Archives

The way of duct tape

by Erik Beerbower

In 210 BC the Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi of China was buried with 8,000 terra cotta warriors and horses to protect him in the afterlife. That got me thinking about my inevitable departure from this world. I started to wonder what I would want to be buried with. After all, if you believe in the afterlife, having what you need for your next spiritual role could be vital. I certainly do not need an army to protect me, but I definitely want several rolls of duct tape.

In the 1920s Richard Drew of Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co. invented an adhesive tape that has forever shaped my skill set as an artist. I have probably bought over a thousand rolls of duct tape in the past 10 years. I make a lot of sculpture, and I use duct tape fluidly throughout my process. I use it for modeling, making molds, casting sculpture and dozens of other applications.

In 1942 a type of duct tape was created for the military by Johnson & Johnson. The original use of duct tape was to keep moisture out of the ammunition cases for the military. Because of its waterproof capabilities people referred to the tape as “duck tape.” Its usage quickly expanded to fixing guns, jeeps and aircraft. When the war ended duct tape made its way into the housing industry to connect heating and air conditioning ductwork together. The color changed from Army green to silver to match the ductwork; that’s when it started to be referred to as “duct tape.” It didn’t take long for duct tape to make its way into every toolbox, shop, car and kitchen drawer in the nation.

The way of duct tape continues to expand and emerge.

From wallets to dresses, duct tape is making a fashion statement – it eliminates the need for sewing and has the advantage of being waterproof. If you rip your dress, just put duct tape on it. Duct tape comes in a variety of colors, which can add splash and flair to any ensemble.

In the world of art, duct tape has moved from the background to the foreground. There is an artist in Portland, Ore. who goes by the name Mona Superhero and creates stunning portraits out of duct tape instead of paint. It eliminates drying time and gives her indoor/outdoor options.

US Fire Administrator David Paulison described a list of useful items that can be helpful after a biological, chemical or radiological attack. Paulison recommended that households have on hand three days worth of water and food, an emergency supply kit, radios with extra batteries, plastic sheeting and, you guessed it, duct tape to seal windows and doors.

From practical to aesthetic, duct tape arguably could be one of the most versatile tools ever created.

It’s legend grows every day. When it comes to fixing stuff, the repairmen are stuck on duct tape. Duct tape is constantly finding new applications and being shared amongst its believers. But for rookie duct tape users, here is some advice: The cheaper the duct tape, the weaker the adhesion. Duct tape sticks best to itself, so if you want it to stick to a wide range of materials you may need to spend a few more bucks. If you go to a home improvement store to buy your duct tape, never buy it in the paint section. The paint section tends to be a natural place to seek out duct tape because logic would dictate it would be there with the painting tape and masking tape. There is duct tape there but it is usually the most expensive kind the store sells. If you go to the aisle where they sell ductwork and air filters there will be five or six different kinds of duct tape in a range of prices. Most of the time they sell a two-pack at a discounted price at the bottom of the rack, below eye level.

If duct tape was around during Qin Shi Huangdi’s reign I am quite sure he would have buried at least 8,000 rolls with him and his terra cotta army – one for each of his warriors and horses to fix themselves through their long journey to the afterlife.

To comment on this portrait of an artist, email Erik Beerbower at imisculp@mindspring.com

Share: