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From Tins to Treasures: the Creative Side of Mark Evans Emerges

By NIEHS
April 2005

Mark Evans

some of Evans' creative tins
Some of Evans' creation, from the lefts: a bug house, made for a young cousin; a Simpson cartoon box; a fortune chest, labeled in Chinese; a "What you see takes what this holds" box that has pieces of mirror inside the lid, and stones labeled love, joy, faith, laughter and truth inside; and on the far right, a tin decorated with a friends' artwork on the lid and a candle inside.

Mark Evans describes himself as a computer geek who got tired of messing with his computer when he got home from work. At work, incidentally, he messes with computers all day. In fact, he has been working with computers since he was 12 years old, when he started consulting for law firms, making a pretty penny doing it.

Evans grew up in Clinton, N.C., but left the day after he graduated from high school. He studied computer science at North Carolina State University, focusing on how people interact using computers. But, he said, it was being surrounded by creative people at work, in Environmental Health Perspectives, that inspired him to let the creative side of his personality out to play.

"I'm not a great painter and not very good at drawing so I am trying my hand at making art out of other people's trash. Mainly, I'm trying to find a form of mental and spiritual release that gives me a fresh perspective and a creative outlet," Evans said.

That creative outlet comes as he transforms disposable tin mint containers into personalized boxes. By the time he bestows them as gifts, he has done his utmost to represent the essence of the person to whom he gives such gifts.

"I like the idea that someone else is enjoying them rather than them just sitting on my shelf or in a drawer," he said.

Some of the boxes are serious. Others are very light-hearted and fun:

  • For his 10-year-old cousin, Evans created a "bug house" to encourage the child to put bugs in the tin then in his pocket instead of putting bugs directly in his pocket.
  • For a friend who collects fortunes from fortune cookies, he created a "Fortunes Chest" or "Lucky Box" so labeled in Chinese.
  • Evans's cat, Spaz, has one too. His is a catnip satchel, which Spaz likes to bat around the floor.
  • For a friend who is a genealogy buff, the tin became a transportable history book, with the family name on the lid, and an accordion of family photos inside.
  • For other friends, the tins have become a party purse, an iPod holder, a wallet, a pill organizer, a "man bag" and a mini first-aid kit. Other tins become candles. Many of the completed tins have tiny collages on the covers.

Evans says he does it "just for fun" rather than as a serious art form, but he clearly gets a lot of personal satisfaction from his creations. Evans is working on creating a large display, in which he will display boxes he has got back from his friends. He made each friend a box with his or her name on it, and asked the friends to put things in it that are representative of themselves. When he gets them back, he will display them in a rack he has made from old wooden bed slats connected with a leather strap that hangs from his wall.

That way, Evans said, he can be surrounded by his friends even when they are not there.

In his creations, Evans strives to identify his perception of the person using items he adds to the tins. Among the elements he identifies as important to a person's identity are their choices in music, their family, their job and their ethnicity. He said he is not as concerned about pleasing the person as he is accurately reflecting how he sees that person. Sometimes it is good for people to see themselves as other see them, he said.

"The box can hold a lot of things. It can hold a lot besides the sum of the contents. It can hold emotions and spiritual things that can mean a lot to you," Evans said.

Evans said he has completed some boxes in half an hour. For others, he has pondered the design concepts for months. A few he has thrown away instead of giving. Of those he has given, he said he has never had a negative reaction.



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