Courtesy Tom Harold
Tom Harold was, well, moved. During a visit to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis years ago, he was captivated by George Rhoads’s kinetic sculpture Science in Motion, with its colorful balls hurtling along multiple motorized tracks. Although the machine did nothing practical, it delighted Harold. “I thought to myself, I really want to build something like that,” he recalls.
With no formal welding experience, it would be a couple of years before he finally could. Harold took metal-arts classes. He bought a welder and began practicing on his own. To speed his progress, Harold traded a desk job for a stint working second shift as a shop welder. “I learned the basics about machining, and they let me pick a lot of metal out of the scrap bin,” he says.
By 2018, Harold was selling his own sculptures, featuring a series of marbles swooping through circuitous tracks, full-time. While his sculptures start at $75, more intricate works fetch up to $10,000 each. A single piece can take several months to complete. He often works with stainless-steel rods, which he gently hand-shapes. Next, he uses a rotary tool to smooth areas to be joined, then welds them together. To form a sculpture’s track, Harold places the rails in parallel, varying the space between them depending on the marble’s required speed.
Buyers have included professors and engineers, and commissions have come from as far as Spain. Other pieces remain closer to home. There’s one at the Central Library. Another resides at an Indiana autism treatment center, where kids delight as marbles shoot through their runs.
“I love seeing them make people happy,” he says. “I think there needs to be more happiness in the world.”