Sticky stuff takes on new arty role

October 11, 2008|By HELEN ANNE TRAVIS

Duct tape.

It holds the batteries in when you lose the cover on the back of the remote. It seals leaky hoses. It patches torn tents.

It also helped a woman in Dade City, Fla., find her calling.

It all started six years ago when a Google search for crafts showed a bored Grace Grover how to make wallets and fake flowers out of the silver sticky stuff.

She's since gone through more than 500 rolls of 11 various colors, and all friends and family members have received a duct-tape creation of some sort -- portrait of a snook, red-and-black woven purse, Jamaican-flag wallet.


She spends hours in her bedroom, folding sticky side to sticky side to create billfolds, purses and fake roses. She reupholsters chairs with it and painstakingly cuts tiny pieces into duct-tape fingers, faces and guitars.

"I like different," Grover, 18, said.

She dropped out of high school in ninth grade after she said a teacher accused her of being a witch. Grover thinks it was her dyed black hair, dramatic eye shadow and facial piercings.

"They put you in such a stereotypical box," Grover said.

She was never the mall type. She reads Shakespeare and listens to Korn. On her walls there's a printout of the 91st Psalm and a list of countries she wants to visit. Grover hopes the duct tape will get her there.

She recently took a risk and responded to a Craigslist ad calling for artists.

Grover's normally shy, but she's opened up since chatting with customers at the few flea-market stands where she tried to sell her wares. She grew more confident after she hosted an impromptu front-porch duct-tape class for the neighborhood kids a few summers ago.

She's grown, but she still freaked out when Jeff Henriquez wrote back and said he liked her stuff.

"What she did with the duct tape is create a new function for it," said Henriquez, 34, resident artist at the Ponce De Leon Hotel in St. Petersburg, Fla. "That ... by itself is an accomplishment."

She didn't want to drive to meet him by herself. Grover wanted to do what she normally did -- sit back and let Mom do the talking. But Mom told her daughter to go alone.

"I thought it would be good for her," said Anna Grover, 45. "I told her, 'I think this is something you really want to do on your own, but you're afraid to admit it.' " Henriquez introduced her to a friend who ran the ARTpool Gallery in St. Petersburg. She was invited to display her wares.

"To realize I could step out and say, 'This is my work, let's show it off,' was amazing," Grover said. "That's when I realized this could be my calling."

Portugal is first on the list of places she wants to visit, followed by Spain, Italy and Amsterdam. She taped the list to the wall by her pillow so she would see it every morning when she woke up.

She never thought of traveling before, but in the local art world she's met people who have seen the world, and now, she's hungry.

"I just want to get over there and touch it and see it," she said.

She'll get her GED by the end of the year, and go to college eventually. Forensic photography sounds like a good career.

In the meantime, it's duct tape. The more she sells, the sooner the backpack trek through Europe.

Two months, maybe more, she said. She can sell wallets and create portraits along the way for extra money.

And if her backpack breaks, she can easily fix it.

To learn more about Grover, visit (Duck Tape is her favorite brand of duct tape.)

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