Clock Drawings, 2009-2011

I collect old wind-up alarm clocks. Occasionally I come across a clock that is perfectly good, but was over-wound by the owner and then set aside. Years later I discover the clock at an antique store still in good condition and still over-wound. What I find compelling is that the energy stored in the spring of the clock is the direct physical energy of someone who, likely, passed away a long time ago.

What I have done is to channel some of this found energy into a drawing. For the first drawing I used a 1934 Westclox Big Ben Chime Alarm, which I purchased at a yard sale at an old farmhouse west of Kingston, Ontario. As it was a women’s style clock and in almost new condition, I will conjecture that it was the wife of a farmer who posited that energy in the spring of the clock sometime in the 1930s.

To facilitate the drawing, I partially disassembled the clock and prepared a piece of paper to fit over the face. I then rocked the movement until it began to tick, fitted the piece of paper and replaced the hands of the clock. Glued to the minute hand was a small pencil lead. Powered by the winding motion of a woman’s hand some seventy years ago, the lead was dragged across the surface of the paper for a period of 23.3 hours. The result is a record of that energy as it slowly dissipated.

An accompanying text panel is created for each piece.

A recent 23.3 hour drawing by someone who likely died a long time ago, 2009. Graphite on paper 13x13”


I have an old, copper alarm clock made by Veglia in Italy. While I do not know who owned the clock, I do know who last serviced it. Written on the inside is “Bill Tets, February 15, 1939.” Typically, a clock repairman will scratch a service date on the outside/rear of the clock, but not wanting to mar the surface of this charming old clock, he wrote in pencil on the inside. Although clean and in otherwise good condition, the clock does not run, so, despite Mr. Tet’s best efforts, it is probable that the clock functioned for only a short period after he serviced it. And since a good clock repairman winds the clock before returning it to the customer, there is a good chance that the energy stored in the alarm spring is that of Bill Tets.

I removed the clock’s movement and placed it on a piece of carbon paper. I then released the spring of the alarm causing the hammer to rapidly hit the carbon paper. So vigorous was the hammering that the movement dragged itself across the paper for a short distance. That energy was possibly the last of Bill Tets, clock repairman.

Possible the last of Bill Tets, clock repairman, 2009. Carbon paper drawing 10x13”


This 1925 Westclox “America” had been in service for many years. At one time hobbled and then fitted with a makeshift leg, this veteran of the Depression Era was so well used that the nickel-plating around the winding key is completely worn away. Curiously, both the alarm setting knob and the corresponding hand are missing, effectively disabling the alarm. Perhaps the owner woke naturally at the same time each morning and had no need of an alarm or perhaps there was just no reason to get up.

There is no service mark on the clock and a clockmaker would have had a more suitable replacement leg, so it is reasonable to assume that the owner himself made the repairs. Despite the alarm being disabled (or because the alarm was disabled), the alarm spring was still partially wound. I removed the movement, placed it on a piece of carbon paper and released the spring. The alarm hammer thumped the surface, while the cogs of the alarm spring bit the paper and pulled the movement forward in an ungainly, limping motion.

Clock Drawing: Trail of a Peg Leg American

Trail of a Peg Leg American