From the very first, Walter Bramwell Young’s jewelry business has been a complete record breaker. Literally. Young—or Bramwell, as he likes to call himself—takes used record vinyl and turns it into pins, earrings, bolo ties and the occasional candy dish. “You’ve heard of record producers?” asks Bramwell, 35. “Well, I’m a record re-producer. I take old classics and turn them into little tiny works of art.”
For the record, Bramwell’s meltdown art, which he sells under the Album Cut label, is bubbling hot. His vinyl doodads are the jewels of choice with such musicians as Lacy J. Dalton, Stevie Nicks, Buster Poindexter and Alannah Currie of the Thompson Twins. Available in 46 stores across the nation, Album Cut items cost between $20 and $35 a pop.
Bramwell, who has never been married, lives with his two cats, Merrit and O’Keefe, in a two-bedroom Glendale, Calif., apartment that looks like a postmodern Pee-wee’s playhouse. It is there, amid neon lightning bolts, old movie posters and a popcorn machine, that the 225-lb. artist designs his wearable art. Bramwell uses a small toaster oven to heat up the records and a paint-stripping gun to melt them down. Since vinyl stays soft for only about 30 seconds, Bramwell has to work fast after meltdown to press on surface textures—using everything from parts of elevator grilles to floor mats. Among his more interesting pieces are a fish pin with purple and pink fins fashioned from Prince’s “Purple Rain,” a brooch in the shape of an angel with a broken wing designed in honor of Poison’s “Fallen Angel,” and one of hearts, stars and guitars made to commemorate Samantha Fox’s “Naughty Girls (Need Love Too).”
Bramwell, who was born in Tarrytown, N.Y., majored in theater arts at California State University at Long Beach. He left, before graduating, in 1974 and put in time as an ice-cream server, doorman, waiter and cook. He got the idea for vinyl baubles in the early ’80s when he saw a record presser on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. But “it was just information floating around in the back of my head,” until he decided to start his business five years ago.
Turning out 150 pieces in a good week, Bramwell figures he just about broke even last year. His jazzy (and rock-y and folk-y) jewelry may not be making him rich, but Bramwell doesn’t care. After all, it’s a lot more fun than putting his money into CDs.