Tim Fowler

Status

Extant

Address

Seattle, Washington, 98164, us

Visiting Information

Fowler is happy to have people view and photograph his work; he has always had “a steady trickle of people over the years but … is glad that [he’s] not on a busy street.”

About the Artist/Site

Tim Fowler was born in Indianapolis, Indiana and moved with his family to western Massachusetts, where he grew up and attended South Hadley High School. As a young man he took a lot of odd jobs and seasonal work: a recycling center at the town dump, flea markets, a paper mill back in Massachusetts; then, as he migrated west, gas stations, restaurants, and oil fields in Wyoming, and orchards in eastern Washington state. He ended up in Seattle in 1977.

Fowler started working in the trades in the 1980s, eventually specializing as a roofer (although mostly working part-time), a trade he pursued for some thirty years. In 1986 he bought a ruin of a house and modified the single-family residence into a duplex; he figured he could be no worse a landlord than the many terrible ones he had dealt with over the years, so began renting out the parts of the building that he was not using.

“Low overhead is a key part of artistic freedom,” Fowler writes, and the low level of expenses of this house, in bad condition in a crime-ridden neighborhood, gave him some leeway for tentatively branching out in creative ways. Around 1984 he was working with a roommate who rebuilt chimneys, and he began contemplating what could be made with bricks and mortar. “Then we went to see a documentary on Antoni Gaudí and there it was,” he writes. “The questions were where, how, and when. I visited Barcelona in 1991 and Watts Towers in ’98 or ’99.” Other inspirations for him were Dick and Jane’s Spot and Bulwinkleland in Oakland, CA. He reroofed the house and patio at the Walker Rock Garden (at a rate so low it could be considered a partial donation), helped out at their public openings, and did small repairs in the house for Mrs. Walker, although he never worked on the stonework at this site.

Fowler had carved wood since he had been a teen but didn’t have the time to even think about ornamenting the house with carvings until around 1995, when he began adding woodwork to the garage. He wasn’t certain he’d be able to “get away with” the decoration, but given the crime and often-hostile tenor of the neighborhood, “the criminals were so focused on what could be easily sold that they never noticed the sculpture.” He continued, “I’ve had guys scope my garage when the door was open and never see the [art]work over their heads.”

He works almost entirely by himself, although he will recruit help as needed to move the large mosaic figures and animals. While he would like to build a tower on site (“at least a small one”), he is wary of being targeted by the city, although this hasn’t happened to date, largely, he thinks, because he has scaled back his creations with this in mind. His current neighbors are supportive of his work, but the neighborhood is gentrifying rapidly, becoming “a dormitory for tech workers,” and he is concerned about the future. Generally, however, new arrivals “seem tolerant and also so distracted by phones, dogs, and long hours” that he hopes it won’t become a problem.

Fowler is happy to have people view and photograph his work; he has always had “a steady trickle of people over the years but … is glad that [he’s] not on a busy street.”

~Jo Farb Hernández

Map & Site Information


Seattle, Washington, 98164 us
Latitude/Longitude: 47.60621 / -122.332071

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