LEIPSIC — Getting the last bit of snow shoveled off the driveway is the end of the job for most people.
For the Apple family in Leipsic, it’s just the beginning of a creative endeavor.
For the past nine years, the family took discarded snow and made art from it. They turned last week’s snowfall into a truck, complete with operational headlights, thanks to a pair of camping lanterns. Around Christmastime, they made a Grinch. One time, they carved an elaborate train across the front yard, complete with coal in one cart.
“I think everybody kind of looks forward to snow here,” said Steve Apple, a husband and father of three daughters and a son. “It gives us something to look forward to with snow. Most people wouldn’t like that, but we learned to live with the snow and make fun with it.”
It’s a full family hobby, including Steve, his wife Jenny, their 19-year-old daughter Lydia, 15-year-old Seth, 13-year-old Morgan and 11-year-old Sydney.
“I really like doing them,” said Sydney, who enjoys painting and carving the sculptures.
Apple took art classes in high school and college, but he works as a divisional vice president for Trilogy Health Services, overseeing the people who work in several regional nursing homes. They found the inspiration to sculpt with snow one day when they’d finished shoveling the snow off the driveway and noticed the pile looked roughly like the shape of a car. After a little bit of carving and smoothing, that first project was done, and they were hooked.
“It’s just really taking a big pile that’s bigger than you have to have it, and then you cut it away so the sheet stays a little more consistent,” he said.
It’s not just a winter activity for them. Apple and his family also enjoy making wild figures when they’re on vacation in places with beaches. They flew right past sand castles and advanced to cars, sharks, whales and unicorns. They’ve cut the bottom off a five-gallon bucket for those sculptures, and the trick is to get lots of water to help the structure hold its shape. They also learned to use a paintbrush or a bricklayers’ trowel to smooth out the sand.
They started looking around online for tips for sand and snow alike. For their snow sculptures, they added color, first using children’s finger paint and water on it. That transitioned into using a spray bottle. Now they’ve advanced to using a mix of acrylic paint and water to give a bigger splash of color.
The only limit seems to be their imagination and what others have tried online.
“We go on Pinterest and search around,” said Morgan, 13, whose favorite part is painting and sculpting. “Or you can look things up on Safari and think of ideas.”
The recent heavy snow has them thinking about bigger, more ambitious projects. They’ve been toying with the idea of sculpting a roller coaster.
When they’re done, their traditions might sound familiar to other people who’ve battled with snow.
“The kids always like some hot chocolate, so that’s part of the fun for them when they come back inside afterwards for the snow,” Apple said.
One challenge with their chosen mediums is how temporary they are. Snow melts; sand washes away when the tides come in from the ocean.
“I think that’s part of the fun for everybody,” Apple said. “We just take some pictures, and you always have the pictures to appreciate later on. That makes it a little easier.”