The chance that future archaeologists will identify the 21st century as the Duct Tape Age is looking good right now, and you can blame it on a peculiarly 21st-century crafts bazaar called Etsy. True, Etsy’s eBay-style community of crafters do sell a lot more things that aren’t made entirely out of the one 3M product no serial killer can do without, but there’s something so striking about both the quantity and quality of duct tape items here that it’s easy to forget that. Wallets made of duct tape, faux cake slices made of duct tape, duct tape totes reinforced with Candy Land and Scrabble game boards, dazzling duct tape handbags made by “World Famous Art School” faculty and sixteen-year-old girls—it’s like the last traces of a high school senior trip shipwrecked on a desert island with a cargo of Home Depot supplies.
Of course what it really is is just what Etsy is: A testament to the charm and beauty human hands can wrest from even the ugliest of raw materials. And if that seems an unlikely thing to find on the Internet, where nothing, it seems, is material and everything is untouchable, one visit to etsy.com will straighten you out. No, there’s nothing here you can put your hands on (at least not before you buy it), but Etsy is a website of such uncommonly sumptuous design that your eyes have plenty to take in anyway. Tastefully unobtrusive Flash concoctions let you search the site by color, toss potential purchases around the screen like so many paint swatches, and sift through back listings as intuitively as flipping catalog pages. The craft that went into it all is obvious, and so is the implication: Duct Tape Age, Digital Age, it’s all the same. The only thing the Web has done that matters is make potential artisans of us all.