Friday, January 13, 2012
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Ann Durley's clockmaking began as a way to use foundry molds and other accumulated items, but has taken on a life of its own for the Independence artist.
January 10, 2012
INDEPENDENCE -- It's not easy for more than one person to move about inside Ann Durley's workshop.
It's tidy enough. There's minimal clutter and most of her belongings are stored away neatly on shelves, in buckets and in tiny, labeled drawers.
But a lifetime of antique collecting has turned the converted one-car garage into the most random of five-and-dimes.
There are a few antique book presses and stamp kits. Mostly what you'll find, however, are game pieces, faucet heads, skeleton keys, gears, dominoes, calipers, railroad car miniatures, old playing cards and more -- thousands of items in all.
Durley has accumulated thousands upon thousands of ordinary items like rulers, pick-up sticks, dominoes and bingo numbers.
Durley said these "bits and pieces" aren't worth anything on their own, but still too good to throw away.
And naturally -- to Durley -- they're perfect material for building clocks.
"That one is just moments away from being finished," she said, pointing to one specimen. Its little badge says B51 -- part of Durley's own numbering system.
It's an assemblage of colored Popsicle sticks, drumsticks and a paint brush, among other things. The components alone would be trash. Together, they make a visually eclectic sort of sense.
It keeps time, too.
"Blended from an old private formula in which experience and skill combine in producing this perfect mixture."
Durley has a vintage pipe tobacco tin with that advertising. She wants to put it on a business card or clock label someday.
"It doesn't say anything about tobacco," she said. "It could be anything ... that's what the clocks are."
A Missouri native, Durley is a retired engineering technician. For the last six years she's been producing mixed-media clocks from items she finds and collects at antique stores, flea markets and estate sales.
"A lot of this people would throw from junk drawers," she said. "This is one way to reuse them and give them another life."
Each clock contains a quartz movement that actually makes it functional. But that's about the extent of the common thread.
Durley starts out with one piece she finds unique, like a small statue or domino, and a board, frame or lid for a canvas. She then builds outward intuitively, scouring her seemingly endless inventory for parts that fit.
"I don't think it's hard, but I could never build the same clock twice," she said. "I wouldn't even try."
Durley moved to Independence 20 years ago and lives with her partner, Anna Mallard, in a historic home. The two are founding members of the River Gallery in downtown Independence.
Durley, who ran a quilt and antique store here for many years, was never an artist herself, she said. That changed one day in 2006, after acquiring a large collection of wooden foundry molds used in sandcasting.
Durley wanted them for their antique value. One day "something sparked and I thought they needed to go together to be used," she said.
She eventually built a clock.
"It made everything practical and recognizable," she said.
Durley displayed her work at the gallery, came back a day later and found that it had been sold. She became handy with a drill, chop saw and router and has been building regularly since.
Her collection is not all run-of-the-mill, however, and contains many oddities like wooden foundry molds, tin toys and figurines.
She's crafted 350 clocks to date, with most taking two to three days to finish. A drafter by trade, she meticulously logs all the contents in every final product.
"It's taken over my life," Durley said.
"But it's like a playground in here," she continued. "It's fun to go through this stuff and see what you can make out of it."
Some clocks are themed, provided Durley has the material to complete one -- she incorporated lenses, a film cutting board and black-and-white pictures into a photo-centric piece. But most of the time, the work is gleefully random.
Durley's clocks can be found in Independence and a few galleries on the coast and in McMinnville. Some of her customers reside as far away as the East Coast and Alaska.
"It's not hugely financially rewarding," Durley said. "I do make enough money, though, to buy more stuff."
She's in no danger of running out. Her raw materials extend outside the shop, including the spur-like heads of a garden cultivator she's brainstorming how to incorporate into a clock.
"There are things in here where I've forgotten where it is," Durley said.
"If I live to be 100, was always building clocks, I still wouldn't be able to go through all of it."
Check It Out
* Ann Durley's mixed-media clocks can be seen on display inside the River Gallery, 184 S. Main St., Independence. She'll be one of several artists contributing to the gallery's annual Wild Women show, which opens Tuesday.