Richela Fabian Morgan is a serious crafter who specializes in paper, adhesives, and found materials. She’s so serious that she’s written four books on the subject, including Tape It & Make It: 101 Duct Tape Activities and The Green Crafter: 52 Eco Friendly Crafts for Every Week of the Year.Richela loves working with kids and teaches craft projects at elementary schools, libraries, Girl Scout troupes, and the Sheldrake Environmental Center in Larchmont, NY. She’s currently working on a sequel to Tape It & Make It (we’re can’t wait!) and blogs about making stuff, raising two crafty kids (Mack, 9, and Masana, 11), and discovering the world around her. We asked Richela how she discovered her passion for crafts.
How did you get the idea for Tape It & Make It?
Someone asked me if I could come up with a list of 101 duct tape crafts and at first I balked. I thought, “now that’s a lot of duct tape!” But then curiosity got the better of me and I began to write down all the things I’d actually made. In no time I got to project number 101, and I realized that I could have included 101 more.
Many of the projects in my book were inspired by my daughter Masana and her friends. When the girls were in the first grade, they would hang out at my house and play with my “stuff.” I always had materials lying around: jars of caps and buttons, thread, string, yarn, glue, all sorts of scrap paper, and, of course, duct tape. They really loved duct tape. They would often ask me for help and pretty soon I was showing them how to make a hat or tie or a pair of fingerless gloves. They are now in the sixth grade and wear their fashionable duct tape confections to school. (That’s Mansana in the photo below with a duct tape hair accessory.)
How long did it take to write it? Did you try every activity yourself?
The whole process took about six weeks and I made every project before writing a single word! While I was making a project, I shot pictures to help me remember the steps. I also made notes with regard to measurement and orientation. After the project was completed I reviewed the pictures and notes, then wrote the text.
Was there anything that surprised you when you wrote the book?
The one thing that surprised me was how duct tape can rip one’s hair off so cleanly. I had the misfortune of getting a strip of the stuff stuck on my forearm. When I pulled it off, my skin was tender, red, and completely hairless. Better than waxing!
Talk to us about how you got involved in crafting. Were you always into crafts when you were a kid?
I always tinkered around when I was a kid, though I wouldn’t say that I knew what I was doing. I didn’t have anyone show me how to do anything or encourage me to just play around with an idea, so the majority of my projects were only partially realized. I made horrible clothes for my Barbie dolls and felt that I couldn’t draw well. I didn’t think that I was particularly creative and was not motivated to take any type of art class in high school or college.
When I was 23 I got a job as an assistant in the production/design department of the Knopf Publishing Group (which is now the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group). That’s where I first learned how to make things and realized how much I loved working with my hands. I had all these fantastic role models and mentors in the office. The graphic designers and production managers showed me how to use tools and choose materials. I learned how to deconstruct something in my head before attempting to make it. From that point on I never stopped crafting.
What about crafting appeals to you?
I love using a material and transforming into something unexpected. It’s not that I’m looking for a “wow” moment from someone on the outside. I’m seeking out that feeling of satisfaction from myself. So if I make a duct tape bag with Tom Cruise’s face on it, I do it so I’m proud to show it off. (By the way…do you want to see my duct tape bag with Tom Cruise’s face on it??)
Of course we do!
Can you tell us more about eco-crafting? What is it? Does it come from a certain tradition or is it something you invented?
That’s a term applied to crafting with materials bound for the trash, found materials, or materials that do not contain things harmful to the environment. I don’t think that I made it up. (But if I did, wouldn’t that be cool!)
I do a lot of crafting with the Sheldrake Environmental Center in Larchmont, NY, and we advertise it as eco-crafting. I’ve made paper flowers from old magazines, articulated stick puppets out of cereal boxes, and butterflies from brown paper bags.
One of my eco-crafts (that is more adult-oriented) is included in the forthcoming book ALL THINGS PAPER (Tuttle Publishing 2013), edited by Ann Martin (www.allthingspaper.net). It’s a tote bag made completely out of brown grocery bag handles.
Is there anything else you think we should know?
I like tepid coffee. My favorite meal is anything with lamb. I’m obsessed with Tom Cruise. I can’t sing, but I’ve got moves like Jagger. And when no one is home, I’ll watch the “Notebook” over and over and over again.
Richela has generously shared this holiday ornament project from Tape It & Make It. Enjoy!