Tinkertown, on the far side of the mountain from Albuquerque
July 5, 2013 8:50 PM   Subscribe

It may take months for this odyssey of a place to completely sink in: quirky and utterly fascinating, Tinkertown Museum contains a world of miniature carved-wood characters. The museum's late founder, Ross Ward, spent more than 40 years carving and collecting the hundreds of figures that populate this cheerfully bizarre museum, including an animated miniature Western village, a Boot Hill cemetery, and a 1940s circus exhibit. Ragtime piano music, a 40-foot sailboat (that traveled around the world for a decade), and a life-size general store are other highlights. The walls surrounding this 22-room museum have been fashioned out of more than 50,000 glass bottles pressed into cement. This homage to folk art, found art, and eccentric kitsch tends to strike a chord with people of all ages.

R.J. Ward was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in the late 1990s, and his family and friends distracted him from his symptoms with one last project: an art car. The museum serves as a memorial to Ward's creativity and dedication to his craft.
posted by filthy light thief (12 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
Tinkertown is amazing—great post. Definitely planning to visit when I'm back home later this month.

I think my favorite part of the place is the hand-lettered signage all over the place that proudly proclaims "I did all this while you were watching TV!"—which statement is itself an anachronism now, but an apt and charming one.
posted by Sokka shot first at 9:13 PM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've been there a couple of times, and love it. It's so... exuberant! It was more fascinating to me after studying Self Made Worlds, a book about outsider/folk/alternative artists.* I am so fascinated.

*None of those terms are great, imho, but are commonly used. Wikipedia.
posted by annsunny at 9:33 PM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

What an odd and entertaining place. It was one of the highlights of our trip to Albuquerque and Santa Fe a few years back.
posted by maxim0512 at 4:38 AM on July 6, 2013

Here's the location on Google maps, and the Facebook page for the museum, wherein I have learned that Carla Ward, RJ's wife, still runs the place.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:59 AM on July 6, 2013

awesome. I am going to Albuquerque in a few weeks. I'm definitely putting this on our to-do list.
posted by vespabelle at 7:39 AM on July 6, 2013

Love that place. Some other cool stuff on the Turquoise Trail.
posted by gottabefunky at 10:17 AM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Turquoise Trail interactive map. Basically, the Turquoise Trail is primarily New Mexico State Road 14 that runs from I-40 east of Albuquerque, north to Santa Fe. Also note that if you're trying to plug Tinkertown into a GPS device, it's in Sandia Park, NM, not Albuquerque.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:56 AM on July 6, 2013

I met Ross while we were at the New Mexico Arts and Crafts Fair at the state fairgrounds back in the late 90's. The Alzheimer's had taken its toll but he was still very friendly and was always being greeted by artists and friends.
posted by jabo at 12:32 PM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Coooooooooool!!!! Thanks!!
posted by windykites at 5:03 PM on July 6, 2013

Here are my pictures of the signs from Tinkertown. I didn't get them all, but it's a good sampling of RJ Ward's thoughts.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:16 AM on July 7, 2013

If you're planning on going, my one parting tip is to bring a dollar or two in quarters. Some of the animated scenes play on their own, others go at the push of a button, and there are a few that require a quarter or two to play. There are also old carnival and tavern-type machines that test your luck, evaluate what kind of lover you are, and predict your future job. They actually give a quarter to your group when you pay to enter, which is a cute incentive to try out more of the animated features in the museum.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:35 AM on July 19, 2013

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