By: Dominique Lamberton
We’ve all been given celebratory cards and gifts for birthdays, graduations and anniversaries, but have you ever been given a little something for being as ‘drunk as a skunk’ or ‘doing it like rabbits’?
Lee Meszaros believes people should be rewarded for these accomplishments in addition to the generic, run of the mill milestones.
In an attempt to find inspiration for her final year project at the Nova Scotia School of Art and Design, Meszaros was scouring a Value Village and an old Brownie sash caught her eye. She wondered why someone had worked so hard to earn the badges that decorated the sash and then simply disregarded them.
And so, Meszaros’ Be Proud Merit Badges were born.
Nestled in a little log cabin in Paris, Ont., Meszaros creates homemade merit badges to celebrate the little things that are commonly overlooked.
Meszaros has over 45 different badge designs that she silk screens, hand paints, embroiders, stuffs and sews. A pin fastens the badges to clothing, bags or wherever the proud recipients choose to display them. Each badge comes with a card that reads, ‘Be Proud’ and is followed with the particular badge’s congratulatory meaning, such as ‘Taking the cake’ or ‘Surviving first love’.
She is constantly thinking up new ideas and draws inspiration from all avenues and walks of life. A big source of her inspiration comes from being surrounded by nature in her log cabin studio. It’s complete with a wood burning stove and her two friendly dogs, Ella and Lacey. There is no running water in her cabin studio so she walks through the yard to wash her screens in the garden. Oh, did I mention she lives in the middle of the forest by a creek? And while she insists it’s not as nice as the “other” Paris, she said it’s a fitting environment for the work she does.
“It’s pretty picturesque, being surrounded by nature,” Meszaros said. “With my work it makes more sense to have a studio in nature than in the city, it’s connected in that sort of way.”
I spoke with Meszaros over the phone and it’s no surprise that her badges are such adorable pieces of work; her giggle was charming and warm, resonating through the receiver. I couldn’t help but grin the entire time.
Sometimes she’ll come up with a new badge simply because she wants to draw one of her favourite animals, like the fox badge, one of her favourites, which celebrates ‘being sly as a fox’. Her favourite – and the one she wears the most – is the badge for ‘having meat on your bones’.
Meszaros has also just announced that she has created 16 new badges for the holiday season. She will be unveiling them soon on her Etsy shop where her badges are available for purchase. They are also sold on Good Egg and at various stores around Toronto including Distill, Kid Icarus and C1 Art Space.
“At shows, people usually tell me who they’re buying the badge for and why – and I’m nosy so I usually ask for the story too. That is one of my favourite parts of making the badges,” Meszaros said.
Meszaros and her badges circulate around various arts and craft sales, festivals and shows throughout the continent. Most recently I saw her at The Cabbagetown Arts and Crafts Sale, but I first came across the adorable feel-good accessories at The Canzine Festival last year. Watch for her at the City of Craft sale December 12 and 13 at The Theatre Centre on Queen West.
“I love making things that make people happy.”