In Arts & Entertainment

Becky Tesch in her Bay View home and studio.

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Fashion meets function: Becky Tesch's duct tape creations

Duct tape was developed during World War II as a practical, waterproof adhesive, but in the past few years, it became a kitschy material of choice in the DIY craft world. Duck Products, an Ohio-based company that manufactures duct tape, offers a college scholarship to the person who creates the most impressive prom outfit out of the fabric-based tape, and in Milwaukee, artists and crafters like Becky Tesch use it to construct fashionable and functional wallets and purses.

"Duct tape has always had a place in our culture, from redneck repair to indie arts and crafts," says Tesch.

About four years ago, Tesch used duct tape to repair a torn wallet, but quickly realized she was on to something and invented her own way of making duct tape wallets. She later created purses, and again developed a unique construction process that landed her a gig on HGTV's "That's Clever" program last fall.

"It was a crazy experience. It took eight hours to make a 12-minute segment," says Tesch, 30. "Guess that was 12 of my 15 minutes of fame."

Tesch isn't sure how many duct tape purses and wallets she has made, somewhere between a few hundred and 1,000.

"Duct tape is a really cool material that now comes in all different colors," she says. "And you don't have to know how to sew to make things."

Tesch, a UW-Milwaukee graduate who works as a graphic designer by day, has a studio in her Bay View home and at Bucketworks. She sells her duct tape purses -- along with other art pieces made from recycled materials -- at Fasten Co-op Clothing Gallery, M-80, online and at hipster craft shows like Art vs. Craft, Chicago's Renegade Craft Fair and Madison's High Noon Valentine Craftacular under her business name "My Mish Mosh."

"The name is fitting for my business because I use mostly found objects which limits my supply and I end up making a 'mish mosh' of things," she says.

Aside from duct tape creations, the My Mish Mosh product line includes jewelry made from recycled bike parts and magnetic, wood block picture frames. Tesch says she prefers using found and recycled items because she's frustrated with the wasteful consumerism in our society.

"I do what I can to be resourceful," she says. "And I'm cheap."

Tesch says an art professor at UWM mentioned during a lecture that art supplies are free if you know where to look, and the information inspired her.

A native of Shorewood, Tesch says she has been crafting since she "could pick up a scissors and glue" and remembers making dollhouse chairs out of small paper cups and a tiny calendar cut from the pages of a New Yorker magazine. She also mastered the art of mix tape collages during high school.

So what's the best part about duct tape creations?

"Repairs are super easy. You just slap more duct tape on it," says Tesch.


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