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Making mosaics outside the box

Alison McClocklin assembles beauty from the bits and pieces that are often left behind.

Alison McClocklin
Alison McClocklin alongside her mosaics on Monday, June 13, 2022, at her home in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
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Thinking outside of the box comes naturally to artists like Alison McClocklin, but she’s taken the saying to another level by creating art with the outside of boxes.

Recently, her interest in multimedia art, including working with everything from metal scraps to wood and unwanted fabrics, has turned to creating mosaics from cardboard packaging. She makes intricate images of subjects like animals, trees or water towers that are reminiscent of stained-glass windows.

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McClocklin grew up in Rochester near Indian Heights Park. In a 2021 exhibit of her works at 125 Live community center, she used carefully cut pieces of discarded cardboard to create images inspired by her childhood memories of the area.

Though McClocklin studied drawing and painting in college, she says her “wildly creative” mom Susie has been a big inspiration in her creative life. “She taught me how to sew and play with paper when I was little, led me to felting with wool and fibers as an adult, and has encouraged me in everything I do,” says McClocklin.

Alison McClocklin
A finished mosaic by artist Alison McClocklin lays next to glove packaging on Monday, June 13, 2022, at her home in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

Largely self-taught as a multimedia artist, McClocklin says she enjoys playing with tangible materials. The recycling bin is often where she finds her inspiration. “I love finding, scavenging and harvesting odd bits of material and using what I have and find right in front of me. … There are many worthy and wonderful materials around that don't need to be garbage,” she says.

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Reusing discarded items in her art is something McClocklin values. “In my small way, I suppose I want to make something worthwhile out of that which is plain or usually ends up as garbage,” she says.

McClocklin’s work space is littered with colorful piles of scraps. It boasts a rainbow of bits and snippets in plates and trays scattered around between partially finished pieces and interrupted ideas. Different textures and materials abound.

“It's good for me to work like this, though, because everything I need is right in front of me,” she says. “This way I can see it all and find just the right colors and textures I need for whatever I'm working on.”

Alison McClocklin
Mosaics made from medical packaging by artist Alison McClocklin are pictured on Monday, June 13, 2022, at her home in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

Creating art seems transformative for McClocklin. It takes her to a different realm. “I love slipping into that zone where and when all the little pieces and bits of material I've gathered around me fall into place and begin to tell a story, or show a small piece of life, or simply be beautiful,” she says.

She compares creating her bright mosaics to completing a puzzle.

To create her mosaics, McClocklin uses simple tools. Household scissors, a utility knife, paint brushes, pens and glue are her mainstays. Sometimes McClocklin starts a mosaic with a definite plan in mind, but she also might start with a small idea and see where it leads.

When she isn’t busy creating art, McClocklin works as a patient care assistant at Saint Mary’s Hospital in general pediatrics. Her work at the hospital made an impact on her creations and provided her with another place to find materials that might have the perfect color for one of her works.

Alison McClocklin
Mosaics made from medical packaging by artist Alison McClocklin are pictured on Monday, June 13, 2022, at her home in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

“Recently I felt the pull to craft up a few copycat mosaics inspired by the stained-glass windows at the Second Street entrance to Saint Marys,” says McClocklin. “I think it's delightful that St. Francis is there greeting everyone holding a humble little rabbit in his lap with a wolf and birds and butterflies.”

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A big part of McClocklin’s job at Saint Marys is to stock rooms with pediatric supplies. She’s started to “harvest” the discarded packaging.

“When I replace empty boxes of gloves, masks, baby bottles or whatever, I often pop the bits of color into my pocket as I go about my job,” she says. She lists all the colors she can find: “temperature probe boxes are a lovely bright periwinkle blue, alcohol prep boxes are orange, mask and glove boxes are mostly blues, greens and purples, and baby bottle boxes offer two lovely shades of yellow.”

One of the first mosaics McClocklin made from hospital packaging was a dove. “It was the empty boxes of gloves that first inspired me to make mosaics of doves,” she says. “There is a little picture of a gloved hand on each of the boxes and these little hands look to me just like little dove wings.”

McClocklin sees a link between her creations that transform waste into beauty and the healing process. “Making my bits of art from reused boxes feels good and healthy too, and though it's just in a very small way, I hope my little art pieces hold some of the spirit of that goodness and healing,” she says.

The creative process is something McClocklin treasures. “Though my work as an artist is truthfully very important to me,” she says, “I also try not to take myself too seriously. For the most part, I do art for myself, simply because I want to make things.”

Alison McClocklin
Alison McClocklin alongside her mosaics on Monday, June 13, 2022, at her home in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

Related Topics: ART
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