Time was you could go places in New Mexico and one of the crazier places you could go to was the Tinkertown Museum on the Turquoise Trail in Sandia Park. There you would find an amorphous structure and grounds that displayed a genuine fear of blank spaces and the unbounded creative output of its creator, Ross Ward. Sadly, Ward died in 2002 and the global pandemic has temporarily shuttered the doors of the Tinkertown Museum, but the new book The Tinker of Tinkertown: The Life and Art of Ross Ward is a tribute to his work and a creative life well lived.
Ward started early in life as a painter and woodcarver, falling in with the circus scene as a backdrop artist and sign painter adding a distinctive Wild West flair to traveling shows. From there he found his way to New Mexico in 1968, beginning work on what would become Tinkertown in 1981, making it about as close to a traveling circus as a stationary place can be.
Written by his wife Carla Ward, The Tinker of Tinkertown is one part biography and three parts portfolio. If you know anything about Ross Ward, it should be that he was prolific. His drawings, paintings, carvings fill this book in a style equally devoid of white space. Driven by his early adoption of the motto, “I did all this while you were watching TV,” Tinkertown itself became the repository and living embodiment of that life’s work. This book is both a remembrance of his life and an extension of his creation that still lives on at the Tinkertown Museum, albeit in a mothballed state like so much else.
If there is a takeaway lesson from The Tinker of Tinkertown it is that a creative life is one lived with intention and curiosity. Ward clearly had both in spades, but beyond that, it is clear that he put his talent to use in a way that simply made people happy. There is just not enough of that going around these days, and this book is a reminder that we all have the same 24 hours (and the same devastating pandemic). Use them wisely.