The Dumpster Divers are back — and you’re invited!

Last fall,  we told you about a grand exhibit marking the 25th anniversary of the Philadelphia Dumpster Divers,  that predictably unpredictable band of found-object artists who have been re-purposing the city’s castoffs since 1992.

This year,  they’re back with an intriguing exhibit of all new work and you’re definitely invited,  starting with a First Friday celebration on Nov. 2 from 2-10 p.m. at the Dupree Gallery,  703 S. 6th Street.

18_10_30 4 Dumpster Diver ShowThe Divers and friends previewed “Re-Crafted”,  their new exhibit,  last weekend at the Dupree Gallery in Philadelphia’s Queen Village section.

Through Dec. 29,  thirty different Divers — including new members Tim Barton and Eve Hoyt — will offer witty,  smaller-scale assemblages — and,  yes,  that definitely says one-of-a-kind holiday gifts to us!

18_10_30 1 Dumpster Diver ShowClockwise from top left:  Work by Tim Barton,  Ellen Sall,  James Dupree,  Neil Benson,  and Eve Hoyt.

You can check out the complete artist list and all the gallery hours at the Dumpster Divers website, here.

18_10_30 2 Dumpster Diver ShowClockwise from top left:  Work by Burnell Yow!,  Eva Aanya Preston,  Carol Cole,  Bruce Gast,  Ann Keech,  and Lion Studio.  Center: Leo Sewell.

As an added treat,  the Divers are partnering with CraftNOW Philadelphia and almost two dozen local museums,  galleries and fine craft groups,  each of which is offering November events to celebrate our city’s innovative craft culture — including the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s prestigious contemporary craft show (Nov. 2-4).

18_10_30 5 Dumpster Diver Show“Look!  Up in the sky!  It’s…” an eyeball-covered mobile by artist Sally Willowbee  (second from left).

This year’s citywide craft theme is “Making a Difference” and the Divers have been doing that for 26 years – reminding us all that “trash is simply a failure of imagination.”

18_10_30 3 Dumpster Diver ShowThat’s artist and gallery owner James Dupree — Philadelphia’s own “Black Picasso” — in the white coat at center.  Click here to see our photo tour of his fabulous Mantua studio.

Information on all the November craft events can be found at the CraftNOW Philadelphia website, here.   And don’t forget to check the Divers’ own website  for a list of gallery hours between now and Dec. 29.

18_10_30 9 Dumpster Diver ShowWe’ll see you here!

Kate & Dave



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

Visit the Inspiring Studio of Artist (& Dumpster Diver!) James E. Dupree

Spending a dreary winter afternoon with Philadelphia artist James E. Dupree is like winning a trip to the tropics:   He’s warm,  funny,  gracious,  and full of fascinating stories about pinging – and getting pinged by – the conventional art world as an African-American male.

18_02_27 1 James Dupree DC_4938James E. Dupree – Philadelphia’s own Black Picasso

And visiting Dupree’s art-packed,  8,600 square foot studio in Philadelphia’s Mantua section is like exploring an inspiring alternate universe.

18_02_27 2 James Dupree StudioThree rooms in the marvelous maze that is Dupree’s West Philadelphia studio Continue reading

Dumpster Diver Exhibit Extended to November 4!

In our last post,  we told you about “DUMPSTER DIVERSions”,  our 25th anniversary pop-up exhibit by 46 members of the Philadelphia Dumpster Divers,  that predictably unpredictable band of found-object artists and their painter/photographer/performance artist friends….

17_10_16 1 Dumpster Divers Exhibit DC_4073Some of the more than 125 works you’ll find behind our purple door.


Based on the encouraging feedback we’ve received in our first two weeks  (hey, we can never predict what will happen when we schedule one of our unlikely projects!),  we’ve extended the exhibit to Saturday,  Nov. 4.

17_10_16 2 Dumpster Divers Exhibit DC_4077aCollage,  fiber and found-object art by Eva Aanya Preston,   Ellen Sall,  I. George Bilyk, Burnell Yow! and  Bruce Gast

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The Philadelphia Dumpster Divers’ 25th anniversary exhibit opens this Friday,  and we’ll have Divers on the inside,  Divers on the outside  (check out our new window display,  below)  and Divers on our website  (don’t miss our two-part anniversary album of Diver art).

But first,  we’d like to invite you to visit….


The Divers,  of course,  are that merry band of found-object artists and their painter-photographer-performance art friends who have worked and played together since April Fool’s Day,  1992.

