“As we traveled west from the Richmond Hill area, we found Glennville and liked the size and feel of this community. We have been so warmly welcomed and have already found a church family as well at First Baptist in Glennville,” Al, whose nearby neighbors are Marky and Tracy Waters, said.
Like many others who move from northern states, the Myers couple have found a reasonable cost of living in this area, much lower than in Pennsylvania where they were living. The cold, harsh winters and the high cost of heating were other reasons to locate further south.
Al spent his childhood in the Pennsylvania area and is where he worked during his diverse career, employed in a paint manufacturing facility, a textile company, a refinishing furniture company, and other jobs that often answered his attribute of attention to detail. He retired three years ago, a year earlier than he had planned due to knee issues.
Darlene spent most of her work career in factories, but retired early due to health concerns.
The couple prefer their quiet life in the country, and have no desire for travel in the near future. They have three children living in Pennsylvania, and one child lives in Georgia.
Al has a hobby that keeps him quite busy, one he actually began as a child and has continued throughout his life. To get a full appreciation for his talent, which requires tremendous patience, detail, and skill, visit his Al Myers Facebook page to see his full range of artistic creations.
He makes clay figures of various entertainers, characters, bands, and even orchestras. The intricate detail is simply astounding, and one can only imagine the patience and labor that are involved in each created character. He has honed his hobby into producing fascinating artistic creations. In height, characters are six to seven inches, and his orchestra statues, seated, are three to four inches.
“I will often have 60 to 80 hours in making a four-piece band, but I really enjoy the creative process of molding these characters,” Al said.
He is a Beatles fan, and Al has made several of the band at different periods of their performances, such as the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967-68); the Help movie (1965); Beatles in their blue suits; and others.
Even though the Beatles may have been his inspiration in his creations, he has made other groups as well, such as The Doors, Dave Clark Five, Beach Boys, Rolling Stones, Kiss, Elvis (the early Elvis with the Blue Moon Boys), Led Zepplin, the Monkees, Buddy Holly and the Crickets, and others.
Entertainers who he has created are Lucille Ball, John Wayne, Clark Gable, Taylor Swift, Tina Turner, Jimi Hendrix, Hank Williams, Louie Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Stuart Malina (conductor), Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, John the Baptist, Jesus, and many others.
“I am working on creating all of Jesus’ disciples, and I have a few of them completed,” Al said.
One of the most time-taking and intricate creations has been the 84-member Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra. He modeled it on the actual symphony members in 2020, so these clay characters resemble the musicians with the instruments on which they perform. He referred to multiple photos of different poses for each one.
He has also made characters from different periods of history, from the early 1700s through the 1900s. Extensive research is required for the clothing, hair, and other items that might be an integral part of that period of history. He attaches his “people” to small wood platforms.
Al has created Beethoven (in clay) sitting on the piano bench at the Broadway piano that Al made from wood.
Although most of his work is done in clay, some wood is required, such as in parts of the guitars he makes. Also, the guitar straps are made of very thin leather.
“When I visit an antique shop, thrift store, or Goodwill, I will often find women’s old leather gloves in various colors, which I buy for the guitar straps or maybe for a piece of clothing needed for one of my characters,” Al said.
The microphone and cymbal stands are made from very thin knitting needles, such as a sock knitting needle, which he will then sand down to the finish that he wants. He also uses knitting needles as tools in placing the eyeballs into the faces.
“These facial features are not painted. The earrings, lips, eyes, eyebrows, hair, ears, and even the ‘painted’ fingernails are all made from clay and attached to the faces. They are not painted. I tint the clay to the color needed for these various features. For instance, Betty Boop’s dress is made from blue clay, not clay that has been painted,” Al said.
The eyeglasses on the characters’ faces are made from very thin wire.
He buys clay by the pound at times ($17 to $20 a pound), but often buys smaller eight-ounce pieces since clay has a tendency to harden over time. Clay has a shelf life, he explains, but oil can be added to it to recondition it, but it can still be hard to work with after this. In the last few years, Al has purchased a small apparatus, a clay press, which he can “run” the clay through to thin it.
He also uses wood for the base for the characters to which they are attached and for the drums in the bands, since clay is heavy. However, he still uses clay around the wooden drums for detail. Overall, 90 percent of the material used is clay.
Al bakes the clay in the kitchen oven at 230 degrees, even though the temperature recommended is 275. He has discovered this optimum temperature through trial and error and “over-baking” a piece after spending hours of forming it.
For the “people,” he uses thin wire to form the bodies so that the clay will have a base to adhere to, which also helps with the bended knees and when the characters are seated in a chair, such as with the orchestra members.
Al has his characters posted on his Facebook page, and they are available for purchase, and prices vary with the amount of time he has involved in each creation.
He has also made likenesses of people he knows, but he said it was more difficult to “read” the features of an actual person. With celebrities, Al has multiple photos to refer to from a variety of different angles. He feels that if he had a good likeness of a person, such as a drawing, that he might be able to perfect a clay person.
“About 60 percent of the time, I can capture the eyes, nose, and lips, but the three dimensional figures that I create are challenging,” Al said. “I guess almost everyone has something that they feel is therapy, such as yard work for some, reading for others, or traveling, but researching the characters and actually making them is my hobby, my passion.”
Al can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. One cannot fully appreciate Al’s craft without viewing his characters in person.
Darlene Myers’ Recipes
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 stick butter, melted and cooled
Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. In another container, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla. Add butter last, and mix wet ingredients with dry ingredients. Bake in a preheated waffle iron.
2 Tbsp. celery
1 tsp. onion
6 hard cooked eggs, chopped
1 Tbsp. mayo
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
dash of paprika
2 Tbsp. butter, softened
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. sugar
dill relish to your taste
Whip the cream cheese in with the butter. Add lemon juice, mayo, celery, sugar, bacon, onion, and eggs. Garnish with relish and paprika. Serve on croissants.