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Meet Leah Abucayan

Today we’d like to introduce you to Leah Abucayan.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I’m also known as hellaLEAH the Tapebeast. I make stuff out of duct tape. I’m 27 years young originally from the city of trees Sacramento, CA but for the past three years, Atlanta has been my home. I currently work as a graphic designer and illustrator for CNN by day, but by night, I spend my time crafting duct tape portraits. The culture and community in Atlanta have allowed me to venture further into my art. 6th Grade was the first time I saw someone with a duct tape wallet, it was just your basic grey tape, kinda sloppily put together. So, I took a stab at it and realized I could do so much more with tape than making wallets. Throughout middle school and high school, I was commissioning wallets and bags, even bags with built-in speakers out of duct tape. I was a young kid with a small business and that lasted throughout high school. After attending the Academy of Art University in San Francisco for industrial design and graphic design, I started to focus more on the design aspect of tape rather than creating wallets and such. I think of it as a manual vector illustration. Each piece is one of a kind handmade with love and I never make a design twice. I’ve been given the opportunity to design a billboard with my duct tape for Mailchimp as well as craft bags for Black Eyed Peas and I was in the running to be a contestant on the craft show Making It on NBC. You’ll notice most of my pieces are inspired by 90’s hip hop and Disney, who thinks I’m very passionate about what I would say defines my style. I interned for Walt Disney Imagineering a few years and it’s had a heavy influence on artwork. I’m still exploring the potential in my art medium and trying to expand and collaborate with more artists.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
In my work process, the most difficult part after the design is thinking in layers and how to stack the tape so that it reads well in a larger picture; it’s a different way of thinking. The hardest obstacle I’ve always faced with my art is finding the time to create new things as well as putting myself out there. When work and life get in the way balance is not always the easiest and my hobby often times goes on the back burner. I have so many ideas and projects lined up in my mind, but to get them started is pretty difficult. Years ago, when I first started making wallets in middle school, it became a business for me crafting custom commissioned bags and wallets and it was great for a few years but as more people online started to find out about my business via Tumblr I was overwhelmed with the number of orders I was getting. At the time, I was just a preteen and I wasn’t able to balance making wallets and running a business solely on my own whilst keeping up with homework and everything else that comes with teenage years. I had to abandon that business of mine because at that point my hobby and passion for creating was burnt out and I was no longer enjoying the craft. But in that period of taking a break from art, I found my passion for creating designs with tape and it’s led to more opportunities. I can be somewhat on the shy side so putting myself out there and participating in more galleries and collaborations has been my own personal obstacle of stepping outside my comfort zone.

Please tell us more about what you do, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
I specialize in creating duct tape portraits. It’s not a common medium for art, often times duct tape is just a household item for easy fixes. I’ve been able to take my passion for scrappy crafting and create a platform for myself that combines my career as a graphic designer and my hobby. I do take commissions for work, but most of the time I create pieces inspired by 90’s hip hop and Disney. I wouldn’t call my artwork a business, but a passion and a hobby.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
As a kid, my dad was in the Air Force so my family and I were stationed in Germany so we often traveled around to neighboring countries. My mom always tells me this story when she realized I was going to grow up to be an artist. I was maybe three or four at the time and had already enjoyed drawing, but were at the Sistine Chapel in Italy. It’s covered floor to ceiling in renaissance art by Michaelangelo and I was so inspired that I asked my parents if I could paint Barney on our ceiling when we got home.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

MailChimp, Leonard & Church
David Cook, WATS Media

Getting in touch: VoyageATL is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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