Showcasing the Arts

July/August 2017 Featured Artist:
Timmy Walden


Timmy Walden
Timmy Walden, left, says the marble community includes players and makers, and emphasizes the importance of teaching the latter in order to perpetuate the marble tradition.

Timmy Walden has lived in Tompkinsville — Monroe County — all his life. In 2016, the Kentucky Arts Council recognized him as a master traditional artists and awarded him a Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship grant to teach the heritage and practice of marble making to an apprentice, his 25-year-old son Ben. He’s been married to Mary Ann Bowman Walden for 33 years.

Artist’s statement

People all over the world have been playing marble games since prehistoric times. Where we live in south central Kentucky, two marble games have been passed down for generations: Rolley Hole and Tennessee Square. Both are strategic team games played by adults. We have fun but we also take the games seriously, like some people are about playing golf or shooting pool.

Over the years, we have figured out how to make marbles that suit these games perfectly. There is a long history, from finding a small round rock to call a marble, to rounding the rock using a tool called a whirly jig, and later hammering or chipping with a file. Now, we have a background in all these methods, and we use power tools.

Marbles by Timmy Walden The community includes marble players and marble makers. We depend on one another, and several of us do both. There are not as many marble makers today, so it is important to teach the craft in order to perpetuate the tradition and keep it from dying.

The look of the marble is important. Players look for a precisely round marble, a strong one, that won’t break on impact and that has few or no blemishes. Most of my customers are in Kentucky and Tennessee, but some come from as far as Utah, Texas, New Jersey, Missouri and Georgia, just to watch me make them a handmade marble from Kentucky rocks.




Timmy Walden
Tompkinsville, Ky.


Page last updated: July 10, 2017
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