The scraggly-bearded grandpa has a living room filled with mixed-media creations that play with the viewer's eye.
A few of his pieces appeared in shows, but nothing ever came of his art — until now.
Who knew the work that would finally make him famous would be painted on the back of people's pants?
The Everett retiree invented Winkers, decorative pants that appear to “wink” from behind as the wearer walks.
“Your WINK is the crease between your buttock and the top of your leg,” Jones explains on his Web site, winkersdesign.com.
The original Winkers features a pair of painted eyes, carefully placed. Others in his expanding collection of backside animation include a pair of movie clapboards that open to reveal the word “action” and twin ducks that open their bills as if to say “quack.”
The painted pants have made Jones an international Internet sensation.
In less than a week, Jones' Winkers Design Web site has received a quarter-million hits after a video of Winkers went viral. People from just about every country on the planet have watched the video featuring Winkers wearers strolling along Grand Avenue Park in Everett.
Fashion writers have called Winkers “disturbingly awesome” and a “creative idea gone wrong.”
The idea came to Jones a few years ago. He was walking behind an attractive woman and couldn't help but notice her tush, he said.
“It dawned on me: those are winking at me,” he said. “I got to thinking that if I put an eye there, it would wink.”
Jones perfected his design, experimenting on the pants of his five adult daughters. He filed a patent but not much came of it.
Then last Wednesday his licensing attorney sent out a press release.
Winkers took off online and orders began piling up at Jones' north Everett home.
“We're swamped,” Jones said. “It caught me off guard. I wasn't ready for what happened.”
He doesn't have a system for handling mass orders yet.
Jones, 73, creates every pair of Winkers on an ironing board in the living room of his Riverside home. People send him their pants with a mark where their buttocks end and he paints the design by hand, using fabric paint. A single pair of pants can take him more than 10 hours to finish.
The shy father of five always enjoyed creating art. His eclectic tastes include philosophy, history and math, said his youngest daughter, Gwen Ingram-Jones.
At first, her dad was secretive about his idea, she said.
In the past, he'd invented a machine for grooming ski slopes in Idaho and another company copied his idea. He wasn't going to let someone else steal his idea this time.
“I'm pretty proud of him,” she said. “It's pretty exciting to watch it happen.”
She called Winkers “creative, original and fun.”
When she's wearing a pair, women have offered compliments. The men just stare.
“But sometimes they just stare anyway,” she said.
Customers can choose from five different designs ranging from the standard eyes ($159) to an elaborate design of a tiger peering through jungle foliage ($579). Winkers may appeal to the same people who wore Juicy Couture's velour pants with “juicy” scrawled on the back, said Maggy Bailly, a Seattle licensing attorney working with Jones.
Winkers needs a retailer who isn't afraid of a little controversy, such as American Apparel, Bailly said. Artists, performers and march-to-their-own-drum types would like the, uh, cheeky designs.
Bailly said she bought a pair with aquamarine eyes.
“It's a lot of fun,” she said. “I used to be an attorney with Boeing licensing weaponing systems. This is a nice change.”
Jones, meanwhile, is working on new designs, including a skull that can open and close its mouth, while keeping up with the recent flood of e-mails.
One came the other day from someone who signed their name Bill Gates. Jones thinks it's probably a hoax.
Or maybe not.
“It would really be fun to see Bill Gates in a pair.”
Debra Smith: 425-339-3197, email@example.com.
To see a video of William Jones' painted pants in action, go to winkersdesign.com.
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