There are over 400 factories that manufacture tires worldwide, consuming tons and tons of different kinds of rubber. Have you ever wondered what happens to tires after they are no longer of use to cars?
Hala Smadi, a graphic design graduate from Petra University, found one way to transform those black old things to wonderful pieces of interior design, through her freelance designer service: Wheels.
Tell us a little more about yourself.
I graduated in 2013 and tried looking for a job but just couldn’t find the perfect one, so I decided to start my own business from home using wheels! I was surprised by the encouragement I got from friends and family, which kept me motivated and driven. I still do some freelance work in graphic design sometimes, and I am in touch with the skills from my degree – I even designed my own business cards.
Well, the big question that you might get a lot: Do you even like cars?
Honestly, I don’t.
Then how come you chose wheels in particular?
For my graduation project, I started an awareness campaign for people our age to spend time more productively than the typical cafe and hookah outing routine. From exploring new places in Amman to doing new sports, learning a new language and getting to know a new culture, there are so many options to choose from.
I tried many myself. For example, I joined the Royal Jordanian Gliding Club and it was such a rush being able to literally fly over Amman!
So then we were asked to display our work in a fair, and I needed little chairs for jury members to sit down, so I just got some wheels, made a network of rope and came up with a stool inspired by the old ones I used to see. Everyone who saw them thought they were amazing and it just made me want to do more.
I also really started to like the patterns of voids and sipes on different wheels!
Where do you get your wheels from?
Anywhere and everywhere! I go around shops asking for wheels all the time. It’s incredibly time-consuming and hectic. I do buy some of them sometimes, but other times a lot of people give them to me. There are a lot of potential uses for old wheels and tires, but most of them are just thrown away. It’s a really good opportunity for me to recycle them.
What about your fabrics?
I also search all around town for stores to get fabrics. I can’t use any random kind, it has to be of good material and durable. I have an aunt who lives in Dubai and she gets me all sorts of wonderful fabrics all the time.
Do you work alone?
Most of the time, yes. Although, I do get much help from family and friends – especially when I’m tired and have many orders to fulfill.
How much does it take you to make each piece?
Around 5-7 days. It takes a lot of time for the paint to dry off, especially when the weather is cold. I’ve tried so many ways and let me tell you, a hair dryer doesn’t work! Even the ones I cover with fabrics take a lot of time.
If there was no such thing as social media, how would you market your business?
I think word of mouth would be the best means. I would take advantage of every social gathering, and would invite people over frequently to preview my pieces. I think I would also make tons of flyers. I did make some business cards a while back and gave them away to many stores. Maybe the radio would be a good idea too. It would be harder, social media has made everything a lot easier.
What is the price range for your pieces?
Around 35-70 JDs, depending on the piece and the client’s requests. If they ask for something specific, it may take a lot of time, effort and money trying to find what they’re asking for.
Would you ever dedicate all your time to Wheels and give up graphic design completely?
Obviously I want my project to grow and prosper, but I wouldn’t want to forget my graphic design skills. It’s a part of me and I try to incorporate it into my business.
Would you like to open up your own Wheels store?
Yes, that’s actually on my plan. I see a future for my project. I want to make orders for people living abroad. In fact, I’ve been contacted by potential clients from Kuwait, KSA and even Canada. It makes me happy seeing such tremendous responses.
What’s the hardest part about what you do in general?
Looking for specific item for a clients; some are very picky. I don’t make the same item over and over again, I try to make my pieces as unique as possible and it takes up so much effort.
What’s the skill you think you require most?
Patience! There are times when I’m so tired, because I have to carry the wheels to a gas station to get them cleaned, and then back home to work on them. I think that’s when it’s something you love doing, you’ll put up with the consequences and make the right sacrifices.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I want to develop my project to a whole new level. There are so many ideas waiting to come alive. Of course, I’m not claiming to be the first person in the world to recycle wheels for interior design, but I do have my own personal touch which makes my pieces special.
Photos by Hala Smadi