Meet Randall Cleaver – The Dumpster Diver Who (Almost) Got Away

Cuckoo birds popping from mid-century waffle irons.   Icarus falling from the sky on a vintage heater stage with plexiglass curtains.   An elephant’s eye swaying with a clock’s movement.

Found-object clockmaker and Philadelphia Dumpster Diver Randall Cleaver’s home is a symphony of  light, movement and sound.

18_07_26 1 Randall CleaverTwo of Randall’s captivating time pieces: On “Angel in Time”  (left)  the wings glide up and down,  while the eyes open and close and fiber optic lights blink on and off.   A bagpiper’s legs  (right)  form a clock’s moving pendulum.


In the past three years,  we’ve visited 16 imaginative homes and studios of the Philadelphia Dumpster Divers – that merry band of found-object artists who have worked and played together since 1992.

And today we’ll lead you through the intriguing home, studio and garden of Randall Cleaver and wife Beth Richwine – with a side trip for lunch.

18_07_26 2 Randall CleaverRandall Cleaver with “Happy Feat”, his first animated clock.  The vintage Victrola case boasts a pinball game and foosball players kicking bells.  Famed tin-can artist Bobby Hansson also dances a jig.


A Philadelphia Dumpster Diver since 1997,  Randall earned his BFA in sculpture at Penn State University,  and created art while working as a museum preparator and packer at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

He began incorporating clocks into his sculptures as a humorous creative challenge in the 1980s,  after noticing that clocks were showing up on every appliance he purchased.

18_07_26 3 Randall Cleaver CM_0402Randall built the copper airships that swing around the Eiffel Tower on “Aerotime” (left).  “A Pig in the Polk” (right) features spinning figures of President James Polk,  while a fake flame crackles in the old heater base.


But clocks weren’t the only happy fate awaiting Randall:  After a long-distance courtship,  he married Beth Richwine – a conservator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History who he met at a friend’s wedding.

And,  yes,  some things were obviously meant to be:   When the couple bought their Takoma Park,  MD home in 2006,  it was located on  (where else?)  Philadelphia Avenue.

18_07_26 4 Randall Cleaver DC_5396Does anyone really know what time it is?  Randall and Beth certainly do:  An animated display of Randall’s clocks light up a living room wall beneath a shelf with Beth’s handmade pottery.


In 2008,  Randall’s obsession led him to the School of Horology in Columbia,  PA,   where he learned clock repair and restoration,  a skill that helped refine his art.

He also repairs clocks for private,  business and government customers,  including the U.S. Supreme Court,  House of Representatives and Smithsonian Institution.

18_07_26 5 Randall Cleaver DC_5653Pieces from Randall’s antique clock collection share space with his own creations.  And,  yes,  he made the white oak mantelpiece.


Randall also enjoys making found-object lamps, particularly from vintage kitchen items like coffee pots and blenders…

18_07_26 6 Randall CleaverA collection of Randall’s unlikely lamps made with (from left) an electric kettle,  a pair of metal colanders,  an antique porcelain doll head,  and an electric coffee pot.

…and he’s been experimenting with hand-cranked automata using mechanical parts that (as with his clocks) he often constructs himself.

18_07_26 7 Randall Cleaver CM_0358“Migration” was inspired by “The Birds”,  Alfred Hitchcock’s classic horror film.  When cranked,  the birds go up and down,  the phone booth revolves,  and Hitchcock’s TV theme song plays.


So,  click here to take our complete photo tour of Randall and Beth’s fun-filled home and studio.

As always,  when you arrive at our Unexpected Philadelphia website,  click on any thumbnail image to page through larger versions of all the photos.    You’ll also see a caption under each large photo if you’re on a non-mobile device like a PC or laptop.

18_07_26 8 Randall Cleaver DC_5626Randall in his art studio and clock workshop. Check the Internet for videos of his animated clocks in motion!

 P.S.  You can follow our blog by clicking the black “Follow” button near the top right of the screen.

Increased family responsibilities mean that we can’t post as often,  but we’ll unveil another great house tour around year’s end.


Kate & Dave