The words
CHRISTIAN CARR:
DUCT TAPE

Christian made his first duct tape wallet when he was 10, and it stuck.

Music for this episode is by the galaxy’s own Breakmaster Cylinder, with duct tape percussion by Ashton Paul Drake. Illustration by Kolin Pope.

TRANSCRIPT

Christian Carr: My name is Christian Carr, and for about a decade and a half I’ve been a duct tape artist.

I have a very distinct memory of the exact night I got into making things out of duct tape. I was in the fourth grade. My parents would let me stay up late on Friday nights to watch David Letterman, cause I loved David Letterman. And he always had people with weird niche interests on the show.

David Letterman: Good to have you on the program!

Christian Carr: And one Friday night he had on a guy who had made like a dozen or so different things out of duct tape. He’d made purses and shoes and wallets.

William Beacom: These are duct tape roses, they take about a half hour to make David Letterman: Half an hour a piece or…

Christian Carr: And I saw that and I thought that was the coolest thing, and I thought I could do that. So I literally that night went into the garage and made my first duct tape wallet. And that’s how it all started.

I was 10 at the time, so you can imagine that didn’t turn out that great. It was lopsided, it didn’t have any sort of pockets or anything to hold cards, it would stick out kind of noticeably out of your pocket. Once I had the process down of how to make it flat and symmetrical, it was only so long before I started putting patterns on them.

I started selling duct tape wallets. And people would ask for more and more details as time went on. Like someone asked for a Super Smash Brothers wallet with like four characters on it, and I wish I had a photo of that because it was one of the earliest things I did that you could consider a scene. People were paying me like $4 or $5, which was way not enough at the time I was putting into it! I was severely underpaid at the time.

My sophomore year of high school I started getting real art supplies, branching out in colors, doing more detailed things, doing portraits. I had never done anything on a real canvas before then, I’d usually done it on either printer paper or the back of a cereal box. That’s when I really started thinking of it as art more than hobby.

For me, a big part of duct tape art is I like putting it together. It’s not like painting or drawing where it’s all done on the same surface kind of chronologically, it’s more done in sheets and layers. Well, I guess painting and drawing are done like that, but you can’t blend duct tape. It’s all stacking on top. In that sense, it’s sort of like puzzle making. You have to really recognize your space, what your pieces are and how they’re going to come together and how you’re going to represent things. So I like that aspect of it.

Also I can’t draw or paint.

I try keep as many different colors I can cause you really can’t blend them and sometimes really have to get creative with that. So I usually keep around 40 to 50 rolls of duct tape in my collection and I try to get different brands. Duck Brand is definitely my go to, I love them. I think they’re fantastic. If they want to sponsor me, uh, that would be great, if anyone’s listening. It tears easily, which is really important. It’s forgiving, you can peel it back. It’s really great. But there are other smaller brands like the tape brothers, which I don’t think are producing anymore, that made like 32 different colors. And I try to hang on to those roles as often as I can get them. And then there’s all like the off janky brands that I don’t really know the name of and you can kind of find them at the dollar store. And they’re just so unbearably thin that they fall apart when you try to tear them, but they come in colors of the ones I have, so I need to keep them in my collection.

So there’s a thing that Duck brand puts on every year called the Stuck at Prom contest, which is teenagers across the country make their prom outfits out of duct tape. And I had actually started on that and then just kind of got bored with the project, but I still have the tuxedo jacket I made out of duct tape my senior year of high school.

Mark Bramhill: I, the, the question that immediately I think of is that has to be like the least breathable clothing possible.

Christian Carr: Yeah, you’ll get drenched in sweat in minutes at most. I assume that they put it on to take photos, and then wear like a real dress and tux to prom. ‘Cause I remember my prom being extremely sweaty in just a regular tuxedo! So I can’t imagine one made out of unbreathable vinyl.

A recent series I did on defunct Houston locations, places that I really liked or thought were really cool looking at Houston that are gone. So I started with Half-Price Books in Rice Village, which was my favorite bookstore cause it had so many rooms and you can go and hide in there and the staff wouldn’t bother you and you could stay in there for hours reading. And then I moved on to the Texas Cyclone, which was a rollercoaster at the now defunct Six Flags: Astroworld. And then I did the Zone d’Erotica by the Houston Galleria, which might not make a lot of sense to people who aren’t from Houston, but it was a, um, let’s say “adult novelty shop” that sat directly in front of the largest shopping center in Texas. And it was this gaudy purple and pink building that existed to the chagrin of the Galleria owners for decades. And it was, it was just an icon. Those where a lot of fun to do.

If you really want to see the duct tape art and what it can be, there are three people I recommend you follow on Instagram. The first is me, obviously. The second is a woman named Leah. She’s an Atlanta based artist. She does a lot more than duct tape, but her duct tape art is amazing. It just blows me out of the water. And then finally is Chance Foreman. He’s kind of the godfather of this art form. I think he was the first person who was really doing duct tape art full time. And he’s just incredible. His technique is drastically different than mine. I like to cut shapes out, he likes to tear duct tape into tiny pieces and lay them like brushstrokes, which is insane to me. And I’ve tried it his way and I do not care for it.

But for the person at home who wants to start, I recommend just getting a regular, plain old gray roll of duct tape and making that first wallet like I did. Something utilitarian as is the intended purpose of tack tape, because that is the best way to start.

Mark Bramhill: Enthusiast is produced by me, Mark Bramhill. Today’s music is by Breakmaster Cylinder with duct tape percussion by Ashton Paul Drake. Editorial assistance from Lenna Mendoza. Special thanks to Don Giller. You can find links to those great duct tape art Instagram accounts, and lots more to be joyful about, enthusiastpodcast.com.

This is the last episode of the season for Enthusiast! I hope these episodes have brought you some joy, maybe even a new passion, during this difficult year. I know it’s helped me to make them. And if you want more of the show, please help spread the word! Tell your friends, your family, your mailman — let them know they need Enthusiast! in their life. Alright — thanks for listening.