17_09_30 1 Dumpster DiversAmong our 46 featured Diver artists are (clockwise from top left):  Leo Sewell,  Ellen Sall,  John Jonik,  Hugo Hsu,  Smokie Kittner and Harry Anderson

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The Dumpster Diver Photo Directory Is Up!

Last month,  we told you about our upcoming 25th anniversary celebration for the Philadelphia Dumpster Divers.

The Divers are that spirited band of found-object artists and friends (photographers,  painters,  a poet and more) whose homes and studios we’ve documented on our  “Unexpected Philadelphia” website.

17_09_25 1 Dumpster Diver FormalA 1990s rogue’s gallery of (semi-)dressed-up Divers….

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The Dumpster Divers Are Coming!

Over the past two years,  we’ve introduced you to the Philadelphia Dumpster Divers – that big-hearted coalition of artists who have played,  exhibited and produced witty, found-object art together since 1992.

17_08_21 1 Philadelphia Dumpster Divers IGBWho are these people,  and do they always dress like that?   Well,   actually,  some of them do….  (Photo by I. George Bilyk)

We’ve also led you on photo tours of 15 striking Diver homes and studios…

17_08_21 2 Dumpster Diver Homes CM_DCClick here to visit the secret lairs of artists like (clockwise from top left)  Alden Cole,  Isaiah Zagar,  Susan Moloney,  and Betsy Alexander & Burnell Yow!


This April Fool’s Day marked the Divers’ 25th anniversary and,  to celebrate,  we’re hosting “DUMPSTER DIVERSions”,  an exhibit of the Divers’ found-object art assemblages,  collages,  paintings,  photography and more in our South Philadelphia studio.

17_08_21 3 Dumpster Diver Art 3Definitely the Divers:  Work by Bruce Gast,  Randall Cleaver and Leslie Stuart Matthews.  (Photos courtesy of the artists.)

Opening night is Friday,  October 6 from 6-9 pm,  and our doors will open every Friday and Saturday in October from 6-9 pm at the corner of E. Passyunk Avenue and Tasker Street. Continue reading

Introducing Our New Dumpster Diver House Tour: Meet Leo Sewell

When Philadelphia’s Please Touch Museum moved to Fairmount Park’s Memorial Hall in 2008,  they asked city artist Leo Sewell to build a replica of the Statue of Liberty’s torch and arm,  which had originally been displayed in the park during the 1876 Centennial Exposition.

Leo obliged the children’s museum – with a fun-filled,  40-foot rendition that features everything from toys and skis,  to discarded license plates and road signs.

17_05_04 1 Leo Sewell Liberty Torch LSLeo Sewell’s Lady Liberty tribute took three years to plan and construct.   (Photo courtesy of Leo Sewell.)


Leo’s introduction to the joys of junk came early,  when he explored the dump near his childhood home.   His dad taught him to use tools,  and soon he was shaping and assembling industrial discards into wonderful new objects.

17_05_04 2 Leo Sewell DC_1618Leo constructs a flamingo in his studio.   The bird and its partner now grace the lobby of a Florida business building.

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Ready for a New Dumpster Diver House Tour? Meet Ellen Sall

A major perk of hosting our  Unexpected Philadelphia  website is that we get to run happily amok – with cameras in hand – through the homes and studios of our fellow Philadelphia Dumpster Divers,  that merry band of artists who have played,  exhibited and produced witty,  found-object art together since 1992.

So when “Dumpster Diva” Ellen Sall invited us to photograph her South Jersey home last August,  we had our beach clothes packed before the phone call ended.

17_02_22-1-ellen-sall-dc_6644“You expect us to drive all the way to the Jersey shore?  Can we come today??”


Ellen and her mom,  Bernice Rosenfeld,  began making beaded jewelry together in the early 1980s,  under the name “By Bernel”.  By the mid-1990s,  Ellen had struck out on her own,  making Fimo clay earrings and pendants that incorporated objects like beads and her own watercolor drawings.

17_02_22-2-ellen-sall-dc_6564Ellen and husband Robert Sall in the living room of what she calls their “HOE” house – “Heaven on Earth”.

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Flip the Script (Part 4): Beat the Election Blues, Dumpster Diver Style

Over the past several posts, we’ve told you about our new South Philadelphia window display,  a do-it-yourself remedy for the pre-election blues….

16_10_21-1-vote-tasker-side-dc_8280Twenty-eight smiling artists light up our windows at E. Passyunk & Tasker to remind you that the apocalypse isn’t quite here yet.

And,  yes,  regular readers of our  Unexpected Philadelphia  blog and website might recognize a few familiar faces…..

16_10_28-3-window-dumpster-diversSay, haven’t I wandered through your living room?

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