Maker Interview: Wndsn's Morale Patches

We’ve opened up the patch vault this summer and we are rereleasing some fan favorites. As we were going through the trove, it prompted a conversation about how we got into the patch game in the first place and took us further down memory lane.

What was your first patch?

The first patch I designed was the retro reflective patch.

What inspired you to create it and join the patch game?

The year was 2015. I was actually working on what later became the Telemeter. As an aside, I wanted to create a memento so as to signify the start of what was to come. I wanted to not only signify the start, but I wanted to have something to hold onto in addition to the Telemeter itself. It was a 2x2 patch, which was quite special, actually, at the time. It was made with a retro-reflective material in the back and the inverted logo embroidered in black on top.

A play on white space?

So to speak, yes.

You have constrained your patches to three colors, black, turquoise, and white. Why, and will you change this in the future?

In many of these designs, I’m intentionally referencing the art of heraldry, where rank and pedigree were first shown on armor in the battlefield, and later as pictorial advertising for one’s tribe's or family’s achievements. Frequently I am directly referencing heraldic traditions, making use of the color white to symbolize silver.

Within heraldry is the concept of the blazon, which is the formal description of a coat of arms or flag that is following heraldic traditions. Blazonry has its own grammar, almost a sub-language, that becomes the key to understanding the heraldic picture one is looking at. It is supposed to be specific, concise, and to be perfectly clear.

In heraldry, you have the shield, the divisions of the field, and the items on the shield. The blazoning of the shield is of great importance, it is canonical, whereas there are multiple ways of visually representing what is found in the description.

If you look closely, you will find many design's descriptions to be inspired by heraldic emblazoning.

How do you use the colors?

I have had multiple color phases in my double life as an artist, and you could say I am currently in the turquoise phase. The black and white provide contrast and the turquoise is chosen for multiple reasons; technically, it is possible to use turquoise both on black and white, where it renders the same level of contrast on either.

Your patches have three different themes historically: Nature and stars, maker's marks, the EMP, the Viking series, and finally an urban series. Can you tell us about your inspiration for each series? How do they connect to the overall Wndsn story?

The Viking theme is going back to the Wndsn name, (Norseman; son of strong winds and the sea). The use of Nordic symbols goes back to that idea and is explained (with disclaimer) in the logo blazon.

The stars, waves, and mountains, are an expansion on the Viking theme. Vegvisir is about explorative travel, and encountering nature in the process.

The Maker’s Mark is coming from a need for branding, celebrating the brand itself after it became somewhat known. The EMP came from considerations that ultimately led to the instruments that we are developing today, which is that our high tech society is in critical parts quite fragile and high tech systems such as GPS but also low tech devices like magnetic compasses, are susceptible to both natural and man-made disturbances. The EMP, spelled out as electromagnetic pulse, is a spectacular example of a man-induced disturbance, which can be somewhat mitigated using devices and instruments that are immune against electromagnetic pulse. The wave as well as the disturbed wave are being symbolized on that patch.

The Berlin Series is a reminescence to growing up in Berlin during the Cold War, as it was a very specific and unique place to be. It’s been called the “city of tradecraft” and the tension built into the environment in which I was raised further informs the Wndsn work.

What’s been your best selling patch?

The Vegvisir, then the glow-in-the-dark Polaris, and the leather Perpetual Explorer. The Lunar Eclipse was also quite popular.

Are you going to do the eclipse again?

Maybe if we sell out our current stock.

What patch is your favorite?

My favorite patch is either the turquoise leather Polaris, or the Berlin Outpost of Freedom in 3 colors.

What patch was a surprise hit?

The tiny Moonrise. That was a surprise. I made it because I liked the idea of the shine of the moon on water but I didn’t expect people to resonate so strongly. 

I always like to have 3 colorways of a design. The black, white, and turquoise, I try to have 3 versions to rotate the colors within a given design. This is not possible with any arbitrarily designed set of shapes really, and the ability to rotate the colors must be planned out. The Berlin design, which I absolutely love, is an example of a colorway that needs 3 colors and it doesn't quite work in 2 colors or even in the always popular blackout. The square Perpetual Explorer came in these 3 colorways, and similar to the recently released Evil Eye. It is always interesting to see the patch that is selling the best is often not the one I myself like the best.

What do people love about your patches?

The feedback is the multiple layers of meaning and that no detail is left to chance. A prime example is the Perpetual Explorer, which if rotated by 90 degrees, gives a subtle reference to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Do you have any design principles in mind before beginning work on a patch?

Heraldry is a design principle, then thinking in 3 colors, and then interchanging the 3 colors. Obviously, there’s a leaning towards geometry and a simple rule that no detail goes without meaning. I hate arbitrary things.

Also the constraint of the 2x2 or 2x3 which I know sometimes to be a quite low, almost coarse resolution of the graphics in embroidery. Making the patches in a size 1.5 larger would result in a greater resolution for the embroidery, which would sometimes result in a prettier appearance. But I like the constraint of the small size all the way to the quite rough 1x1 embroidered patches. I personally do not like PVC patches, however, our latest Ranger Eye was made based on people’s requests and I find it rather nice.

You have a collection of patches from other makers. What types of patches do you find interesting?

I prefer the smaller size patches. I can appreciate the fine embroidery in large patches, but I personally prefer the smaller, more intricately embroidered ones.

Have you ever run into your patches while out in the wild?

All the time. They tend to show up at and around Goruck events. Here is one a few years back taken by myself. And just recently I saw a bunch at the Munich 2022 Goruck Star Course.

Do you have any new designs cooking?