“I can feel like I’m protesting even when I have no energy.” | Lydia Wright on the subtle rebellion of Political Patches

Tell us about your Etsy store, Political Patches.

I called it Political Patches because that seems to be the product of mine that people like best (and the catchiest name that wasn’t already taken), but I also cater to other kinds of patches, cross stitch and plushies. I set it up after I had a bunch of requests for an Etsy store, which was the push into action I needed; I’d been on the fence about setting one up for a while! 

How did you get into creative QR code patches?

One of my friends is constantly trying to troll people by hiding memes in normal looking posts, so I made him a QR code Rickroll patch as a funny gift. I didn’t think much about it for a year or so, but decided to make a “Fuck the Tories” QR patch for myself when I was frustrated at not being able to voice my frustrations over the election around family gatherings during the holidays. I shared it with a Facebook group and the reaction was insane! People were asking me to sell them, so I’ve ended up making all sorts of creative QR code patches since.

What inspired you to make them specifically as a form of protest?

I’m mostly housebound due to disability, so I often get frustrated at the current government and the cruel policies it implements and protects. It’s even more frustrating to not be able to attend rallies or protests and give them a piece of my mind that way!

I decided to make these so that I can feel like I’m protesting even when I have no energy. I can wear them during short trips out in public, or display them in my front window. It’s less likely to get you in trouble with right wing boomers, because they’re unlikely to know what it is or be able to scan it to find out what it says, but it allows a sense of camaraderie from the rest of the younger generations and other lefties.

The sticker versions are also really easy to stickerbomb places with, or leave subtly around in public to provoke people’s curiosity, which is an excellent way to bring protest to the everyday.

How do you decide which sites to link your QR codes to?

For the protest songs, it was important to me to balance the message and lyrics with how good I thought the song was in its own right. I want people to need to listen to it to listen to as much of it as possible, and even if they turn it off early the hope is they might get it stuck in their head.

As far as memes and other QR codes go, I try to pick relatable and funny content based on suggestions.

I also make sure they’re as secure as possible – in the sense that there’s NO risk of any malware or viruses etc., but also that they’re not likely to be taken down or removed. The QR code patch will always work, but it doesn’t have the desired effect if the page it links to stops existing. I try to make sure they’re official YouTube channels or the original creator if I’m linking to songs, so they won’t be removed due to copyright. For images I try to either host them myself or find something that’s been around a while on a secure platform.  

What kind of commissions do you accept?

My commissions are mostly cross stitch or plushie based. I can make patches for jackets/bags/etc, or properly framed cross stitch pieces.

My plushie pieces have a lot of price variation, depending on the size, simplicity and the materials wanted – but they’re also very fun to make. The Moogle I made in my shop’s Facebook profile picture is incredibly soft and huggable due to special cuddle fabric – I always use that fabric for any plushies for myself! 

So far you’ve made patches, stickers and plushies. Are there any new products you’re planning on introducing further down the line?

I had an idea to make a Boris Johnson pincushion (which I suppose could double as a voodoo doll!).

Sometimes other craft projects I’ve worked on for fun might appear in the store, but unless there’s demand for them they’ll probably remain one offs. I’m always happy to listen to ideas – if they’re popular and I can make them, I’ll always consider adding it as a permanent listing.

What are your hopes for the store?

For now the main hope is that it continues to generate interest and sales! But more importantly, I hope it allows people to express themselves without having to feel like they’re on the defensive afterwards. 

It’s awful when you want to express political opinions, or talk about LGBT+ rights and then get a barrage of stressful backlash from strangers (or worse, people you know). Many people, including myself, don’t have the emotional energy to deal with that constantly. I hope these QR codes are a loophole around that for others as well as myself.

Aside from that, I hope my products can make people smile and bring people comfort through humour or cuddly plushies.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to launch their own creative businesses?

Don’t solely rely on Etsy – not only does Etsy charge fees that you can avoid by selling/advertising on other platforms (e.g. your own website, Facebook, Instagram), but it’s a very crowded market that can be hard to break into. It’s important to market yourself and your product, which can be hard if you’re like me and don’t like to sing your own praises. Good photos and word choice are also key!

You can find out more about Political Patches by checking out the Etsy store and following the Facebook page.

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