Randall Cleaver, an artist who uses found objects to create unusual clocks and lamps, opens the door of his Takoma Park home just as a chime is ringing. He is the Clock Man, whose timepieces made from water heaters, waffle irons, bike wheels, Pabst Blue Ribbon cans, old Russian submarine clocks and car parts exist in every corner of his house.
The fanciful clocks have earned Cleaver, 53, several group and one-man shows since he started in the mid-1980s. Thirty of his pieces are now on display at the National Watch and Clock Museum in Columbia, Pa.
As he talks about his art, almost every word is echoed by chime and ticking sounds.
“When I start on a piece, I go shopping,” he says. He walks around his neighborhood, visits auction houses and antique malls in nearby states, and goes to junkyards such as Community Forklift . He also explains that his best finds come from friends cleaning out houses.
“I was thinking about Victorian science apparatus,” Cleaver says, walking over to a tall clock on the first floor. The base is made of piano legs, with Victorian turns of the wood, which he got from a friend who restores pianos. He made what looks like a directional signal, two white hands going in opposite directions. Then he added a globe.
“I like the shape of old waffle irons,” he said, taking a clock down from the shelf. The iron part was cleaned out and replaced with a clock. When closed, the art deco lines give it a Tiffany-like appearance.
“Here are the undersides of kitchen colanders, just two pieced together.”
Cleaver, a lean 6-foot-2, ducks slightly to go down to his basement. The space in this suburban Cape Cod house is roomier than his old place in Philadelphia, a 450-square-foot house and studio.
At 11 a.m., every clock is buzzing and ringing. He barely pays attention. “A lot of them are animated,” he says. Queen Elizabeth II is doing her wave in one.
One wall of the basement is a hoarder’s dream. “The problem with found art is storage. I love to pick up things from the street,” Cleaver says. Cheese graters are apparently a frequent throwaway.
“I was helping a friend demolish a building and found this piece of plaster and created a diorama. I had bought a collection of wax nuns and now the nuns are rotating. I’m not Catholic, but I’m sort of going with it.
“Here is an old stand-up radio and I put it on an old coffee table. I want it to have some musical element. So I have this xylophone and I’m trying to find a way to fit it. The radio is pretty beat up, but I like to keep the actual finish. I like all the dings and scratches. It’s part of the history of the piece.”
In one corner he pulls out a plastic eye. “One eye was cool, but I got 80 of them — that’s cool,” he says, tossing it around in his hand. The project will eventually come along.
Through May. National Watch and Clock Museum, 514 Poplar St., Columbia, Pa. Admission: adult, $8; seniors (age 65 and older), $7; children age 5-16, $4; children younger than 5, free; family, $20.