top of page

Carolyn Butts 

Carolyn Butts, an art, and design visionary founded her eponymous company in 2005, alongside designer Hans Honegger. The pivotal moment for Butts’ journey occurred in 1989, following Canada’s infamous Hagersville tyre fire. The event left an indelible mark on Butts, who was profoundly affected by the sight of uncontrolled smoke billowing from 14 million burning tyres over a 17-day period. The environmental impact, particularly near the Six Nations Reserve, spurred Butts into action, igniting her passion for addressing waste management challenges through innovative design solutions.

This profound experience served as the catalyst for Butts’ pioneering work in repurposing discarded materials, a journey that continues to evolve as she explored the inherent value of waste. Reflecting on her inspiration, Butts recalls; 


“Around the time of the fire, I had purchased a used car and discovered the tyres needed changing. After replacing them, I found myself compelled to research the properties of rubber material to explore its potential as a design medium”. 

Today, Butts meticulously sources specific tyres from repair garages and landfills, transforming them into art and design pieces after thorough cleaning and cutting. Recognising the challenges posed by steel-belted tyres, Butts explains;


“Initially, I attempted to cut across the steel belts using a jigsaw, but later discovered bias ply tyres, which utilise woven nylon instead of steel. These are much easier to cut with a utility knife, mitigating the release of caustic smoke into the air”. 

The labour-intensive process of cutting tyres into pieces is predominantly done by hand, with an emphasis on minimising energy consumption. Butts’ early years were marked by experimentation with paints and stains that adhere to rubber surfaces. She clarifies, “The paint coating serves a dual purpose: to encapsulate the item, reducing rubber odour, and to impart the appearance of leather, wood, or ceramics”. 

Striving to incorporate as much recycled materials as possible, Butts utilises various car parts, used mirrors, and window frames in her designs. She adds, “Paint and other hardware, such as wire, screws, and bolts, are procured new”. 


Butts’ designs often evoke astonishment, with many finding it hard to believe that they are crafted from used tyres. While the aesthetic of tyres may pose a challenge for some, Butts views her designs as a harbinger of a future where manufacturing with waste products becomes commonplace.

“It is imperative that we transition towards closed-loop manufacturing, from extraction to disposal. This represents an existential challenge and the design imperative of our time. Achieving this necessitates adopting sustainable practices, producing fewer, more essential products, and designing with environmental considerations at the forefront”, asserts Butts emphatically.

bottom of page