Where others see trash, Lucy Cordova sees a pair of earrings.
Bicycle tires, old records, paper clips--no common object is too lowly for her lobes.
"I make earrings out of things you wouldn't normally think they're made of," says the 27-year-old woman. "People don't recognize the materials. They touch them and say, 'Oh, they're bicycle tires!' "
Once she has finished applying paint, glitter, pearls and rhinestones to her designs, few people recognize the earrings for what they are: junk. Only on closer inspection does one see the tread of a tire, the grooves from an old record.
"I just get things around the house," she says. "I broke a glass in the kitchen one day and when I saw the pieces I said, 'Hey, I can use these as earrings!' "
Her glitzy, gaudy designs are strictly for fun. One pair features three roving eyeballs, the plastic kind found on small stuffed toys. She sells her earrings on torn pieces of cardboard under the name Junque for $5 to $10 a pair.
"I don't mean it to be trashy," she says. That's why she gave "junk" a faux French spelling.
Cordova's fetish for earrings led her to create the Junque line.
"I love earrings. I have 80 pairs, and I didn't get my ears pierced until I was 19," she says.
Two years ago, she bought a pair of earrings made from warped record fragments in a department store. She lost one of the earrings and couldn't find a pair to replace them. That's when she decided to make the earrings herself.
"I made a couple pairs and wore them to work at a nightclub," she says. "My co-workers saw them and said, 'Make some for us.' I started selling them that way." Since then, she has expanded her line to include all kinds of everyday objects.
Her method for transforming records into earrings is not terribly sophisticated.
She holds a disposable lighter underneath the record to soften the vinyl, then cuts it with a scissors into the shape she wants. Then she melts the piece again to create funky waves and folds. Often, one can still see the grooves in the vinyl on the finished product.
"I want people to see they are records, so the lines show," Cordova explains.
Old records have proven the perfect medium for her big earrings, which can measure several inches in length and diameter. Not only is the vinyl material malleable, it's light enough not to weight down one's lobes.
She buys the record albums for about 50 cents each at swap meets.
"I don't even know who these people are," she says. "But I think I melted Rickie Lee Jones once."
After she has worked the vinyl into the desired shape, she decorates it with paint, rhinestones, sequins, glitter, and even small screws and bolts.
Cordova adorned one pair with white lace and seed pearls. Only the black vinyl kept them from looking like something out of a bridal magazine.
She has painted some with old fingernail polish and coated others with "webbing," a spray paint that gives a lacy effect.
Once she found an old chain in her father's garage, cut it up and attached the links to her earrings. She wraps geometric-shaped pieces of vinyl with scraps of suede donated by a friend, then sprinkles rhinestones and beads onto the fabric.
As a finishing touch, she often substitutes a paper clip for the conventional earring hook.
Cordova cuts up bicycle tires and decorates them in similar fashion.
"I buy the tires new," she says. "I couldn't use old ones--they'd be flat and dirty."
While shopping at a home supply store, she bought a vinyl floor tile and turned it into earrings too.
She also makes earrings out of paper. She moistens heavy, watercolor paper, bends it into wavy abstract shapes and lets it dry. Then she paints the hardened paper and douses it with glitter. One pair of pink and purple squares has a raised cross and iridescent sparkles.
"I look at things and think, 'Gosh, what can I do with this?' " she says, holding up a plastic bottle that she has cut up for future earrings.
All of Cordova's designs are big, gaudy and fun.
"I like big earrings."
One pair features fragments of an old 33 rpm folded and painted with silver webbing. A triangle-shaped pair comes in teal-colored suede littered with a small rhinestone, beads and a narrow strip of iridescent film.
"The earrings are good conversation pieces," Cordova says. "A girl looked at me the other day and said, 'You put a paper clip through your ear?'
"That's why I like them."
She's also started making bolo ties out of records. The vinyl's warped shapes suit bolos perfectly and appeal to men who want a different look when they're trolling the nightclubs.
Junque sells at Total Effect 'n' Fashion at 1142 N. Brookhurst St. in Anaheim.
Cordova concedes that her disposable earrings are not for everyone. They're for people who, like her, prefer clothes and costume jewelry that are "trendy and fun."
"It takes a certain kind of person," she notes.