July 3, 2008 – I am doing a lazy blog job today and reposting bits of an interview between the Amy Borkwood (for Toronto Craft Alert) with Lee Mezaros. Lee’s sweet and/or sassy merit badges get tons of giggles, smiles, and “these are soooo great”s from Love, Me customers. Come and pick one up for the special someone (pst…that includes yourself).

Can you tell me a little about your Merit Badges?

The idea for the badges came from a shopping trip I had at a Halifax thrift store in my last semester at NSCAD. I found an old brownie sash with all of the badges still attached, and was immediately struck by all of the work that went into earning those badges, and how wrong it felt to know that someone thought of them as disposable. I began to think about what may be more important to me than tasks completed or techniques masters- I came to the conclusion that I value emotional triumphs and failures far more dearly.

I set out to create something that people could take real pride in giving and receiving, not just because it was cute or nice to look at, but because it held some kind of emotional significance to them. I looked at brownie, cubs, scouts, and Girl Guide badges for inspiration, and I really liked how most of the images on them meant nothing unless you knew how it was earned- random tea kettles, dogs, girls holding hands, cakes, frying pans, magnifying glasses, hobo sacks, books. I adopted that idea as part of my badges- I like that if the meaning is truly personal, it won’t be given away by someone just seeing the badge on your shirt. It gives the person who wears it the option of keeping the meaning a secret, or sharing the experience and telling their story.

I also thought a lot about what makes a textile object more precious to me, and I decided that I value visible qualities that show it was made by hand- that’s how I decided it was important to hand paint and embroider them all. Even if it’s just a small stitch detail, I feel like it’s important for them to be the opposite of mass produced badges- hopefully that makes them more dear to people.

See the whole interview here.

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