Some of the sculptures Franky has created over the years have included scorpions, motorcycles and flowers. (Photo by Tony Wittkowski)
By Tony Wittkowski | Contributing Reporter | The Lowell Ledger
LOWELL, Mich. — Among the numerous booths on hand at the Riverwalk Festival in July, was one that sold sculptures made entirely of recycled metal.
Made from automotive parts and silverware, Rob Rose takes old metal and turns it into art. The result garners metal motorcycles, birds, planes, scorpions, spiders, and flowers, leaving the benefactor and opportunity every weekend at art shows.
Around friends he’s known as Franky, which is short for Frankenstein,
Like the doctor who created the famous monster, Franky has a knack for combining bits of pieces to make art.
Born and raised in Lowell, Franky graduated from Lowell High School and proceeded to marry his high school sweetheart, while settling in Saranac. The couple wanted to remain close to their Lowell roots without moving to a big city.
Three years ago Franky was laid off from a factory job and went back to school for welding. However, he soon realized he could not find a job welding in the area. Instead, Franky was stuck with an abundance of metal, which he kept in both the house and garage.
While pondering what to do next, he received a picture from a friend of an old recycled bike, made from small pieces of metal.
This jump started the beginning stages of Franky’s new hobby. In the spare time he had, Franky began to construct the very statues and sculptures that now decorate several lawns and houses to this day.
“One of my wife’s friends set me up with a show to do an art gallery,” Franky said. “Now I’ve got people contacting me to do art shows all the way through wintertime, mainly recycled art markets which turn out to be pretty big in Grand Rapids.”
Franky still remembers the first gallery he went to. To him it seemed weird, and based on what he wore, the welder from Lowell stuck out like a sore thumb.
“My first show I remember doing was at a ballroom,” Franky said with a chuckle. “They had a doorman at the door and everything.”
Franky, who is known among his friends to dislike the city and being around one entirely, walked up to the hotel with a straw hat, long hair and beard accompanied with tattered jeans. Other artists that night wore black tie suits and the usual full dress one would see on the red carpet.
“The doorman stopped me at the door and asked me if I was lost,” Franky said. “I grabbed my artist card and showed it to him. He looked down at me from head to toe and said, ‘good luck.'”
Inside the ballroom was another story.
After passing the doorman/security guard, Franky came to realize that he wasn’t walking into a glorified flea market, but a showcased art gallery. Luckily, the lady who was running the gallery spotted Franky right away and showed him where to set up. By the end of the night he was a hit, and had sold the most out of every other artist in attendance.
Later that night he ran out of business cards to handout and has since been contacted by art galleries for his coveted recycled art.
However, When asking Franky about his art, he’s quick to remain humble.
“I don’t consider myself to be an artist,” Franky said, pushing the question aside. “I’d call myself a guy who welds junk together and tries to make a profit.”
A lot of his friends are mechanics, leaving him with spare car parts that would otherwise be thrown away. Franky also visits bike shops in Ada and Ionia that have spare chains and other parts that are normally hard to get rid of.
The sprockets and chains prove to be useful for the craftsman. most of the material Franky comes up with are free, with a few items being purchased at salvage yards and garage sales.
“Sometimes I have to spend a little to make a little,” Franky said. “But the turnout ratio after a show is profitable.”
The price Franky chooses stems from how much time he puts into the piece, ranging from several hours to several days. His friends tell him his prices are too low compared to what has been seen on eBay. These same friends tell him he should consider branching out.
His response: “Not looking for the fame, just looking for the fortune.”
With the future in mind, there are only two things Franky continues to think about.
More metal. More work.
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on July 31, 2013)