Chris Mares was just looking for a job when he came to work at Clean the World, but he found a lot more. Recycling soap in the operations department opened up an opportunity for him to flex his artistic muscles and make the Orlando production facility a nicer place for employees and visitors.
When co-founders Shawn Seipler and Paul Till found out that Chris had an interest in painting and a formal art education, they gave him the green light.
On the facility’s back wall, Chris painted a large mural depicting the Clean the World logo and the flags of every country where soap has been distributed.
“A lot of what I’ve done is still a work in progress,” Chris said. “For example, the big mural on the back wall started off as just a logo and the background. I studied it for about two months and then thought about all the dead space around the logo. I thought it needed something else. I got the idea from military insignias on uniforms that indicate where soldiers have served. That inspired me to paint the flags of all the countries where we have distributed soap. When it started there were 15 or 20, now we have more than 60.”
Other pieces painted by the Kansas native include a large area that lists the names of donors, and a massive space near the soap press where he painted the logo, a series of bubbles and the slogan, “Recycling Soap Saves Lives.”
Chris was blessed with natural artistic talent, and went on to hone his skills at the San Francisco Art Institute. While studying there he got his first taste of large-format painting after landing a job with an interior designer who was the sole occupant of a four-story building.
“He commissioned me to paint a sign on the outside of building. The sign was was 40 feet high and was executed from a scaffold. I painted a chair that was 30 feet high – and 10-foot letters. It took several months and was a great experience.”
Chris went on to graduate with straight A’s from the Kansas City Art Institute, where he was allowed to skip a semester and graduate early. After becoming a father, however, he decided to go in a different career direction.
“With a family, I couldn’t fathom how I could make a living with art,” Chris said. “So I went into the construction business. I stuck with it and became a mason. Once I began laying stone it really went nuts because I was back into artistic composition. I had such a good time with that.”
When the economy dipped and construction was on the decline, Chris spent some time building interstate bridges in downtown Orlando.
“Whenever I drive past the 408 and I-4 interchange, I point to those bridges and tell whoever is with me that I’ve been on, in and under every one of them.”
Now that his kids are grown, Chris is excited to embrace his artistic side again.
“I didn’t expect this to happen when I came to work here, but it began to emerge over time,” Chris said. “I was looking for ways to help out within the context of my experience. The warehouse really did need some aesthetic improvement. Luckily there is still a long way to go. I can stay busy with this project for quite a while.”