A True Original
Story by Mary Hope Roseneau Photography by Christian Lee
“If you love what you do, you’ll never work another day in your life.” The late Hilton Head artist William Leon Stacks spoke those words to a young Clyde Williams, and he’s never forgotten them. Clyde always loved art in school and had answered a newspaper ad to learn picture framing. He eventually worked at Mr. Stack’s studio as a master framer, picture placement designer, and eventually took over all full restoration projects from him.
Meeting me at the Common Grounds coffee shop in downtown Beaufort, he brought two thick scrapbooks to illustrate his work. He was soft-spoken and modest, with a white beard, and wore a neat blue Greg Norman shirt, confessing that golf is another great love of his. “I keep my clubs in the car,” he confessed, always ready to play.
I browsed through pages and pages of before and after photographs of art objects Clyde has completed over the years, and they literally spoke volumes. There were also clippings of working and showing art with Leon Stacks, and countless thank you letters from relieved clients, ranging from university art departments to Hilton Head resorts, to average people who wanted Great Grandma’s wedding portrait cleaned and renewed.
What types of art do you restore? His answer reminded me of Bubba Gump describing ways to cook shrimp: “Oil on canvas, acrylic on canvas, oil and acrylic on board, silk and other fabrics, figurines, wood, gilded frames, paper, furniture, metal and wood sculpture, old magazines, . . .” Then he took a breath. “Well really just about anything that people want me to restore. Sometimes people just bring me the broken pieces in a box, and I put them back together.” Such a modest description for the artist he is.
His Facebook page shows a family’s carousel horse made out of pot metal placed on a dock in Beaufort, and wind, rain and salt air really damaged the interesting piece. Some chunks of the poor pony even had to be fabricated. It was a precious gift from a family member who passed away, and Clyde meticulously restored the piece, with all its gilt and paint to brand new.
Clyde has other interests as well. He is an artist himself, working in oil on canvas, and has currently sold all the works he had in local galleries. He taught Kung Fu to area young people for several years and enjoyed being a role model to them. His son, JeClyde Williams obtained the black sash level. In addition, Clyde is also Pastor Williams, the minister at the End Time Remnant Church of God in Port Royal, SC. And of course, there’s golf! He’s ready to play at any course, any time.
I asked about his future goals. “I plan to end up in God’s kingdom,” he began, “but you probably mean before that!” He’s teaching his son JeClyde, who recently graduated from Battery Creek High school, the techniques of art restoration. “He’s grown up watching me, and it’s not a big deal to him,” Clyde humbly remarks. “You have to have the hands, the eyes, and most important, the patience,” he explains.
A Google search for nearby art restoration services pulled up only “Art Restoration by Clyde,” phone number (843) 575-2301. It’s obvious that many people just don’t have those three qualifications. It’s a painstaking, messy, at times frustrating profession, but the results are beautiful. As Clyde says on his slideshow promo: “When your passion becomes your work.” His passion shows and what a gift to pass on to his son.
What’s the most difficult work you’ve restored? Any oil on canvas done by a female artist. They mix colors on a palate, rather than on the canvas, and it’s difficult to match the color. He can tell a female artist’s work at 20 paces, and know it’s going to be a bear of a job. Hmmm. . .
What caused the most damage to any work you restored? Fires are the worst, because there’s also smoke, and then the water that’s sprayed, as well.
What damage do you see after hurricanes? Water, of course, and if you’re not careful, mold. Yes, he can get mold off, too.
Have you ever had to turn anyone down and just tell them you can’t repair their artwork? No, not yet!