He's not speaking about furniture restoration, or his business of 25 years, Alpine Art Glass. Clark is Ridgway's Mac Doctor. He's the guy to turn to when you're having problems with your Macintosh computer, or you want to advance your computer skills, or you simply need guidance when making that next technological purchase.
“I got my first computer, a Mac, in the mid 90s, when my brother worked at Apple,” he explains. “I got the 'employee deal', although it wasn’t much of a deal.”
As soon as Clark began setting up his new computer, he was hooked. “The kind of person I am – even my art is geometric, very left brain – I immersed myself into it,” he says. “With a Mac, everything is so right there. Macs feed my creative side almost as much as my glasswork.”
Since then, Clark has upgraded his computer “umpteen times,” he says, teaching himself every aspect of each Mac and its latest, greatest applications, and “spending way too much time. I've gone through every menu, every program. I get it. The computer makes sense to me.”
Eventually, Clark's friends began turning to him for help with their own Macs. “I hear you're the guy,” people began to say, eventually leading Clark to form his own business, The Mac Doctor, roughly five years ago. He now has a steady business helping clients maintain their computers and teaching classes to the community several times a month. “I don't know how to fix Macs technically, but I can figure it out,” says Clark. “To me it's not rocket science.”
For Clark, the hardest thing has been juggling two careers.
A native of Boulder, Clark spent two years at the University of Colorado studying environmental design. “Most of those students ended up in architecture, but I wanted to go into commercial art,” a program they didn't have back then, he recalls, so he dropped out. Clark eventually found himself working in the shipping and receiving department of a wholesale stained-glass store. “The boss provided classes to employees so we'd know the business better,” he says. The storefront also offered public workshops, and Clark would sit in the back and watch. Inspired by what he learned, Clark eventually purchased a small glass kiln of his own.
After moving to Ridgway and starting Alpine Art Glass in 1985, Clark began creating unique glass pieces for clients throughout the region, from custom light fixtures and original bent glass pieces to leaded glass in traditional and contemporary styles. He even forms bowls and platters by fusing glass, his preferred technique these days. “I'm sick of the toxic stuff – lead, patina – so I don't do it anymore.”
Over the years Clark has taught several kiln-formed glass classes for the Ah Haa School, discovering that he loves teaching. So it wasn't a stretch when, about two years ago, Ridgway Public Library Director Kristen Moberg asked him if he'd be interested in teaching a basic computer course for Mac users. “I love the energy you get from people, when they get that ah-haa moment,” says Clark of teaching.
The success of his once-a-month Overview of Mac OS 10 class at the library, a free class offered the last Wednesday of each month at the library, led Clark to develop more focused Mac classes on specific subjects.
“The library class is about computers in general, to get people to not be afraid of their computers and understand file structure. The focus classes grew from my enjoyment of teaching and from people asking for them,” he says.
Two weekends a month Clark offers classes at the Ridgway Town Hall small meeting room. Topics vary, ranging from this weekend’s (Feb. 13) Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Email and the Internet class, to a class on social networking (Facebook, Twitter, blogging) on Feb. 27. His iPhoto/iTunes classes have become quite popular, as well.
Not surprisingly, the average age of Clark’s students is 40 and up.
“It’s my goal for 2010 to teach the overview class plus two others per month,” says Clark, whose preference for Macintosh computers over PCs is evident. “They’re unquestionably more creative and more fun,” he says. “Apple has always put a lot of emphasis on the experience.”
He also praises Macs for their insusceptibility to hackers and viruses. “I own four or five Macs, and not one runs an antivirus program. Macs require a password before you can download anything. Something I teach my students about is, don’t ever enter your password unless you know what it is that’s asking for it. Don’t do risky web-surfing on sites offering free software or free downloads. And get a backup hard drive; it’s a good investment. That’s my big soapbox thing.”
Clark even sells hard drives, as well as RAM – “just basic hard drive stuff, nothing more” he says. He can also help people find new computers, printers and cameras. “I stay up on the research,” whereas most people don’t have time.
And while Clark was unable to pursue a graphic design degree in college, he now considers himself a graphic artist, designing websites, brochures and business cards for many of his clients.
“It’s mind-boggling to me, computers have become so ubiquitous,” says Clark. “You try and do it all and you go mad – I’ve had that experience. You pick what you want to do and you do it. You have fun, and feed your soul.”
Clark’s Mac OS 10 class at the library takes place every month, on the last Wednesday, 5-7 p.m. It’s free, although reservations are required (call Clark, not the library) and preference goes to newcomers. Focus classes at Ridgway Town Hall are offered twice a month, 10 a.m.-noon. Registration is not required; the cost is $20. Clark’s fee for consulting is $60 and hour.
To reach Clark, call 970/417-8434 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His blog is macdoktor.blogspot.com.