Kathleen Nowak Tucci

Kathleen Nowak Tucci, a Gulf Coast eco-designer and artist for 25 years, has turned her creative focus to designing couture accessories constructed from recycled rubber bicycle and motorcycle inner tubes. Her current collections include necklaces, bracelets, earrings, rings, belts and purses. Appearing in Fashion Market Week in NYC three times a year, Tucci’s designs have landed in some of the most exclusive boutiques across the United States and Europe.

In 2011, Tucci was juried into the Smithsonian Craft Show, as one of 120 artists the Smithsonian selected from a field of 1300. Her attendance here achieved recognition from the Smithsonian’s Womens Society and she was subsequently invited to participate in the 2011 and 2012 Craft2Wear events in Washington DC. Only 40 artists who have already shown in the Smithsonian Craft Show are selected for these prestigious events.


Jewelry designed, conceived and created by Kathleen Nowak Tucci (at the time marketed by her sister Margaret Nowak Dobos’ company, My Sister’s Art) was featured on the cover of the August 2010 issue of Italian Vogue magazine. The issue, called “The Latest Wave,” featured the theme of water and oil, and was styled by Karl Templer, photographed by internationally acclaimed photographer Steven Meisel, and modeled by Kristen McMenamy. The concept interpreted the environmental crisis that has been affecting the Gulf Coast. This is the first time that an eco artist’s work has been featured on the cover of a mainstream fashion magazine.

Commenting on the Italian Vogue photo feature, Tucci says:

“I never considered this glamorized. I thought it was disturbing and thought provoking and utterly fascinating in its interpretation of the struggle for survival. It is controversial and interpretative which is indicative of great artistic expression,.”

Architectural Green Jewelry

While rubber tires are an indelible part of America’s recreational landscape they create roughly 290 million scrap tires according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  Because rubber tires don’t biodegrade easily and they are rarely recycled they usually wind up discarded in landfills throughout the country.

First attracted to the possibilities offered by the easily manipulated rubber, Tucci acquired some recycled bicycle inner tubes. Though her initial working with the rubber did not lead to the project she first had in mind, the extra pieces of rubber remained in a corner in her studio for several months. Always curious and compulsively creative, she returned to the pile of rubber one day and began to ‘play’ with it. From those odd scraps and pieces evolved necklaces and bracelets that further entranced her imagination:

I have always made my work in components — smaller parts of a whole work. With my rubber jewelry, it may be long triangular pieces, that I call shreds, that eventually are assembled to create to become a necklace. Strips of inner tubes wait to be connected together along with other shapes, circles triangles or flowers. I like to have many parts pre-cut out ready for whatever combination strikes my fancy.


I have always liked C and S curves juxtaposed against geometric shapes such as squares, circles and triangles. I feel a strongly influenced by art-deco furniture, architecture and fashion. Working with the raw material of recycled rubber allows me to make dramatic pieces with very little weight.


Tucci will freely admit that is was the properties of the material of the recycled rubber that first drew her to create architectural jewelry in rubber. However as her designs progressed and began to acquire a cohesion of her vision, her beloved Gulf Coast was hammered with the Gulf Oil Spill. She was struck with the devastation of the event, its numbing anquish, and our own human interaction with Nature, for good or ill. In the creation of her ‘Renewal’ collection in 2011, she celebrated the healing power of Nature. Tucci came to see the relevance of her work as that of an eco-artist and eco-designer. She now proudly calls herself an eco-designer, finding it fulfilling in of itself along with the simple joy of being an artist who has achieved her vision and sees the many possibilities open before her.

In 2011 Kathleen’s jewelry has been in many publications including Marie Claire, Metal Clay Artist Magazine (cover), The Linen Magazine, Coastal Lifestyle Magazine(five page feature), Po10tial Magazine( cover, exocover and nine page feature).

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