Where to start? The beginning is usually a good place. With massive sticker shock, I bought my wife (Kathleen) a combination sewing and embroidery machine for her birthday in 2014. We fumbled around figuring out how to do some embroidered quilts and played with different techniques using purchased patterns. It took me several days to digitize a couple custom stippling patterns used in our first quilts that today would take me a few minutes. After much chagrin, we ultimately figured it out with the help of a local embroidery club and some great workshops and training programs. Quickplay Media, where I worked at the time went through a rebranding where I digitized their new logo and stitched it on a polo shirt for the CEO to wear during the announcement. This was the moment of realization that we were more than just hobbyists.
It wasn’t long before I began digitizing and producing patches for our motorcycle brethren in the San Diego chapter of Southern Cruisers Riding Club. I even won the design contest for our 2016 national rally and produced 300 rally patches with all proceeds going to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
Next came learning the sewing part of the machine. Prior to getting this machine for Kathleen, my only experience with a sewing machine was threading the needle for my mom when I was a kid, and that was quite some time ago. While getting some fabric at our local quilt shop, I was challenged to do a quilt consisting of 1/2" squares called “Postage Due”. Always being up for a challenge, I accepted. I figured, if I couldn’t master a 1/4” seam by the time I was done with it, I never would. It came out beautiful and everyone told us we should enter it into contests. We never did, but this made me wonder what else I could do with thread. We added a multi-needle embroidery machine, serger, sashiko and long-arm to our stitched decorating tool bag. Kathleen began working at the sewing machine store that hosts the embroidery and sewing clubs we learned from and where we bought our machines. This aided in broadened our knowledge by her simply being submersed in the industry and daily interactions with other like-minded, creative people. We have since become a sought-after resource for teaching our techniques to the same embroidery club that taught us so much in the beginning.
Being absolutely blown away by the technology and what we were capable of with our current knowledge, we started researching other fabric decorating techniques and immediately became fascinated with all the possibilities. We fell in love with the Direct-to-Garment (DTG) printing. The versatility to print on everything (cotton) from hats to shoes in almost photo quality is astounding. We took some samples and did some local market research with nothing but ohhhs and ahhhs from everyone we showed them to. It was settled, we’re going to invest in a DTG printer and associated peripherals (pretreat machine and heat press).
Leveraging the heat press required for DTG printing lead us to the third leg of the tri-pod for which we built our business, Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV). This allows us to do non-cotton apparel and promotion items. This technique is frequently used on professional sports apparel using a heat applied polyester twill coupled with an embroidered border, bringing us back around to our roots. Less expensive options now exist to simulate this look for youth jerseys or fan wear. Once we learned there was vinyl we could print on then heat transfer, it was settled, we were going to invest in a vinyl printer/cutter.
These wonderful discoveries immediately got us thinking about how we could marry all three techniques to create truly unique creative works. After hearing frequently that we “need to start a business and sell things like this” we decided to do that very thing. In 2018, Pigment Fusion was born.