It started with a show, and a jacket, and a need for something new. I am passionately into the web series Critical Role. It came into my life 5 months after I started developing debilitating migraines that swiftly ate away the life I’d had. A great distraction from not knowing what to do. The friends I made or reconnected with because of Critical Role helped guide me to understanding how I’m queer (asexual, aromantic, genderfluid). They helped me feel like my puzzle pieces actually fit.
I didn’t know what to do with myself after disability cost me my job. The Critter community had surrounded me with art and artists, so that seemed as good a pastime as any. I started a punk jacket with the official Critical Role patches. I added on pins to specifically for friends and family to keep them close. A few pins were made by friends. Cloth armor enchanted with their love. I found these amazing gem stones like dragon scales, and added them to the pockets to mark the ancient dragons they’d slain. With a charm at the point for the gods that helped them. I added silver feathers to the collar like the Deathwalker’s Ward armor. I used charms to sew a Whitestone crest. It was incredibly over the top. Everything was sewn on individually by hand.
The Critical Role community also got me passionately into the comic The Wicked + The Divine (WicDiv). Matthew Bartlett made a fabulous series of icons for each member of Vox Machina, and the idea of a pastiche of the iconic black and white clock design of WicDiv popped into my head. Matthew was kind enough to give me permission to use his designs, with a commission for 4 more, and I set to work making my jacket even more fabulous. I also filled in more feathers and added a snowdrop for the end of the campaign.
I wasn’t sure how to approach making the patches. I looked into embroidery patches, but you could only order A LOT of them, and while the return on investment looked pretty good, it wasn’t my artwork to sell. In the end I hand painted them with acrylic on canvas, heat-pressed them for durability, and edged them with 4mm silk ribbon to protect them. And then rigged up a system to get them all properly spaced on the jacket. It was a lot of work. It was totally worth it.
The research we did on the economics of making patches got my mom interested in the idea. Making designs and running the machine was something I could do sporadically when I was feeling well (and not at medical appointments). I’ve always been pretty creative, and the friends I’d made on Twitter were only feeding that. My previous career was in IT, but I was always most interested in the intersection of technology and humans. A good skill set for navigating working with complex software and physics to create a product. She helped me get the equipment and set up the business, for which I am truly grateful.
What to make was the next question. I observed the queer D&D community was thriving, but there wasn’t a lot of merchandise being made for us. So I had the simple idea to color in a d20 design with Pride flags, and make patches off that. The Quests & Queers line is now our main product.
I learned a lot, collecting those flags. The biggest thing I learned is that no one was collecting the history of how they were made and who made them. So many of them were posted on Tumblr under pseudonyms. If we don’t start collecting this knowledge now, we’re going to lose it. We’ve collected what’s public now in a physical zine. I’ll be working on a digital version in the coming months. There will be a donation button to help fund it, but we want this information free and accessible. But the real ambition is to track down the creators, get interviews, and share them with you. We want to have the first comprehensive, well researched book on the history of Pride flags.
Here’s the the future, and keeping it queer.