Clifford Jones turns potato chip bags into picture frames and multi-colored paracord into key chains decorated with shiny beads.
Jones, 67, of Tyler, carries his supplies in a backpack and whenever an opportunity arises, he pulls them out and his hands get busy making frames, custom key chains or jewelry boxes out of paper and potato chip bags.
Jones also builds wooden gun cabinets, wall boxes for display of trinkets and braids paracord to fit steering wheels. In addition, he writes gospel music and poems.
Jones estimates he has made roughly 10,100 key chains and “1,000 plus” picture frames out of potato chip bags, Cheetos bags and whatever other bags are handy.
“This is my hobby. It’s just something for me to do. I do it because it’s fun. It keeps my mind occupied,” Jones said. “It’s relaxing. I like doing it because it brings other people happiness when they buy one of my key chains or buy a picture frame that I made. It’s a pleasing thing to them.”
His key chains are hand braided out of long strands of different colored paracord.
Jones learned to braid when he was 9 by watching a man in a YMCA in California braid. “I kept watching him and ‘I said I can do that,’ so I started and I got good at it. It is one of my favorite things to do,” Jones said.
Jones dumps together bags of four or five different colors of beads, some resembling pearls, and attaches them to the paracord. He uses wood blocks with alphabet letters written on them to spell someone’s name and customize a key chain.
Jones started making key chains out of plastic, and then switched to shoe strings. From shoe strings he went to boot laces, and from bootlaces he went to paracord. He said he added beads because his wife thought they would look good.
“People fall in love with them,” Jones said.
When Jones lived in Louisiana, about every member at the church where he and his wife went had one of his key chains.
During his career as driver of an 18-wheeler truck for 31 years, Jones would pull into a truck stop with key chains hanging on the passenger side and word would quickly go out over the CB that the “key chain man” had arrived. “They were calling me because they wanted to get a key chain,” Jones said.
He would make key chains incorporating whatever truck emblem a driver preferred.
When Jones walks around in Tyler with seven or eight key chains hooked on his pants, people notice and say they are pretty. Jones replies they are for sale. “I’ve been making them since I was a kid,” he said.
About 15 years ago, Jones launched a new endeavor. He did not think the regular picture frame that his mother had for pictures of his sister’s wedding was the right texture. “I was concerned,” Jones said.
Jones took strips of ordinary white paper, folded it, then folded it in half, next folded each side into the middle, turned it and folded it again, with both sides folded in to create small block squares. Then for color, he took strips made from a bag for potato chip cookies and similarly folded them to also make squares. The squares lock into each other.
Jones gets over 100 pieces out of two big bags.
Jones sews the squares together with very thin No. 5 fishing line to produce a small heart-shaped picture frame. “If I don’t have one made, you tell me how big a picture you want to put in one and I will make a heart to fit it,” Jones said.
He also makes horizontal frames and vertical frames. He makes many sizes of frames, such as an 8 by 10 inch or a collage of different sizes. One of his biggest frames made from paper holds many different sized pictures. It is 44 inches long and 24 inches wide.
“I sit down and I arrange them in my head … how I want it to look when I’m finished with it,” Jones said.
The frames are unique. “You can go to any store and you won’t find a frame made out of paper,” Jones said. “I love doing them because it gives people a chance to look at something that someone else does. A lot of people like my work because they say I take pride in it and I do.”
Jones not only makes picture frames out of paper, he makes jewelry boxes out of paper and potato chip bags. “I take custom orders for those because it takes so long to make them,” Jones said. Making a jewelry box about two foot wide and 16 inches deep takes sometimes five to six weeks.
Jones uses leather to make briefcases and cases for laptop computers. “I buy deer skin because it’s pliable and a lot easier to work with than regular cowhide,” he said, explaining that he uses an electric tool to burn a design onto the deerskin.
His greatest satisfaction, Jones said, “is seeing the smiles on people’s faces, especially kids.”
Tyler Morning Telegraph