Posts tagged as 'Paddy Smith'
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Monday, 27th Jan 2014
We spoke to Paddy Smith, the man behind the specially designed patches featured in our Spring 2014 Margate on the Run collection. After purchasing his first scooter in 1967, Paddy became a regular fixture at rallys during the 80s and 90s, selling his self-designed and produced patches from of the back of his car before a love for travelling by scooter took him into the local pubs and campsites. Paddy's patches gained cult following and are now synonymous with the scootering scene, added to shirts and parkas as a momento of each rally or ride-out.
Fred Perry: How did you originally become involved with scooter rallies and the scootering scene?
Paddy Smith: Although I was a mod and rode a scooter for a brief period as a teenager in the sixties it wasn’t until 1981 that I became involved again following the mod revival of 1979. It was after my brother in law had been to the rally in Scarborough the previous year that I went to Skegness in '81 with 15 t-shirts printed with a simple logo and ‘Skegness Scooter Rally’.
FP: How long have you been creating Paddy Smith patches?
PS: The first patch was a one colour print featuring a silhouette of my brother in law’s Lambretta LI 150, which I printed for the Yarmouth rally three weeks after Skegness. My wife, Annie, and I went to all of the rallies after that and the designs became gradually more complex.
FP: Why do you think your patches became so popular amongst scooterists?
PS: Scooter clubs were springing up all over the country in the eighties, as a generation who the Sex Pistols observed had ’no future’ lived if not for the present, at least for the weekend. Old Lambrettas and Vespas were not only cheap and stylish – they took you to places away from the boring town you grew up in.
It was never a fashion thing, most people fitted the mould of mod or scooterboy but as the scene developed it attracted skinheads, psychobillies, rude boys and even a few hippies! It was about scooters, being different and getting away. That’s why the cult of scooter boy or scooterist, whatever you want to call it, was not a London based scene.
When the sartorially diverse youths arrived at a seaside town nobody cared much about what you were wearing, but they were interested in your scooter or the tales you had to tell of your adventures on the journey. Travelling hundreds of miles on old bikes designed for shopping or commuting created challenges as did the animosity of ‘grebos’ and ‘casuals’ along the way so everyone had a story to tell.
Scooter clubs had their own patches and people would swop them on rallies so your jacket became a record of your affiliations. When rally patches became available jackets became historical documents that displayed how far and how often you had travelled.
FP: How did the popularity of your patches spread?
PS: The scene grew rapidly in 1982 and there were a few people doing the same as us – walking around the pubs and the sea front selling rally patches. I think even then mine probably outsold the others on the strength of their design but it was in 1983 that mine became regarded as the ‘official’ patch. No official body ever endorsed them but for that year I adopted a new format which was 4” square as opposed to the 6” which was generally accepted and continued to be popular with the Parka wearing mods. Because there were nine national rallies a year now anybody who bought all nine patches found that they could sew them onto the back of a Levi denim or MA1 flight jacket and they fitted nicely into a square.
Because I had ridden to all the rallies in 1982 on my Vespa P200E I had become acutely aware of why people were proud of their patches and regarded them like campaign medals. Other patch sellers were unloading any surplus left after a rally either on subsequent rallies or in Carnaby Street which was causing resentment amongst the rally going ‘troops’ who saw people wearing patches for rallies they had never been to. I made the promise that my patches would only be available on the rally they were made for and any surplus would be burnt the following November 5th. Because a parts dealer had one of my patches copied that year every subsequent patch carried a copyright and my signature.
Alongside the rally scene there was a growing custom scene expanding and hardly anyone rode a completely standard bike so I started featuring interesting looking scooters that I photographed on the rallies.
So that was what made them popular: they were the best designed, they were only available on the rally, they featured a scooter from the fast growing custom scene, they fitted nicely on the arm or the back of your jacket and the bloke who made them was ‘one of us’.
FP: Do you have a most memorable rally or ride-out that will always stick in your mind?
PS: There are too many to choose just one but generally my best memories are of the rallies I rode to in the eighties and the European ones we had a stall at in the nineties.
FP: Can you talk us through the process of creating each patch?
PS: The scooter is always the star. My background is in fine art, not graphics so what I’m doing is making little pictures. When I was doing them to sell on the rallies in Britain I would search out a new interesting looking scooter and photograph it at one rally to feature on a patch later that year. For the patches I print now for rallies organised by clubs across Europe and Australia I work from photographs they send me. I start with a line drawing for the black and make separate drawings for the colours. The colours and style of the scooter dictate the background which might reference the name of the scooter or the rally or may simply reflect the lines of the scooter in some way.
FP: Do you have a favourite design?
PS: Once again there are too many to choose from but I believe the period from 89 to 92 was my most creative in terms of patch design. This came about for two reasons: firstly it was a period when the custom scene was producing increasingly outstanding scooters and secondly because I had become so well established that I was confident to introduce some fairly obscure decorative influences and motifs.
FP: What were the ideas behind the patches created for Fred Perry?
PS: The collection was to centre around the seaside town of Margate where there had been clashes between the mods and rockers in the sixties and they were looking to make cultural links with the later rallies. I am very conscious of the signs and symbols associated with the mod scene even though I normally choose to avoid them. As the collection is aimed at a mass market I kept the references simple using targets and checkerboards along with some musical references and some landmarks from the town. Style- wise I used blocks of colour with black outlines to give them a sixties Pop Art feel.
FP: What are you working on at the moment?
PS: I live in France now and divide my time between running a contemporary art gallery, my fine art practice, designing and printing rally patches for scooter clubs worldwide and selling my range of scooter related t shirts from my website.
At the moment I am working on a series of prints entitled ‘ It’s only Rock n Roll’ and have an interesting collaboration coming up with the American artist Alan Sanchez. I’m organizing the fourth Paddy Smith’s Sun Run for this June and I’ve just posted some patches to Germany for ‘Scooterist Meltdown’ (a weekend of mayhem in a disused nuclear power station). I’ve got some more patches to design and print for rallies in Britain and for a charity ride out organized by the Norwich Scooter Collective. I insist on complete artistic control when doing the rally patches and am still enjoying playing around with the format I invented. I also still manage to go to a couple of rallies over here every year with my son Sam on our Vespa T5s. It’s in the blood!