San Juan Island “Trash to Treasures” artist Kevin Roth has erected a whimsical tribute to the Beatles at the former site of his West Side Free Pile. The grand Yellow Submarine stands behind a memorial bench to beloved islander John Buck, creating a great photo op.
The Yellow Submarine is composed of 99% recycled materials (yellow paint was the only new purchase) and yes, that’s a Weber barbecue serving as the bow. The body is made of fuel tanks of all sorts: diesel fuel tanks, home heating oil tanks, pressure tanks, well system tanks, outboard motor gas tanks, propane tanks. Other parts and pieces of the “vessel” gave previous service as chair legs, outboard motor props, and galvanized pipes. Roughly 60 hours of hard labor went into this project.
Asked what inspired this piece, Kevin said, “I always wanted to create a submarine for my kids to play in. Now the kids are grown, but I thought I’d go ahead and make one anyway.” It’s the shapes of the tanks that get his creative juices flowing. His pink flamingo was made out of propane tanks for the feathers and re-bar for the legs. Now in various stages of his creative works process are a lighthouse, a Captain Nemo-style space capsule, and a pineapple made out of a cement truck drum. That last one will be a doosy, after he chisels out all the concrete that lines the drum. All materials have to be fully cleaned before he can start work on them, which is sometimes the toughest part of the process. His colorful sunflowers made from propane tanks, and stainless steel flowers and critters made from silverware are popular garden adornments. Water fountains made from discarded garden and farm equipment are always a hit.
Kevin is a welder/fabricator by trade, and has been a leader in the Reduce-Reuse-Recycle movement on the island, inspiring everyone he meets with his creative, ebullient demeanor. He chairs the Trash to Treasures booth every year at the county fair, and we all eagerly await his annual entry in the Trashion to Fashion show. He founded the West Side Free Pile, loved by islanders and visitors alike, until the county denied its revival after vandals set fire to it last year.
To see the Yellow Submarine, just drive down West Side Road, you can’t miss it. To purchase flowers or commission metal sculptures, contact Kevin at 360.378.4725 or connect with him on Facebook to find, as his motto says, “life for the dearly discarded.”