Design Feature #23

Special Democratising art and design through masking tape

mt masking tape

Written by RMM
All images by & PROP International CORP.

What do Saul Bass, Olle Eksell, Alain Gree, Lisa Larson and Tadanori Yoko have in common? Aside from being some of the most creative artists and illustrators in the world, they’re beloved by millions for their often whimsical or fantastical depictions of life around us. In recent years, these artists have met yet again on common ground: Japanese washi masking tape.

And it all started with one book, created nearly 10 years ago by 3 women. Enamoured by the creative possibilities that masking tape brought, these 3 ladies filled a tiny mini-book full of beautiful craftwork using factory masking tape. Their ideas blew away the folks at Kamoi Kakoshi Co., a century-old adhesive tape company, who invited them to visit their factory. The ladies, inventive as they were, made an interesting request (a proposition, almost): couldn’t Kamoi create a whole range of coloured masking tapes? Imagine what they could do with a rainbow of colours, seeing as what they had managed to craft with the standard range. In the year of 2008, the mt range was born, with an inaugural range of 20 colours (just like a box of colour pencils!) that were easy to tear by hand, and reusable!

It is precisely this spirit of democratising creativity that is the reason why Kamoi’s mt masking tape has taken the world by storm. Founded by a desire to create and fuelled by a dream to create surprises in every home, mt tape is perhaps the perfect example of how design can start from the ground up. Since that fateful meeting, mt has come a long way and evolved into a creative force of its own, producing new colours every year.

In 2009, under the creative direction of Koji Iyama (of iyamadesign co.), mt also began experimenting with different printing techniques — such as hot-stamping, foiling and flocking — introducing the general public to a multi-sensorial aspect of design. Through this, mt also allows the common man to get in touch with more exquisite and rarer forms of print production. Roll by roll, housewives, students, office workers, children and anyone really, can get in touch with design. These different textures and effects excite and inspire. & JINS

The feather in mt’s cap is, of course, the impeccable collaborations it has made with creative brands, artists and illustrators from all around the world. mt works with cult brands much like itself in size and ambition. These collaborations inspire the brands to look at themselves in a new light: take the recent partnership with eyewear brand JINS. Both mt and JINS took the changing seasons as a jumping point and created a line of glasses (and tape of course) featuring colourful patterns inspired by ‘warmth’.

And for brands like Morris & Co, which believe in making art available to all, mt is the perfect canvas to reach new people and new spaces. William Morris’s fascinating patterns now not only adorn walls but also notebooks and virtually any surface mt’s masking tape can adhere to. If purchasing an item from mina perhonen is out of your budget, simply jazz up your mobile phone case, organiser, maybe even your watch with some mt x mina perhonen tape!

Similarly, while it might be hard for someone to collect all of Alain Gree’s illustrated books, it is certainly much easier to amass a small collection of mt x Alain Gree tapes. The mt x artist series tapes allow everyone to carry an art collection in their pocket.

These collaborations are an exercise in creative restraint as well. How do you distill a brand or body of work into something that is, at most, a 30mm tape? Does the brand or artist default to their most famous patterns or images, or do they take this as a chance to reinvent their image? It’s clear to see that mt’s collaborators dive headfirst into creating new interpretations of themselves, often with surprising results.

From Tadanori Yoko’s graphic posters to Paul Cox’s whimsical illustrations, mt has always picked like-minded designers and illustrators who want to go beyond current trends and share their creative vision with the world. Together with mt, these creatives could not have a better canvas — albeit tinier and stickier — to work on.

For mt, it’s not just enough to reflect the art and design world — their masking tapes are here to change it. By elevating the humble masking into an object of innovation and design, they’ve placed endless design possibilities into our hands.

"Stick with Joy – The Masking Tape Creativity Fair"


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