Duct tape, once a stock item of the mulleted ’80s television hero MacGyver, has become a material for the modern-day crafter. If you think that these crafters—edgy, hip, even a little punk—are a marginal group in the grand scheme of all things crafty, think again. Duct tape crafters are part of a whole movement of alternative design that has changed the face of crafting. More traditional crafting groups (knitting circles, for instance), once comprised of Mid-Western grandmothers and church ladies, are now populated by young inner city singles of varying incomes and interests.
While the skill sets of the crafter remain the same, the materials and designs are what define this new breed. The majority of materials they use are found objects, recycled material, and everyday as well as household items. The designs are not too precious, a bit cheeky, sometimes political, sometimes cerebral, but always clever.
To get a sense of duct tape’s possibilities, take a quick look on etsy.com and see the work of a few dozen duct tape crafters . You’ll find handmade wallets, bags, pillows, and flowers, all fashioned out of duct tape. The following examples are some of the inventive items being made from duct tape:
Fish scale bag by Rena , a.k.a spluloacle, on etsy.com. This bag is made from 100 percent duct tape with a magnetic closure.
Red rose barrette by VonDoom  on etsy.com. Flower measures three inches in diameter and is made from red duct tape.
Wallets by hilarycs  on etsy.com. Printed digital canvas held together with duct tape.
Pillow by CraftyRichela , a.k.a Richela Fabian Morgan—aka ME!—on etsy.com. Up-and-over woven duct tape with cotton lining. Stuffed with Poly-Fil.
Why Use the Duct?
Okay, confession time: I am a duct tape crafter—or a crafter that primarily uses duct tape as a material. I’m absolutely crazy about duct tape. It’s cheap, accessible, and just so darn easy to work with.
As a crafting material, duct tape is a welcome fit. It is accessible and available almost everywhere: hardware stores, dollar or discount stores, and even grocery stores. So for those who don’t live near an arts-n-craft supply shop (or dare walk in one), getting their hands on a roll of duct tape is fairly easy. It’s obviously durable and pliable, since its main function is to cover ducts and pipes. It can be easily cut into whatever shape you desire, whether with a stencil or freehand. And when used as a fabric, it doesn’t require sewing.
Recognizing its crafty use, manufacturers of duct tape have broadened their color palette. 3M, the original producer of the ubiquitous silver duct tape, now makes red, blue, green, yellow, white, black, and brown. Duck brand duct tape carries a wider range of colors such as lime green, orange, pink, and purple. Duck also sells a line of Duck Tape brand accessories and organizes a yearly prom outfit contest in which the contestants make dresses and tuxedos using only their product. And there is also “designer” duct tape with prints like camouflage or wood veneer. Fortis Design offers a designer line that includes paisley, wicker, wood grain, and houndstooth prints.
If you want to make your own duct tape creation and want step by step instructions, there are several published books, ranging from easy (Stick It!: 99 DIY Duct Tape Projects) to artful (Ductigami) to down-n-dirty (anything written by the self-proclaimed Duct Tape Guys, Jim Berg and Tim Nyberg). Making a duct tape wallet (link out to duct tape wallet article when it’s published) is a good place to start for beginners.
For more information on the indie craft movement, check out Handmade Nation, a documentary film that spotlights several indie crafters and their wares from all over the country. Also, check out the Renegade Craft Fair, a traveling Woodstock-like event for crafting, which is also succinctly captured in the documentary film. Happy duct-tape crafting!
Photos courtesy of the crafters
Duct Tape to Wallet in Eleven Easy Steps