Eben Burgoon on Tapagimi, Comics, and Bad Ideas

Maker News
Eben Burgoon on Tapagimi, Comics, and Bad Ideas

Eben Burgoon (based in Sacramento, California) is an independent comics creator and a tapigami enthusiast, who works closely with the founder of this technique Danny Scheible.
Just one week after Bay Area Maker Faire, Eben will fly to Lithuania, to Vilnius Mini Maker Faire, where he will share his works and knowledge on how to make sculptures from masking tape.
As Vilnius Mini Maker Faire organizers, we are happy to share the thoughts of this talented creator on both of his passions – comics and tapigami.

Eben, even though this was a long time ago, do you remember how you switched from a comics’ reader to comics’ creator?
I often doodled quite a bit on my schoolwork and that turned into making comics. I did what most readers do and read classic American cartoon newspaper strips like Calvin and Hobbes, Garfield, and Far Side — but I did really start reading story comics until about 6th grade when my teacher took notice of my silly comics and suggested I read Tintin.
Those really began my interest in comics and kept the fire lit for a long time. Sadly, as school books stacked up, comics got pushed out of my regular reading habits as it happens for most people. During that time, I wrote a lot more of sketch comedy, screenplay, and short fiction.
Later, when I started making comics again, I also started reading comics again. The best storytellers tend to consume and surround themselves with storytelling. It’d be difficult to have a command of the medium without reading other people’s work in the medium of comics.

Who were the first people to see your comics? Was it difficult to go public in the beginning?
Probably teachers, if we’re talking about my earliest comic experiments, but with my more professional work — I just put it up online.
A friend of mine and I made a comic for about 5 years. It was about the janitors that clean up after spies like James Bond. It was a lot of silly fun to just throw those comics out to the internet to love or hate. I didn’t have a lot of fear or worry about that. I love to share art and my work with people.

What are your favorite comics at the moment?
Headlopper by Andrew MacLean is pretty wonderful barbarian fantasy story. Good bearded hero in there too.
Kyle Starks’ action comedy books Sexcastle and Kill ‘Em All are a witty, and loads of fun. I enjoy his work immensely and just got started on his new work Rock Candy Mountain. I Hate Fairyland by Skottie Young has been a lot of silly sugary nursery rhyme shoved into a blender with over-the-top cartoony violence. It’s great.
I am a devotee of CHEW by John Layman and Rob Guillory. I loved that series and own every book. I’m really looking forward to their new projects independent of one another. “Leviathan” and “Farmhand” respectively.
I’m looking forward to a lot of the books coming out from my colleagues at Starburns Industries Press too. They’ve got some interesting titles on the horizon like Hellicious, Oddwell, and Gregory Graves.

Well done comics is a mix of visual and textual experience. How do you come up with ideas (engaging stories, characters, texts)? Where does your inspiration come from?
Ideas and inspiration are like exercises that we do with our creative muscles. When that creative muscle is in peak shape, it’s acts like a sommelier’s tongue. It’s able to taste and find the smallest of flavors and weave words and art around it until we make something new and wildly unexpected.

If I hold that analogy even further, inspiration can come from anywhere and any thing — so I am basically just running around and licking everything to see what flavors surprise me, holding onto the ones that linger, and that I can ultimately make into unexpected and surprising gifts for everybody else.

You also hold workshops on writing first comic book: what do you teach there? What methods do you use?
My goal with any workshop is to help take away the fear of a blank piece of paper… This is especially important when I work with adults. When we get older, particularly in American culture, we often get intimidated by blankness; because we think our ideas must be good before we let them out of our head. Whereas children are often more than ready to play with their thoughts: they are not afraid to write them down, but they lack the experience to organize those thoughts into usable story.
In both cases, it’s about encouraging exploration, about honing failure and mistakes into substance and subsistence… There are no such thing as bad ideas, we too often commit to treating our ideas badly. I really hope that the main take away is an appreciation and understanding of the medium. Art should be made without concern for judgement of others; but to share a small piece of themselves with the world, some strangers, some friends, some family, or even just for ourselves…


Let’s switch to another passion of your life – Tapigami. Can you explain it in simple words?
Tapigami is the art of applying our imagination to masking tape. Using the design principles invented by Tapigami’s creator Danny Scheible, we can create sculptural artwork or even rapidly prototype in 3D space using the world’s oldest 3D printer — our hands.

How did tapigami come to your life?
The first time I met Danny at my house. He was invited to play board games with me. We were on the same team and he and I made all the game pieces out of tape while playing the game. We later were in an artistic incubator group in Sacramento; and as we spent more time together it was clear that our values and ideals about art, collaboration, and creation were very similar. That was about six years ago.

What is the specifics of this technique which made it attractive to you?
Honestly, when I face creative writer’s block, I often buy a LEGO set from the store and just spend time building it. I loved to do that and I still love LEGO, but it adds up financially. When I create with Tapigami, it’s a good exercise in making something from nothing and being happy about that — and it get’s me ready to create my other work.

How long does it take to learn Tapigami?
Now, when I’ve been fortunate to teach Tapigami to likely tens of thousands of people over the years, in other countries as well, I’ve found that I can teach much of the basics to an eager person of any age in about 30 minutes at most. Most of the time, simple Tapigami making takes less than five minutes to show basics; mastering comes with practice. I’d say after creating Tapigami and using up an entire roll of tape — you’d be quite proficient.

You will participate in Vilnius Mini Maker Faire and its’ Educational forum on May 25-26. What are you going to present there?
Tapigami. Tapigami. Tapigami. I am so thankful and looking forward to being able to share this unique method for creating artwork with people. Tapigami is honestly at it’s best when it is being shared and made together. My hope is to inspire people to collaborate, make shapes and sculptures to add to Danny’s Tapigami Tape City — an ever expanding city of masking tape that’s now somewhere around 2700 square feet. We’ll have a sample of that city at the Maker Faire … and I’ll be creating and sharing Tapigami sculptures live throughout the weekend and every day while exploring the city of Vilnius and beyond.

Finally, can we expect you to draw a little drawing to capture the vibe of Vilnius Mini Maker Faire?
I will absolutely plan on making a large Vytis out of Tapigami, but perhaps I will be inspired by something else while I explore Lithuania!  We shall see — I certainly want to honor my hosts with a lovely gift.


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