Boy Scouts earn merit badges for achievements in hiking, lifesaving, and emergency preparedness. If you’re a Wes Anderson fan, all you need to do is whip out your credit card to score merit badges paying playful homage to some of the director’s delightfully quirky films.
Brookland-based graphic artist Tracie Ching created four sets of embroidered patches -- Aquatic Scout (“The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou”), Adventure Scout (“Moonrise Kingdom”), Hospitality Scout (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”), and Heritage Scout (“The Royal Tenenbaums”) -- to display and sell at Bad Dads, an annual Anderson tribute art show that took place this past November in New York City. Each set includes six badges with iconic elements of the movie it honors, so the Aquatic Scout sextet features Steve Zissou’s red wool hat, Adidas sneakers, yellow submarine, and more.
Ching was a little hesitant to create the patches. She had never worked with embroidery or custom packaging before, and the project required some capital upfront. So she started a Kickstarter campaign and crossed her fingers. It was a runaway success, earning several times beyond its initial ask of $2,500. Ultimately, she raised nearly $10,000 from just over 200 backers.
It’s the 30-year-old artist’s fourth successful Kickstarter campaign. Previous fundraising efforts featured screen prints depicting Admiral Ackbar from “Return of the Jedi,” “War of the Worlds,” and Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock from “Star Trek.”
However, Ching may have earned her most online buzz for Anderson-related works. At a previous Bad Dads exhibition, she created a pair of silkscreen prints styled after scientific illustrations, which depicted the crayon seahorse and sugar crab from “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.”
For the full-time freelancer -- whose portfolio brims with projects for Politico, GQ, Adidas, and Sony -- these projects are a love letter to Anderson’s work. “He has this wonderful, wry lens that he looks through and presents humanity,” she says. “[His characters] are all really relatable, but a little bit terrible as well.”
As an artist, she appreciates the auteur’s signature style. “He has a very specific and unique aesthetic within his films,” she says. “It’s not just the cinematography. He curates all these really tiny details, right down to the piping on the jacket and the books on the shelves.”
This fall, Ching would like to once again be a part of the Bad Dads art show -- artists must apply to take part -- though she’s not sure which of Anderson’s films will inspire her work or if she’ll use Kickstarter to raise funding. However, she hasn’t created anything taking its cues from “The Fantastic Mr. Fox,” so that’s a possibility. In the meantime, Washingtonians can purchase her work online or find her at various local events, such as Awesome Con and Crafty Bastards.