Given a little time, some cardboard and few other supplies, Mark McCloskey can replicate nearly anything, from a jet with a battery pack for lighting, a replica of local businesses or even a pirate ship — his favorite creation to date.
A former house painter, McCloskey said has worked on virtually “every kind of art known to man. I did art all through school. I did everything, sculpting, pottery, ceramics, copper tooling, woodworking, everything you can name, I’ve tried it,” McCloskey said. “I’ve always been a real hands-on person.”
He devoted two years in college geared towards pursuing a career as a commercial artist.
Now, even he isn’t sure why or how he settled on building with cardboard.
“Doing just cardboard stuck for some reason. I’ve been specifically on cardboard since my senior year of high school,” McCloskey said, noting that was about 30 years ago.
“Someone asked me one time to make a jewelry box and I did. Things just pretty much went haywire from there. I made a box with roll top, then heart-shaped box, a double heart-shaped box and then a box with a wishing well. It was on then,” McCloskey said.
Once he mastered creating boxes, McCloskey said he thought “maybe I could do a flower, a building, just simple stuff. So I kept doing simple stuff and simple stuff became more and more detailed and it just exploded from there.”
McCloskey said he uses corrugated cardboard, both single and double layer to make his projects. He also uses poster board for more detailed work.
“When I first started doing this, I used to go to the grocery store and ask to use their boxes,” he said, adding he now uses larger boxes when making some of the mammoth creations.
For instance, the pirate ship is 4.5-feet wide and 4.5-feet tall, he said, adding “I had to figure out how to make it transportable too.” That meant additional work on the model, including building the masts and sails movable.
McCloskey said he made the ship for his niece’s wedding. At one point of the process, “I had five boat hulls stacked up in the spare bathroom.”
Once the fifth hull was completed, McCloskey said “it was on. I didn’t think of nothing else. The boat just fell into place like running water.”
All totaled, McCloskey estimated he spent 600 hours building it, and an additional 400 hours building a treasure chest, complete with a padlock, to store cards from well-wishers.
McCloskey said he kept the ship, painted it the colors he thought would be suit. He later displayed it at the Collinsville Branch of the Blue Ridge Library. He also has displayed work at the Bassett library branch.
Other projects include a replica of Haynes 57 Grocery. McCloskey said he used photos, Google Earth and talked to store owners when researching and building that project.
It sits on a 2-by-2- foot platform, and includes details like an ice machine, newspaper racks, signs and an American flag in the window.
He also has made models of landmarks such as Mabry Mill, Bob White Covered Bridge, and also makes crosses out of different colors of string that he gives as gifts to people “who smile real pretty, have a pleasant aura or do something nice.”
But he rarely strays far from thinking about his next cardboard project, or how.
In bed, he ponders things like how to make landing gear for the jet, or fashion a cockpit inside an Apache helicopter, McCloskey said. “I’ve explored it pretty well” by the time he starts building.