Ross Ward began carving wood in junior high school. His first piece was a miniature wooden circus. Little did he know this was to the first of many thousands of carvings, paintings, etchings, and drawings he would complete in his lifetime. His first subject was a fitting one: Ward eventually gained employment as a carnival backdrop painter and for over 30 years he traveled with the circus, exhibiting his self-taught paintings and carved miniatures around the world.
Today a 22-room museum, also built by Ross Ward, is packed with Ward’s art as well as his eccentric collections of American ephemera. The museum itself is a curiosity built out of 50,000 glass bottles. A true labor of love, it took Ward four decades to build, collect and stock the Tinkertown museum. Wagon wheels, old fashioned store fronts, and western memorabilia also make Tinkertown’s exterior as much a part of the museum as the wonders within.
Among the many other items the museum features, besides Ward’s art, are thousands of wedding cake couples, antique tools, bullet pencils and much, much more. Other highlights include Otto the one-man-band and Esmerelda, the Fortune Teller (a quarter each) as well as a 35-foot-long antique wooden sailboat that braved a 10 year voyage around the world. It is displayed in the backyard.
A testament to just how much one man can accomplish in his life, in the words of Ross Ward: “I did this all while you were watching TV.”
Know Before You Go
Tinkertown is located on the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway in Sandia Park on NM Highway 536, on the way to the Sandia Crest. Take exit 175 North off I-40. After exiting I-40, take Highway 14 six miles up the mountain through Cedar Crest and turn left on Highway 536, the road to Sandia Crest. Tinkertown is 1.5 miles on the left. Tinkertown is just 20 minutes from Albuquerque.