Meet the Maker is our series of profiles on Kansas Citians who use bikes as inspiration for their art and craft. This week’s Meet the Maker is with Elise Keeling, owner of Pilot Valve jewelry.
What’s the meaning of the word “Pilot Valve“?
“Pilot Valve” doesn’t mean anything in particular with my work. I found a brass tag with “pilot valve” stamped on it. I had no luck coming up with name for my business and this seemed to work-gender neutral, easy to spell, distinctive.
How long have you been making jewelry? How did you first get involved?
I’ve been making jewelry for over 20 yrs. I’ve been using bike parts for 2-3 yrs. I had a friend show me how to break down the bike chain and that’s how I got started.
Are you a cyclist yourself?
I’m not a very serious or consistent biker, but I love to ride around the Nelson Art Gallery on a Sunday morning.
Why did you start integrating bikes into your jewelry?
I use bike parts because they are accessible (every bike shop has a pile of parts waiting to be taken the scrap metal yard). The pieces are small and lend themselves to jewelry. I don’t have metal smithing skills so I take a “finished” item and then manipulate it for another purpose.
How would you describe your jewelry design aesthetic?
As for the look of my pieces, some would label it “steam punk”. I think it’s more broadly “industrial”.
Where do you acquire all your materials for the jewelry?
I know some great and generous people who work on bikes so I can get parts pretty easy. Garage and estate sales also are good places to look. If you buy some de-greaser, most bike shops are willing to find a greasy gear cassette to donate.