
Preske, who has a PhD in chemistry, has also a lifelong passion for making things by hand. She's made candles, cross-stitched, sewed and painted silk, but making jewelry -- whether from beads, glass or metal -- has been one of her biggest passions.
Preske got started with using recycled circuit boards back in 2007 when she caught sight of her brother repairing a broken computer one day. She says she "became transfixed by the beauty and complexity found on a circuit board. As a whole, the boards are often too complex to appreciate, but on the small scale of jewelry, small portions begin to resemble subway maps, cityscapes, and weird little worlds. Captured under epoxy resin, each piece shines with its own personality."
Preske finds her circuit boards from a number of sources, most notably at art shows and festivals, where she often swaps old boards in exchange for her jewelry. She also has a "Circuit Board Trade-in Program" where people can mail in their old boards in exchange for one of her pieces.
These old components are disassembled, cleaned, cut and finished by hand, and placed in recycled silver settings. The resin, which acts as a luminous lens to give life and to magnify the beauty of these intricate patterns found on circuit boards, also helps to fully encase the circuit materials, so that they can be worn on the skin safely.
These manmade patterns underlying our technological devices aren't seen often, buried as they are under the cases of our phones and computers. Nevertheless, they are quite mesmerizing, revealing a strangely beautiful world that's skillfully enhanced in these stunning miniature pieces. For more, visit Circuit Breaker Labs.