Long gone are the schoolyard trades of our youth. That rush of making Magic: The Gathering deals during recess, of slinging Pogs and Slammers in the park, of actually trying to catch em’ all. We may not be hoarding Pokémon cards or spending lunch money on cardboard circles any more, but via the digital playground of Instagram, a new collectable trend is becoming a cultural obsession. Wearable, tradable, and exceptionally cheap to produce, custom enamel pins are bringing individual flair to hats, jackets and lapels around the world, and giving artists the chance to make their work into an affordable and collectable commodity.
“People are always looking for ways to express themselves and a pin is cheaper than a tattoo,” says Kym Naimo, who founded Prize Pins with Luke Flynn in 2014, and has collaborated with Monster Children and the Instagram-famous tattoo artist Tati Compton to make limited edition, New York-produced enamel pins. “Pins are the perfect medium for collaboration because they can literally take on any shape or form,” he says, and though the artists range in style, from a the cartoony trashcan pin by Tim Lahan, to Compton’s dark magic pins, there is a quality and aesthetic unique to the Prize Pin brand. “Collaborating with different artists and weirdos is super fun. We seem to have a split between people who like really dark shit and really weird shit.”
Made from soft enamel, pins are quick and cheap to produce in bulk. Artists have found that this new miniature medium is not only an affordable and interesting way to produce their designs, but becomes a form of free advertising once pinned on a lapel. “There's a pin for everyone and there are just endless options of creativity,” says Mike Tull of Space Cadet Collective, who makes his galactic stoner type artwork into highly detailed pins. With his collaborations our favorite pop-culture characters get a trippy makeover, turning a glittery Walter White or a glow-in-the-dark Death Star into a fashion statement for less than $15 a pin. As Diagonal Press, contemporary artist Tauba Auerbach sells "symbolic jewelry" pins that are definitive, distinctive art objects.
Valley Cruise Press, a zine and clothing producer that makes quirky, colorful and emoji inspired pins and patches, thanks Instagram for cultivating the pin craze as well as inspiring it. “Art is suddenly so much more accessible and people want a way to show off the designs that inspire them. Pins are a great way to take art offline and put it onto your favorite shirt for everyone to see."
Search the hashtag #Pinstagram and the vastness of the pin community becomes immediately clear. @Pin_Lord, an avid pin collector who started an Instagram less than a year ago to showcase his collection in a crisp black-and-white grid layout, is up to almost 25K followers, and has begun making his own collaborations with artists and collectives he’s met through his feed. “I try to collaborate with artists that will bring a different point of view to what's already been made,” he says, having recently made pins with lady art group RUDE Collective and stylist Alanna Pearl, and selling them through the Instagram-like shopping app Depop. His minimal, straightforward way of showcasing pins from around the Internet makes @Pin_Lord a coveted collector and curator, displaying these objects as the artworks they are. “I can provide a platform that will help other people put something new into the world,” he says. “When done right, a pin can be an affordable piece of art, made by someone you respect. You can carry it with you everywhere and keep it forever, and very few objects have that power.”
So, who are your favorite Pinstagramers? Let us know @Creators_Project or in the comments below.