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Maryland Couple Makes Beautiful Objects From Recycled Circuit Board

  • June Soh

It's said that one person's trash is another's treasure. That is certainly true for Debby and Joel Arem. Twenty years ago, the couple started creating jewelry and office products from recycled computer circuit boards. Today, they have a full line of "green" products.

There is no shortage of recycled material for Debby Arem's creations. She uses everything, from pieces of scrap metal and electronic components, to computer circuit boards and chips.

"In 1992, my husband had a company that made computers. And I saw a circuit board for the very first time in my life and I went out of my mind. I said that is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen with all the intricate circuitry and the colors. And the first thing that came to my mind was you could make jewelry out of that,” Arem said.

Arem has a degree in fine arts - so that's what she did. She and her husband Joel founded a company called Three Ring Circuits and introduced their jewelry and other products at a local craft show.

“The first night we sold out of our clipboards, completely sold out. People would come by the booth and do a double take and they would say, that is a circuit board from a computer? Oh, what a clever idea,” Arem said.

Their line of products has grown. The Arems use discarded prototype circuit boards as the base for most of their products. Then they add vintage beads, small pieces of metal, and anything else they find interesting.

“If I hadn’t rescued them or if we hadn’t rescued the circuit boards from these companies, they would have ended up potentially in a landfill or had been burned,” Arem said.

Circuit boards recovered from cell phones are popular. "I come up with ideas many times but I can’t quite figure out how to engineer it. And Joel is a master at taking an idea that I come up with and figuring out how to actually put it together,” Arem said.

They say working together for 20 years has strengthened their marriage.

"You get to know a person a lot better when you spend that much time and overcoming not only the challenges of the relationship but the stress of business really puts the strain on a relationship. If you can get through it, it [marriage] gets stronger,” Joel Arem said.

“We have a lot of fun, we really do. I don’t consider this work. That's the best part of it," said Debby Arem.

These days, instead of traveling to craft fairs, the Arems sell online. That way they can spend more time in their home studio, meeting the increasing demand from around the world for their creations.