Alpena couple makes Christmas, other decorations out of used tires
ALPENA — The yard on 5th Avenue has all of the holiday staples: a Christmas tree, a reindeer, a Christmassy penguin, Santa Claus, Frosty the Snowman, the Grinch, a Christmas ornament bidding joy to neighbors and passersby.
But John and Victoria Rose have a yard unlike any other this holiday season, because the Roses handcrafted each and every one of those decorations out of used tires and other materials.
“Every day, someone either stops to ask me if I’ll make them one or to tell me how nice they like them,” Victoria said. “There’s always some kind of traffic issue in front of my house.”
The yard display dates back to Victoria’s childhood, when her father used to turn a tire into a flower that doubles as a flowerbed. He would cut repeatedly into one side of the tire to make flaps that he would then peel back to make petals. He would then paint the entire tire and fill it with dirt for planting flowers inside.
Victoria remembers many people in the Chicago neighborhood of her youth made similar things and, a few years ago, she decided to add such a display to her own yard.
“I think it was 2018,” Victoria said. “My dad used to make the ones that just flip inside out and look like flowers. And, so, I said, ‘Hey, I think I want to make a few of those. We don’t have to move them during the wintertime and the yard would look really nice.’ Because I’m not very good at keeping flowers alive. So I thought, if they looked like flowers, it would be cute.
“And then it went into way bigger, different.”
Her first more elaborate creation was a wishing well. It’s made of a base of three tires stacked on top of each other and painted red and white to look like bricks and a wooden frame leading up into a tire roof. That piece remains Victoria’s favorite.
“You wouldn’t know it was made out of tire unless you came and looked at it close,” Victoria said.
Since then, she and John have made swans that seem to kiss at the end of their arched necks, a dragon-serpent that looks like it’s swimming in their grass, a turtle, a giant bunny, and more.
And that bunny led to the Christmas decorations.
“What happened was we made the bunny,” Victoria said. “And then everybody was like, ‘Oh, that bunny’s for Easter.’ And I was just like, ‘No, the bunny was for no reason.’ And, so, then people asked, ‘Are you gonna put Christmas ones up?’ And I was just like, ‘Oh, I don’t know.’ Because they are a lot of work. They’re time-consuming. They’re heavy. But then I was like, ‘Well, I have to put up something now, because I have all these other ones.'”
So came the tree, the penguin, the reindeer, the rubbery rest.
Each piece can take anywhere from a day to four days to create.
It begins with procuring the tires, and the Roses have gotten tires from all kinds of places — from a tire shop, a car dealership, a tractor store.
“There’s so many places that are willing to give us the tires,” Victoria said. “There’s people that drop off tires, like we’ll wake up one morning and there’ll be like four or five tires in my back yard.”
From there, Victoria usually comes up with the concept. It might be an idea that springs into her head, or something she saw on Facebook, or a non-tire decoration she saw in someone else’s yard that she decides to make out of tires.
She talks it over with John, who sketches out the concept and together they figure out how to use tires to turn the concept into reality.
John does most of the cutting — “He does the muscle part,” Victoria said — and then Victoria paints the tires and they build their creation together. The most important part, Victoria said, is figuring how each piece will stand up in the yard and stay standing in wind and snow.
How long each piece takes to create “depends on how difficult it is to cut through it,” Victoria said. “Cutting through the tire, when you actually have to cut through the tread part, is really difficult. It’s super time-consuming and it takes a lot of sawblades.”
Most of the pieces are moveable. The Christmas decorations will go into storage when the season’s over. She always puts new pieces out toward the front of the yard and moves the older ones back when she makes a new creation.
Despite all the creativity that goes into every piece, Victoria said she doesn’t consider herself an artist.
“I am not artistic at all,” she said. “Not at all. I’m not.”
Victoria said she doesn’t know why she keeps doing it.
“I always say, ‘I’m done,'” she said. “This year, I was like, ‘I’m done. I’m not putting any more out.’ And then came the clock.”
But John offered a couple of reasons why they keep at it.
For one, they get to recycle tires and other materials, like the wooden pallets from Alpena Public Schools that will make an enclosure for the pieces so they don’t have to be dragged down to the basement every year.
For another, “we’ve met so many nice, interesting people — not just from Alpena, but all over, people who come up for summer and that sort of thing,” John said. “And they stop and talk to us and you get to meet a lot of nice people that want to talk about it and stuff. That’s a real benefit to it.”
“They come by and they say, ‘Oh, just seeing your yard makes me feel so happy,’ or, ‘It’s so nice,’ or, ‘I love waiting to see if you’re going to put another one up,'” Victoria said. “That part is nice, you know. Moving them around is not. Storing them is not.”
Justin A. Hinkley can be reached at 989-354-3112 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinHinkley.