Brad Walton and I worked for the same advertising agency many years ago. He was one of the graphic designers on staff and I was the copywriter. The agency itself was a dysfunctional mess of ego and assholism. Us worker bees suffered mightily under the owner’s son. And the damn firm made money hand over first. Go figure.
Brad and I became pretty good friends, in part because of our mutual grunt status at the firm and in part because he was just a damn great person that I happened to naturally get along with. He was one of those inherently funny guys whose every thought opened a different perspective for your mind to ponder while outwardly you guffawed and laughed at his comments and reflections.
Among Brad’s numerous talents was a Force-like connectivity he shared with rusted things. Old machine cogs, solid but oxidizing ¼” steel plates, aged mattress springs, and other unnameable misplaced bits of metal that were doomed to wither over the millennia were like long lost friends to Brad. He’d wander scrap yards and old fields and pick out the pieces that “spoke to him.” Indeed, he’d lug around a crate of dismembered and disassociated chunks and scraps of stuff until satisfied that he’d found the parts that reached out to him that day.
Then he’d go home, dump the pile onto the workbench and make a clock. An actual functioning timepiece. Here’s the kicker: He didn’t use anything to attach the parts together. No nuts, bolts, glue or compression gizmos. Through his relationship with each individual piece the clock came together, each item holding its neighbor in position through divine inertia. He told me “They just kind of let me know how they need to go together…”
The only part of the piece that wasn’t “natural” was the small mechanical clock body, the part that was fitted into the structure to operate the rusty hands on the clock face. It too was held in place by nothing more than energy from the adjoining pieces.
Brad is one of those keeping Austin, Texas weird, and I have no idea if he’s still putting his clocks together. Or rather if he is still helping facilitate new lives for the bits of scrap that call out to him. But if I were a discarded chunk of steel, I’d hope Brad would wander by and toss me in his crate. If for no reason other than to experience how his mind would follow its chi and help me and my metal allies reshape ourselves into something with a completely new identity.
About Great Works Wednesday
These are blog posts that shine a light on those people, places, institutions and organizations that do wonderful work. It’s a step outside of the daily marketing and advertising worlds that many of us occupy, and calls attention to the outstanding thinking that may inspire or help you see things in a different light. It is an online salute to the power of great works. Click here to see Ding’s Great Works.