Featured artist/collector: Morgan Jesse Lappin

I’m pretty sure that Marisa Zarczynski ’ 06 was the first student at St. Lawrence University to help me with my budding sticker research project back in the early 2000s. We reconnected again lately, and she introduced me to an artist friend of hers from Brooklyn who collects stickers, Morgan Jesse Lappin. Here is his sticker story.

“My sticker collection started in the early 80s in Rockland County, NY. My mother would take me to the supermarket, and I’d get a bunch of random stickers and the newest MAD Magazine. One day my mother gave me an empty photo album to use as my sticker book, and that’s what started my official collection. 

As I got older, my hobbies and interests changed. I took on music, silkscreening, and eventually collage art in 2007, which was the same year I moved to Brooklyn. That’s when my sticker game increased significantly. As I traversed the streets of Brooklyn, I would find stickers on buildings, light poles, and signs. If someone could reach a spot anywhere, there was probably a sticker on it. I would peel off stickers and stick them inside my shirt. When I got home, I’d turn my shirt inside out and place them all into my sticker book. On a good day, I’d bring back close to 30.

Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn

The stickers now go into special handmade sticker books. As a collage artist, I bring my collage aesthetic into most of my projects, even when I write music. The books are made out of record covers, which I spiral bind with blank pages for the stickers.

In 2021, my collection has grown to over 400 pages with multiple stickers on each page. The collection includes stickers representing bands, local shops, artists, events, and the list goes on. My collection has its own instagram account @nyc.sticker.book, which so far is only showing about a quarter of my collection. I do my best to post daily!

Summer is the best time to peel stickers. In the winter, they get cold and brittle, and they chip. Vinyl stickers peel off the best. Paper stickers tend to tear as you peel them. Unless you grab a paper sticker that was recently slapped, chances of a healthy peel are greatly reduced.

Very rarely will I allow stickers picked outside of NYC, which hardly ever happens as I don’t leave the city very often. The streets of the Bushwick section in Brooklyn have been my main source of stickers. I live off of the Myrtle/Broadway J/M subway stop in Bedford–Stuyvesant, and this is where I usually pick. Another great location is along Bedford Ave. in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. It’s a very popular location with a ton of great artist-owned shops, and it’s always ripe for the picking. Besides that, the Lower East Side in Manhattan is another great spot. Sticker artists know that this is where you slap if you want to be seen.

Sticker-covered ATM on Bedford Avenue

I certainly miss going out and picking. Sadly, Covid has had a huge effect on the collection since I don’t really venture out of my room these days. There was one time I was out picking, and someone watched me peel stickers. At first, the person felt I was robbing the sticker slapper of their work, but I make sure to do my best to track down the artist, and tag them on instagram to make sure they get the credit they deserve.

Collecting stickers is a passion that I hope to continue well into my old age. In twenty years, if you see an old guy scratching a sticker off a wall in Brooklyn, it’s probably going to be me. I’m hoping in the future to display the collection in its entirety for an audience of enthusiasts. Stickers have always been an amazing form of expression. To have a collection that represents all of these creative humans is a privilege and an honor. It would be very difficult for me to choose my favorite sticker artist, because I have just too many I’m in love with.One of my proudest moments was when I ordered my first set of stickers that I designed myself. It was based on one of my most well-known collages entitled “Dracula’s Bitches,” and portrays an image of Bela Lugosi as Dracula with two protecting lions in front of him, somehow giving him power to survive daylight.”

“Dracula’s Bitches” sticker by Morgan Jess Lappin

All photos courtesy of Morgan Jesse Lappin.