Janis Steel literally turns trash into treasures by up-cycling pop cans into fun, lightweight and colorful jewelry pieces.
Pop Can Jewelry pieces include: necklaces, bracelets, earrings, magnets, pins and key chains. Each piece is custom made by the husband-wife team of Janis and John Steel. Their whimsical pieces attract customers ages 8 – 80 and there are pieces for both men and women, said Steel.
Steel said her lotus flower necklace is one of the most popular items and sells for $16-20.
“It’s really pretty and not obviously made of pop cans. It’s definitely a conversation piece,” said Steel.
Eleven years ago, Steel wanted to create a custom piece for the Fourth of July. This experience led to her making beaded jewelry. Four years ago, Steel began using recycled products such as Christmas cards. Then, a customer suggested she use a Coke can. The rest is history as interest in Pop Can Jewelry skyrocketed, said Steel.
In September 2010, Pop Can Jewelry was featured as a “green” product on NBC 5 News. Prior to this coverage, Steel said her website received about 500 hits each day. In the two hours it took to get home after shooting the NBC segment, her site received 10,000 hits, said Steel.
“I immediately realized I had to teach my husband John how to make the products because there was no way I could do this by myself,” said Steel. “Within three days of the show’s airing, we’d shipped hundreds of pieces.
“John started working with me due to necessity but we make a great team. He is now the main designer and enjoys cutting the designs. He has a manufacturing background and has really streamlined the process,” said Steel.
Janis and John showcase at over 100 shows each year and work about 16 hours each day. There are currently 14 stores selling Pop Can Jewelry, including Emerson Creek Pottery, Nanette’s in Yorkville and Whole Foods in Naperville.
Nanette’s, the giving boutique offers a line of Pop Can Jewelry. Owner Nanette Michalec explained her store’s philosophy: “Nanette’s donates 10 percent of every sale to assist local families and children in need. In addition, Nanette’s showcases product lines that have the same philosophy of giving back.
“I love the product. The pieces are smart, fun and different,” said Michalec. “Janis and John are awesome people who are excited about what they do and enjoy helping the community.”
Steel utilizes another part of the beverage can in her jewelry, using pop tabs to make bracelets. Since the Ronald McDonald House collects pop tabs to raise money, Steel decided to donate 10 percent of the profits from these bracelets to the Ronald McDonald House. Steel said proceeds from the bracelets are six to seven times more than if the pop tabs were donated directly to the Ronald McDonald House.
Cleaning up the environment is another benefit of Pop Can Jewelry. When Steel first incorporated pop cans, she and John would ride their bikes and gather cans, cleaning up America in the process, said Steel. Now family and friends save cans for them, the Oswego Fire Department is their main supplier of energy drink cans and Steel utilizes Facebook to request harder to find cans, which she trades for jewelry.
“We are truly blessed and very thankful. We love working together and it’s such a fun product. We never thought we’d be paying bills based on other people’s garbage,” said Steel.
To find retail locations selling Pop Can Jewelry and upcoming events, visit their website. Pop Can Jewelry will also be displayed on Friday, Dec. 9 from 5-8 pm at Prairie Point Elementary School's Holiday Craft and Vendor Fair.
Neither Janis nor John drink pop.