Scrap Metal Sculpture “Climbing Cliff” Inspires Entrepreneurs to Reach New Heights

Scrap Metal Sculpture “Climbing Cliff” Inspires Entrepreneurs to Reach New Heights


Bayview Yards commissioned a unique sculpture built from recycled technology and appliances by local artist, Tick Tock Tom. Composed of an array of scrap parts, vintage appliances, and other found objects, the 400 lb sculpture adorns the main staircase of Ottawa’s one-stop business acceleration shop. Intended to inspire hope and optimism, the piece represents the entrepreneur’s journey to overcome life’s challenges, such as launching a successful business.

Bayview Yards Prototyping Lab is fortunate to have Tom O’Leary, infamously known to the community as Tick Tock Tom, as our in-house Fabrication Shop Technician & Machine Operator, delivering traditional and advanced manufacturing projects to product developers and SMEs.  

“We approached Tom with the idea to create a metal sculpture for the stairwell within Bayview Yards in his whimsical style using recycled bits and pieces of discarded technology. We asked that the sculpture be inspiring, innovative, unique, and embody the spirit of entrepreneurs and their journey.  When I saw this piece for the first time it blew me away. Tom created a character that has strength, a clear goal, a look of fierce determination in his face, a tie to technology past that we build on and improve, and a spirit that says I am doing this and I will succeed. It brings together so much of the themes we strive to achieve at Bayview.”

Richard Quigley 
Vice President, Infrastructure Services

Tick Tock Tom — the artist

headshot of tick tock tom
Tom O’Leary (Tick Tock Tom), Artist & Fabrication Shop Technician & Machine Operator of Bayview Yards Prototyping Lab

Tom’s unique and robust career has informed his artistic practice in many ways. He began sculpting 25 years ago when a friend gave him a vintage CRT tube monitor inviting him to do something creative with it. He carefully took apart the monitor and merged the components with parts from a broken VCR to form the shape of a human head. His first attempt at sculpting impressed the eye of a local business owner who later commissioned a life-sized sculpture of a robot-like human form to be placed outside his shop. The experience inspired Tom to receive formal welding training, which further developed his creative abilities further.

He began working at a fabrication factory on an assembly line building truck-mounted auxiliary power units. The experience gave him the practical understanding of parts manufacturing, the nuts and bolts that inform his artistic practice and work with the Lab to this day. This opportunity gave him practical knowledge of mechanical assembly and fabrication.

His journey later led him to operate a robotic welding system at a local metal fabrication plant. In addition, Tom has spent nearly a decade working in the film industry, building sets and working with a special effects crew. 

Presently, Tom is an essential member of the Bayview Yards Prototyping Lab team. He operates many of the industrial machines within the Lab used for traditional and advanced manufacturing (the CNC Router and Waterjet cutting system, among many others). He lends the expertise that he has honed throughout his career to early-stage entrepreneurs and innovators assisting in the creation of rapid prototypes. This involves executing a design, iterating when necessary, and thereby producing a working model or proof of concept prototype. Tom has the technical expertise to make informed decisions relating to the fabrication of products and parts. He supports the team when guiding entrepreneurs through the process of selecting the material from which to build, ensuring the fit and functionality of the design is optimal. 

Tom states “one of the most enjoyable aspects to working at Bayview Yards Prototyping Lab is that I get to bring my creativity to the work of our clients. I’m given the opportunity to operate state-of-the-art equipment of which the possibilities are endless. I’m able to assist our clients throughout their journey and work on a variety of projects from various industries. Every new project brings a different challenge requiring a unique solution.” 

Tom is shown cutting a desgn with the CNC waterjet
Tom is shown cutting intricate designs with precision using the CNC waterjet
Bringing ideas into the tangible world by building functional prototypes.

When not in the shop, Tom uses discarded devices, found objects, and other industrial materials to create scrap metal sculptures. His works are based on figures, flowers, creatures, and mechanical anatomy that have appeared in galleries and events in Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.  

