A truly twisted talent, Anchorage man creates art with pipe cleaners

With nothing more than ingenuity and a bag full of colored pipe cleaners Kenneth Williams makes magic.
Published: Jan. 28, 2021 at 10:16 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Picasso had his canvas, Michelangelo his marble slab, even Banksy has the walls and buildings of his urban surroundings. It doesn’t matter the artist, everyone has a favorite medium to work with. Few though can conjure up the creativity that one local man has managed to with little more than a bit of brush-covered wire.

“I was 8-years-old building some pipe cleaner art that nobody ever taught me how to make,” says Kenneth Williams.

Inside Denali Graphics & Frame you’ll find him. Surrounded by his colorful creations made entirely out of pipe cleaners. It’s almost overwhelming to look at, Bert and Ernie hanging up, Olaf from the Frozen movies, a whole assortment of Ninja Turtles, Marvel characters, Transformers, everything from the famously pop to renderings of pictures brought in by clients.

“You’ve got to put a lot of detail on them,” says Williams speaking as he works away at the head of a small Donald Duck.

Williams has something for everyone it seems, though they come in different sizes, price points and levels of difficulty to create.

“This Maleficent right here can transform into a dragon,” Williams says with a prideful glint in his eye.

An artistic virtuoso of his own making Williams has been crafting these pieces for more than three decades. For a solid 15 years, he sold them out of the Sears mall but two years ago he found a new home for his handmade wonders.

“Come on over to the... what place we’re in? Denali. Oh yeah Denali Graphics & Frame,” says a Williams-controlled Oscar the Grouch puppet.

The opportunity in this new venue presented itself thanks to a former classmate who’s a manager for Denali Graphics & Frame.

“His older brother is actually my best friend and so when I knew that Kenneth didn’t actually have a lot going on for him, I asked about being able to do a showcase for him here in the gallery,” says Denise Jones.

That month-long showcase turned into a longer partnership with Williams now spending three days a week crafting and selling his wares in the gallery.

“It’s just kind of amazing to watch him do it and literally he doesn’t even watch what he’s doing half the time he’s got it in his hands, he’ll talk to you and he’ll just work his hands and do his thing,” Jones says.

Proud of his work and ever-growing legacy, Williams is an artist whose passion has enabled him to craft a life — his just happens to be populated with puppets and bright bold colors.

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