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Chronicling an idea – a motorcycle gang-inspired patch

Sometimes I get ideas for things from totally random places, other times they come from things I have seen or read or heard. I wanted to share with you the process of one of my recent ideas – just to show how long it can take from having the original idea for a piece, until it becomes real.

I’m not a big fan of television on the whole, but I do enjoy binge-watching things on Netflix when I get the chance. My most recent binge was a series from Kurt Sutter called “Sons of Anarchy” about a motorcycle gang in California. It’s considered an older programme now, (from 2008-2014), but that didn’t stop me getting completely sucked in and adoring literally all of the characters, even the really horrible ones! As someone who identifies with the goth and rock scene, I also (predictably) fell completely in love with the styling and the motorcycle patch designs.

I decided I really wanted to make my own patch, but not something that was necessarily linked to a gang of any kind, merely something that said something about me and my own personal style. I started scribbling down a few ideas – I like cats so I felt like they should be incorporated, but not a cute cat, something more edgy like a skeleton or skull. I tossed around a few ideas for the slogan, eventually settling on the theme of cats having nine lives, which is also appropriate for me as I have beaten quite a few illnesses in the past. I looked at a lot of real gang designs and how they are put together, and then I started a rough sketch – a VERY rough sketch.

Initial rough sketch of the motorcycle patch idea

I knew that anything I drew I could scan onto my laptop and edit digitally, so the placing and execution wasn’t as important as having the actual idea. I inked the lines with black pen and scanned it in and cleaned up the image as best as I could. I actually ended up cutting and mirroring the cat skull to make it look more balanced.

Digitally edited cat skull from initial design

Next I downloaded a few free fonts from Dafont.com to play around with what looked best – I really liked the idea of using a bone-type font as well as the more recognisable motorcycle gang type of font – in this case Jibril. Dafont allow you to download fonts for personal use only, which is something every artist must keep in mind. Copyright theft is not cool.

The digitally edited image complete with slogan and bones motif.

This part of the process was actually one of the hardest as I was using Pixelmator on my Mac, and it does not like making curved text! I had to turn each letter into an image and adjust them manually in proportion with the cat skull. It bugs me, as I know it is still not as accurate as I would like, but: “progress not perfection” is my mantra, and sometimes it’s okay to just let things be as they are without striving to make them absolutely exact. At this point I just needed to make sure I could turn my idea into reality.

I had originally toyed with the notion of making a full back patch for a denim jacket, and my first attempt was actually cutting out the design with a scalpel and using white spray paint to stencil the design on to the material. Thankfully I used a scrap piece first as the stencil idea was absolutely awful.

Spray paint stencil

I don’t have an image of the mess it made after I sprayed it, I was too disappointed to take one. The image was too intricate and had too many precise lines to work right with the paint and simply blurred into a big splurge on the fabric. It looked like my patch wasn’t going to work very well and at that point I had no other ideas as to how to transfer it onto something to make it wearable.

After a lot of thought and some digging through my craft box supplies, I found some t-shirt transfer paper which allows you to print a design onto the paper and then iron it on to material. I realised that trying to print and iron-on a huge back patch might not be the most successful idea, especially as the texture of the paper can be very plastic-like and not very tactile, so I decided to scale down my design to the size of a regular iron-on or sew-on patch, similar to what you might find on a jacket or hat or bag.

Scaling it down presented its own problems in that the smaller the design, the less detail was visible, so I had to do some more editing and make sure the outlines were clear and bright. I ended up reducing an A4 size image to a circle 7cm in diameter. I printed the design onto the special printer paper and ironed it onto a scrap of t-shirt material to make it more rigid, but not completely solid. I then used contrasting white thread, (in keeping with a punk rock aesthetic), to sew it onto the shoulder of my denim jacket.

The finished motorcycle patch.

I am pretty happy with it overall. The design is almost exactly what I had in my head and I am pretty impressed with how well it worked on the transfer paper, although I am a little sad that I didn’t manage to do a full back piece like I originally planned, and that might be something I try to do another time. This whole process took me over five days from initial idea to sewing it on, spending around a couple of hours each day working out new ideas and solutions.

Right now, I am wearing my motorcycle patch proudly on my jacket with all my other pins and patches, loving the fact that it is a piece of original and wearable art, and a patch design unique to me.

 

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