The common thread throughout his career has been to continue learning. Tom feels most alive when surrounded by creative, enthusiastic people. Working with innovators and entrepreneurs provides the perfect environment to maximize creativity. 

The creative process — ideation to manufacturing

image of various scrap pieces awaiting to be put together
The shape of the artist’s creation takes from, piece by piece.

Tom begins the creative process to build his sculptures by scouring for parts and materials. This includes scrap metal, recycled appliances, discarded technology, automotive components, and any other industrial materials that speak to him. Over the years, he has amassed quite an inventory of miscellaneous technology and parts to build from. He begins by placing the parts in isolation on a surface, then pieces the form together organically. Tom experiments with how the pieces interact with each other, toying with shape and form. Then he considers how the parts will form together and begins to plan the manufacturing process. Each piece is then formed together through intricate welding and fastening. Oftentimes he will use the CNC waterjet to cut parts to size.  

the birth of climbing cliff

The sculpture entitled Climbing Cliff was a labour of love for Tom over the course of several months. 

Preliminary sketch of Climbing Cliff, 2019.
Preliminary sketch of Climbing Cliff, 2019.

Hundreds of parts were assembled to form a human-like robot scaling a titanic mountain of 350 steel triangles.

Tom began by illustrating his vision roughly through preliminary sketches. Then, he scouted his impressive inventory to collect the pieces required to build the form.  

Bayview Yards branding incorporates stylistic elements that have been referenced within this piece. The triangles within the mountain call to elements within the logo. The use of red nods to the brand colours as well. 

The sculpture is a collection of reclaimed objects, composed of many interesting and unexpected found objects.  

This includes: 

  • Motorcycle shocks were used beneath the rib cage
  • Stainless Steel fridge door handles build the biceps and triceps
  • Antique milking equipment from an old farm compose the throat 
  • Aluminum panels from a tank seat assembly complete the thighs 
  • Automotive parts, components from a Xerox photocopier, and the steel framework from a minivan comprise the calves 
  • Vintage typewriters parts build the shoulders 
  • Vintage microscope pieces shape the face and eyes 
  • Guard from an angle grinder completes the neck and mouth 
  • Recycled camcorder parts build the feet 
  • …and many more miscellaneous parts and industrial materials

“This sculpture is meant to inspire. I want those who view my work to see the parts independently, but also view the sculpture as a whole and imagine a character that is relatable and evokes emotion.” 

Tick Tock Tom (Tom O’Leary)

Climbing Cliff is as much a sculpture as it is a character. The artist animates the face and includes human-like features and details that bring the sculpture to life. 

an upclose photo of the face of Climbing Cliff comprised of several metal scraps and recycled parts
The facial expressions of Climbing Cliff are sculpted to resemble human-like features.

The expression on each being’s face is a key design element that Tom considers when crafting his creation. The eyes are captivating, the mouth opens with an expression of awe as he gazes up towards his goal. Tom often experiments with different parts when building the face, as it is the aspect of the sculpture that entices the imagination of the viewer. It is critical that the face appears lifelike and reminiscent of human-like features. 
 In the case of this sculpture, the face exudes a struggle, meant to evoke empathy and relatability. The viewer relates to the exhilaration felt when one has almost reached the destination of an arduous journey.  

The full sculpture of climbing cliff, climbing up a wall
Climbing Cliff, 2019

“One of the most memorable pieces of feedback someone has given me about my artwork is that it relates to everyone. Whether someone is analyzing the surface meaning, curious of the technical process or simply excited by the unconventional material used to it, I hope that my work excites the imagination of those who encounter it.”
Tick Tock Tom (Tom O’Leary)


the climb of the entrepreneurial struggle

We all face challenges throughout our lives. Whether you’re an entrepreneur beginning your journey of growing a business idea, an innovator with an idea to develop, a product or passion project, or an individual who has personal struggles that he/she hopes to overcome, this sculpture is meant to inspire people to face the cliff in front of them with strength and courage. 

button that says request a consultationIf you have a unique project that you’d like to explore, we’d love to hear from you. 
Connect with our team today. 

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