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Sunday, September 9, 2001
Salt Lake Tribune

'Freeway Florist' turns debris into re-tread blooms

Most drivers look at pieces of shredded tire as debris. Dave Udy envisions a rose. Known in art circles as the "Freeway Florist," Udy has been known to run onto busy roads to rescue the rubber remnants, which he transforms into "environmentally correct" flowers, trees and other sculptures. "They are my version of resurrections," said Udy, a Salt Lake mortgage banker, as he scanned vases of road-kill roses he was inspired to begin making three years ago while en route to a motorcycle rally in Sturgis, S.D. Udy, a diehard Harley Davidson biker, picked up a piece of tire that had caught underneath his motorcycle trailer during that fateful South Dakota rally. As he removed the debris from the axle, the frayed ends poked his hands and fingers. While he was bleeding all over the ends, the ultimate optimist said he noticed how much the shredded rubber looked like a bunch of roses. When he returned home, Udy created his first bouquet of "re-tread" roses. At the urging of friends, he soon opened his "Freeway Flora" -- a home-based workshop where he makes and sells the artistic arrangements made from the old, blown out, tire scraps he has accumulated. "It's a totally dangerous job," said Udy, who stops on busy freeways and jumps out of his car to grab chunks of tire. "I always have a pair of gloves in my car and always keep my tetanus shots updated." Using a sharp knife, chisel, hack saw and wire strips, he pulls the rubber off each remnants. With a small pair of needle nose pliers, and wearing a golf glove, he unwinds the tire cords, then bends, twists, yanks and shapes them into "stingy little things that actually look like flowers or trees." "It keeps my hands busy," said Udy, who shapes flowers to relax while sitting on a beach or on his front porch. Each bouquet takes about five hours to make. He coats each creation with Dip It, a clear plastic material that he tints into 20 different colors. Apple and lemon trees are for sale in Udy's workshop, as are white winter trees, pink spring trees, desert trees (featuring a touch of green), cactuses and a variety of different floral bouquets -- including potted tires. Udy, who has sold his re-tread vegetation at art festivals in Moab, Provo and San Francisco, also has a "Delicate Arch" and an 18-inch "Scary Willow," which he will not sell because it took him 40 to 50 hours to create. When he accepted -- and failed -- a challenge by son Derek to keep a bonsai tree alive, Udy went back to the tool box. The result: A "No-die Bons-ai," which also can be ordered by calling (801) 261-3369. Udy's arrangements, which range in price from $10 to $150, all come with a tag that reads -- you guessed it --
"I Used To Be A Tire."

Dave Udy's "Freeway Flora" collection, created out of shredded tire debris he gathers roadside, include "No-die Bons-ai." (Paul Fraughton/The Salt Lake Tribune)

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