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Interview with a Twist (Tie Artist)

twist tie army smaller
twist tie army smaller
twist tie army smaller


Summary: Talk about a unique, artistic hobby. Jacob Branstetter of Ohio uses twist ties to create well-known nerdy characters from famous shows such as Doctor Who, Full Metal Alchemist, Harry Potter, and TMNT. Even without faces, every one of his figures is discernible for people in the character’s fandom. Most of them would be recognizable by non-nerdy people as well. So what work goes into creating these intriguing little figures and how did he get into it in the first place?

Posted June 15, 2013 by

link twist tie    finn twist tie   al and edward

Brittany DeSalvo: First off, tell us about yourself.

Jacob Branstetter: Well, I’m 27, I live in Ohio, I currently work full time at a grocery store, mongering fish, and am paying my way through school trying to figure out what I’m going to do with my life.

BD: What are some of your favorite nerdy things?

JB: Favorite nerdy things, well I am into cosplaying. I like to cosplay as the 4th doctor, Rick Grimes, and I’m always looking for more costumes to put together and conventions to go to. I play board games with my friends pretty regularly, and have been playing Magic: The Gathering for nearly 15 years.

BD: How did you get into making twist tie figures and how long have you been doing it?

JB: Well it all started pretty much just being bored at work, there’s a pretty much endless supply of twist ties just sitting around and I started playing with them, hoping to make something to give to a co-worker and have something to talk about. The first thing I made was just a basket that I weaved out of ties and made into a hot air balloon. After that, some people took notice and wanted me to make them things too. My first request was a  lobster, and after I somehow managed to make that, I for some reason decided to make a Ninja Turtle. From there I just kept making things people wanted me to make them. I’ve only been doing it for about two months now, actually.

BD: Did you experiment with any other mediums before settling on twist ties? What other types of art do you enjoy doing?

JB: Well I wasn’t particularly looking for a medium, just kind of happened upon it, and it just kept developing and I kept doing more complex figures. Just something fun to do when I’m bored. I am also into photography as a hobby. I’ve been shooting since I was around 17. I mainly enjoy taking pictures of people.

BD: How many figures have you made? Which one is your favorite? Which one took the longest to make?

JB: I’ve probably made somewhere in the neighborhood of 20-30 different figures, although I’ve made a few things that aren’t figures as well, like a medic hand bag and a boxing glove. My favorite is definitely my Link; making the Shield was a blast, trying to figure out the best way to put the details onto it. I try not to make a twist tie with more than one color, so I wanted to try to work in the detail with colored twist ties instead of just coloring the shield. It took about three or four attempts. Link and Samus were the ones I put the most work into. I wanted them to be perfect since I was making them for someone. Link probably took around six hours of work time, mainly because I had to start over on parts of him. Alphonse Elric took a while too, just because I did the basket weave for pretty much all of him.


BD: How long does it take to make one? What all work goes into the process? What is the most frustrating part of the process?

JB: On average, I’m not certain how long they take. I kind of zone out when I make them, but I’d say about three to four hours on average to get them to a point that I’m happy with. It really depends on how detailed the figure is. Some of them are hollow inside and some of them are solid twist ties. The main amount of work usually goes into trying to make the details look as good as possible since that’s really what makes them recognizable. I also use Sharpies to color white twist ties (although I have some colored ones too) and that takes a while. That’s also probably the most frustrating part. If the figure has hair getting the head and the hair to look right is really frustrating too.

BD: I see that for a few, they’re on a kind of stand (like Harry Potter), but for the others, how do you get them to stand upright?

JB: Well, Harry was one of a few exceptions. I wanted it to somewhat look like he was flying on the broom and the twist tie stand seemed the best. For the most part, I just twist tie them onto a card stock stand by poking holes in the bottom and putting a twist tie through and wrapping it around the feet or legs. It really depends. Some of them are free-standing. Most of the average-sized figures need some help to stay up though. I hope to find a more appealing stand for them in the future.

harry potter

BD: How much do they cost to make and do you use any supplies other than just twist ties?

JB: I buy the ties through my work and so it’s pretty cheap. I get a case of 2,000 twist ties for around five bucks and I’ve only used about one case or so thus far for all my figures. And I’ve probably spent around 20 bucks on Sharpies. I don’t use any other supplies. Maybe one or two pieces of scotch tape, but I try to use only twist ties.

BD: So you use white twist ties and color them whatever color you need?

JB: Yeah, when the white ones started running low, I came across some green ones and used them, they inspired the Ninja Turtles. For some reason, that was the first thing that came to mind when I saw them. Spiderman was made with red ties, but for the most part, I color white twist ties with markers. I try not to mix colors on a tie; I try to simply color the tie one color then add it to the piece. It’s a little difficult to control exactly where the tie will be visible to make one tie multiple colors. I do often cut the ties short.

tmnt 2

BD: Where do you usually start on each character?

JB: It really changed where I started depending on the character. For the body itself, often the torso, but for each project, I often start by seeing how a certain part will come out. With Link, I made the shield first to see if I could make it, and when it came out to my liking, I proceeded to make the rest of him. Or with Harry Potter, I wanted to see if I could make the Firebolt look appealing before I made the rest. Actually with Elvis, I weaved the jacket into the character itself; it’s essentially part of the whole figure. As I’ve made more ties, my technique has evolved to where I kind of weave the jacket or cape or cloak separately and then attach it. It seems to come out better that way.

BD: Have you sold any?

JB: I have not sold any, but I haven’t tried either. Too much pressure I guess. I just like giving them to people or displaying them. I really just make them for fun; it’s just an added bonus that people really seem to like them. I guess I’m not opposed to selling them, just haven’t really thought about how I would go about doing it.

BD: Do you have any characters that you’re planning on making soon?

JB: I want to make some more super heroes if I can, and I think Jake from Adventure Time will be coming soon.


Check out more of Jacob’s twist tie figures on his deviantART account at

Brittany DeSalvo

Brittany is a Cincinnati native with a degree in Professional Writing from Purdue University. She currently manages the front office of an urgent care, works as an apprentice divemaster at a SCUBA shop, and freelance edits, as well as doing a lot of editing for and contributing to this site. In her free time, Brittany enjoys SCUBA diving, spelunking, reading, cuddling cats, and recently, attending conventions. If you're a fan, please add me on Facebook! =]



    Man, and here I was, all proud of myself for tying them into little bows. Amazing stuff!

    Jeremy Dawson

    The FMA ones are amazing. He should really consider opening up a store

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