Farmhand Stanley Offord's artistic streak came from out of the blue 50 years ago: no guidance, no fancy art supplies, no art school.
Farmhand Stanley Offord’s artistic streak came from out of the blue 50 years ago: no guidance, no fancy art supplies, no art school.
“I was just sitting there one day,” he said.
He thought of something he wanted to create. Since then, he has used mostly matchsticks and crayons to build and draw all kinds of objects in his free time, he said.
“I was always a homebody person,” he said.
He envisions art where others may see only humble matches, broken frames or the blank space on a pickup truck. He will be 70 in June, and his art fills his home.
Crayon still lifes hang on walls near matchstick picture frames with family photos. Sculptures decorate shelves and tables, and fill cardboard boxes and a closet.
Edna, his wife of 40 years, made sure he had a place to create his masterpieces when they moved to Frederick two years ago from Montgomery County.
“I gave him that room for his work,” Edna said.
She marvels at his commitment to the tedious labor, and the prolific rate at which he turns thousands of matches into sculpture after sculpture.
“I thought they were cute,” Edna said. “I didn’t think it would go this far.”
It is a good way to spend free time, Offord said.
“There’s too much trouble out there in the streets,” he said.
Offord grew up on a farm in Montgomery County where he performed manual labor. One of his early matchstick creations was a tractor.
It is one of his mechanical sculptures, which include a grain elevator, steamroller, a tow truck and a dump truck, among others. He engineers hydraulic lifts, wheels and spinning rotors.
He built a matchstick medevac helicopter, and a boat complete with mast, oars and outboard motor.
He creates exact replicas of a dozen famous characters. In his office, Popeye, SpongeBob SquarePants and friend Patrick stand near a matchstick dragon more than a foot tall.
The dragon started out to be a tennis shoe bank, Offord said, but his wife thought it looked like a dragon head, so he redesigned it.
An old milk tin sits in the living room decorated with precise images Offord painted of Warner Bros. cartoon celebrities Tweety, Pep? Le Pew, Porky Pig, Wile E. Coyote, Road Runner and the Tasmanian Devil.
Offord’s faith inspired sculpted crucifixes in many sizes, and his appreciation of Bob Marley inspired a full-size replica of an electric guitar.
He works from memory and photographs, and draws a sketch of his designs before starting, he said. He uses only hand tools to snip and sand matches.
“What takes so long,” he said, is turning all the matches in one direction and lighting them all off. He cleans them before starting.
He uses the dark burned ends to form patterns in the sculpture. The varnished finished products feel as smooth as glass and weigh less than their size would indicate.
Under his desk sat a half full gallon jug of Elmer’s glue. Offord said he does not know how many gallons of it or thousands of matches he has used over the years.
He was paying $3.99 for a package of 750 matches, until he found he could get a pack of 500 for $1.99.
He scavenges the streets and waste cans of Frederick in his white pickup truck looking for discarded frames, figurines and knickknacks that he can use. He painted a cartoon dog character on his truck’s tailgate next to the words The Junkyard Dog.
His favorite creation memorializes his daughter Denise, who died of cancer. A matchstick base has a place for Denise’s photograph, flanked by symbols of Christian faith sculpted from matches.
He hopes to see his other six children for his birthday next month, and regularly sees his granddaughter Tatyanna. Tatyanna shares his creative spirit, helping to build the bases that support sculptures.
“My granddaughter is very helpful,” Offord said.
He is proud of her for collecting poptops from cans to raise money for a good cause, he said. One space in his neat kitchen held a 5-gallon tub filled with more than 65,000 poptops Tatyanna has collected so far.
“We always try to help people,” he said. “You always give a helping hand, always try to help someone.”
He is not ready to part with his creations, has sold none and given very few away, Edna said. A few have been stolen, Offord said.
Most of what he has made get stored away. He starts on the next when an idea strikes him.
Edna occasionally calls into his office, “What (are) you making now?”
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