Back to Top

New Mexico #2: Tinkertown

September 27, 2010

I am going to try and do a semi-regular post on things that interest me in, of, or about New Mexico. I’m still very much learning about this place so let me know if there’s anything you think I need to check out. This post is on one of my favorite places in New Mexico, Tinkertown. I visited here in 1996, and named my dog “Zarata” after one of the carvings in the circus scene. Tinkertown is the creation on Ross Ward, who passed away in 2002 from Alzheimers. Tinkertown is located on the east side of the Sandia Mountains on the road that leads up to Sandia Crest.


outside of Timkertown:


from Tinkertown’s website:
“Ross Ward grew up in the Midwest, he was captivated by the tiny villages, farms and circuses created by “spare time carvers.” His own miniature world began with circus figures carved while in junior high school – now on display at the Tinkertown museum. He began carving the first figures for the turn-of-the-century general store in 1962.

Ross carved and built Tinkertown as a hobby for most of his adult life but he was even more prolific in his artistic endeavors of painting, etching, drawing and sculpture. A self taught artist, he was a show painter for carnivals for over 30 years, traveling the country painting on all the major carnival shows and in winter quarters from Texas to Florida.

It took Ward over 40 years to carve, collect, and lovingly construct what is now Tinkertown Museum. His miniature wood-carved figures were first part of a traveling exhibit, driven to county fairs and carnivals in the 1960s and ’70s. Today over 50,000 glass bottles form rambling walls that surround a 22-room museum. Wagon wheels, old fashioned store fronts, and wacky western memorabilia make Tinkertown’s exterior as much as a museum as the wonders within.”
When I visited in 1996 this was my first time seeing walls constructed using bottles and cement. The image of the light showing through these stuck with me. Here’s some exterior pictures:






here’s a picture of Ross and Carla Ward on one of their travels to places similar in nature to Tinkertown.

talking with Carla at the museum she explained that they would take trips to see Alex Jordan and his House on the Rock, Dr. Evermore and the Forevertron, the Wisconsin Concrete Park and other installations throughout the U.S. Ross did not work on this in solitude ignorant of others creations but had connections with people creating in the same manner throughout the US. He was very interested in creating an environment in the style of Grandma Prisby’s Bottle Village in California and Reverend Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden in Georgia.
Ward was a great sign painter too. Tinkertown is filled with signs, mainly of inspirational quotes, that he painted. Here are a couple:


and here’s a short tour of the inside:





“I did all this while you were watching TV” – Ross Ward


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

2 comments on “New Mexico #2: Tinkertown”

Posts by Pete Railand

A Time of Expectant Hopes

A Time of Expectant Hopes

October 24, 2019

“A Time of Expectant Hopes,” a collaboration between Pete Railand and Jenna Valoe, including works inspired by 19th century union banners, suffragist banners, and modern day activist banners. Opening Friday…

More By Pete Railand