Every second person seems to be designing homewares, jewellery and accessories these days. Authentic originality is hard to come by, which is why it is hard to look past Em and Ivan of Tread and Pedals, who craft all of their pieces from old bicycle parts.
We had a chat to the lovely pair during a rare second when they were not up to their elbows in greasy, old bikes.
The Melbourne-based cycling enthusiasts-turned-designers use their abundant knowledge of the anatomy of the bicycle to fashion everything from clocks made out of old wheels to bangles consisting of spokes.
What began as a mere observation while Ivan was working in a busy bike store in central Melbourne - that most bicycles, after use, were headed straight for the tip - grew into a perspective-altering idea to upcycle the old parts into repurposed, practical items for everyday use.
Em says “there was so much waste being generated. Once our perception of these parts shifted from trash to treasure, we were able to dream up all sorts of ways to use and reshape these bits”.
Since Tread and Pedals is the first creative, upcycling business of its kind, Em admits that there was very little research they could do regarding the practical construction of items from the old parts.
"They aim to construct visually pleasing products, but not at the expense of functionality and endurance."
She says that Ivan’s background did help though. “Ivan’s engineering background obviously helped in understanding how we could create these transformations from bike parts to repurposed items.”
Em’s background in art and retail helped with creative planning and conceptualising. However, despite the perfect convergence of a practical brain and a creative mind, success only arrived after sleeves had been rolled up and experiments and testing had been carried out.
Hard work, in other words, proved just as important as a good idea and ample planning.
“The real magic happens out in the workshop when we’ve got our tools and materials” Em says. “Playing with the greasy parts is the best way to see if our ideas are tangible.”
Em and Ivan are big on quality, which is why the testing of the pieces they create is so important to them; they aim to construct visually pleasing products, but not at the expense of functionality and endurance.
“We had a lot of fun in the early days, testing out the products. Possibly the favourite creation to do the old product testing on was the bottle opener, since this meant sharing a lot of beers” Em laughs.
Regularly using all parts of old bikes in their designs, excluding seats and frames which get donated to be ‘reborn’ into new bicycles, the pair source materials from a number of bike stores around Melbourne.
“In the early days we felt a lot like seagulls going through the scraps, but now we’ve got a good system in place which means we’re never short on parts” says Em.
Looking at the Tread and Pedals products it is hard to believe that the items were once part of a greasy old bike. Understandably, Em and Ivan have had some interesting reactions to their work over the past few years.
“One of the best reactions would have to be the lady who squealed with delight at one of the design markets. It was a nice, long, loud, hearty squeal - it scared the socks off us!” Em laughs.
The busy-ness of operating their own business has taught Em and Ivan the importance of doing things you love outside of work. When they’re not dissecting bikes, the couple are avid travellers, hikers and funnily enough, cyclists.
“Having your own creative business can mean long days and unusual hours, especially in the lead up to Christmas, where sleep just doesn’t seem to happen. Making time for hobbies, friends, family and ourselves is needed” Em says.
“It’s important to keep it fun. You started out because you liked what you were doing and you have to remember that” Em says. “We love what we do and that passion comes through in each product that we make.”
You can check out Tread and Pedals at http://www.treadandpedals.com.au/