By Joel Hall
After dealing with personal tragedy, one Jonesboro woman has found a way to help others by making treasures out of other people's trash.
Since 2000, Christine McCrorey has been making scale models and other unique creations out of scrap paper and other materials people often throw away.
"You don't know what you can do until you open your hands," said McCrorey. Using things such as toothpaste caps, the ring seals from water bottles, toilet paper rolls, and aluminum foil -- in addition to hand-torn and hand-rolled paper -- McCrorey has recreated her world with surprising detail.
McCrorey's creations include a moving, Power Wheels-sized stretch limo, complete with a sunroof, white wall tires made out of cardboard, and shiny hubcaps made of aluminum foil. Several of the mansions she has designed -- one of which is currently featured at Arts Clayton gallery in Jonesboro -- include intricate features, such as lighting, fireplaces, dinettes, and living-room furniture.
More serious works include temples, churches, a scale-model of the World Trade Center towers in New York, and a replica of the famous Mississippi riverboat, "Queen of the West," which was used in a 2005 museum fund-raiser for victims of Hurricane Katrina. Inside the different levels of the riverboat are bedrooms, pianos, roulette wheels, and blackjack tables.
All were made without the use of a single ruler or pair of scissors.
"It didn't start as an enterprise," said McCrorey. "I was hurting inside when I realized that God gave me a gift to work with my hands."
Before 2000, McCrorey was a seamstress, homemaker, and mother of eight living in Newark, N.J. That year, however, Toney -- her youngest son -- became one of two innocent bystanders killed when a gunfight between rival drug dealers spilled into a crowd of people waiting at a bus stop.
"I was kind of at the end of the rope, and I asked God to give me something to do, so I could get over the death of my son," said McCrorey. She was eventually inspired to recreate the Twelve Gates of Heaven out of household materials, which would become the first of many artistic efforts.
"It's my way of recycling," said McCrorey.
Elizabeth Gower, administrative assistant for Arts Clayton, said McCrorey's work is gaining attention, particularly with children.
"The little kids just love it," said Gower. "It looks like something to play with, but they don't touch it, because they know it is something special.
"She just turns something so ugly into something so beautiful and that defines who she is," said Gower. "I think it's definitely something that she can take to another level."
McCrorey said she hopes to, one day, design a life-size mansion out of paper and pitch some of her paper ideas to Oprah Winfrey.
"I love to be able to give back, but I'm not a rich woman," said McCrorey. "My work does the work for me. Long after I am gone, paper will exist, and I want a part of me to be with that paper."