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Expanding Horizons: Enamel Pins and the Artist

Expanding Horizons: Enamel Pins and the Artist


In the last few years, enamel pins have seen a resurgence in popularity in the contemporary, alternative and popular art scenes. Their accessibility and low production costs have given these decorative items a breath of fresh air in a once traditional industry. 


Know your Pin History: While the process for inlaying and enameling was created in 1800 BC (nearly 4,000 years ago) in Egypt, lapel pins (or what are now commonly known as Enamel Pins), were first designed and manufactured between 1271-1368 AD in China. These pieces of soft and hard metal were used as decoration and were first worn by soldiers and prominent citizens to display their good deeds and accolades. The tradition of wearing, presenting and collecting pins has been with us throughout history, evolving from military use to political paraphernalia distributed at rallies and events. Pins have had a place in both practical and creative spaces for hundreds of years.

Pins and the Independent Artist: In the last few years, the pin making process has been utilized by creatives (Graphic Designers, Illustrators, Digital Artists, Fine Artists, Musicians, etc.) who wish to see their work take a more active role in their fans' lives. Rather than sell large prints of their work that will hang on walls never seen by more than a handful of people, pins can offer a more interactive and engaging kind of merchandise that people can not only collect, but display publicly. Pins also have a social currency that invites conversation in public, utilizing the power of word of mouth. It's not uncommon to see pin fans discussing work in public similarly to visitors in an art gallery. 


Visual Versatility: The versatility of a pin has been a major attracting force for artists. They are small, collectible, have a low to medium cost with a fair turnaround rate, and can be worn on anything that you tack them on to. It is customary for an artist to make a limited edition run of a single design, and then run multiple series of the same design using different colors. This not only extends the life of the single design, but allows for a design to become collectible and more accessible to a wider audience through manufactured exclusivity and collectibility. You can print a hundred of one pin or five, it all depends on how and with whom you produce your pins. 


Pushing Pin Boundaries: Pins are traditionally designed to be incredibly small (betwen half to one inch in diameter). However, with the new pin pioneers of today, the pin-making process is being explored in ways that have never been done before. Pin producers are racing to design bigger, brighter and more intricate designs. It is not uncommon to find pin designs between 4-6 inches in height and widthm which was unheard of ten years ago. Artists are also experimenting with new materials that have never been used before. From using new kinds of metals to developing new printing and enameling systems to shrink their paintings, the pin industry is booming with innovation! 


Pin Communities: Like any good movement, you must look to the communities that surround pin making to truly see the kind of work being done. There are online communities dedicated to the craft, with illustrators working with pin producers and fabricators creating never before seen pieces of wearable art in all kinds of styles. There are shows and conventions that are beginning to have entire sections of floor space dedicated to pin artists and makers, especially in the lowbrow and newbrow scenes. There are groups who do pin trading and selling, establishing underground markets for pins that have gone out of print or are hard to find. 


With Merchandise becoming so accessible and necessary in the lifeblood of a modern day artists, Enamel Pins have become a brand new facet that helps creatives enrich their brand and create new materials that can strengthen their relationship with their fans and communities. 


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