Art of the Pin Game

Mar 15th 2017

Art of the Pin Game

How pins and patches have taken over popular culture

During your next trip to the coffee shop, take a look around. Chances are more than half the folks sipping lattes will be wearing a button or enamel pin. Within the last few years, wearable expressions, aka customized stickers, patches, buttons, and pins, have become one of the most popular forms of self expression; collecting flair has grown from an insular hobby into a major cultural trend.


The business side of art making has become more manageable for artists and designers because e-commerce and social media have become easy platforms. Custom manufacturing is now accessible to the public through e-commerce sites. With Instagram, Pinterest, and TikTok your merch can reach people from all corners of the world with ease.

“There's definitely a big DIY mindset now in the world of artists,” says illustrator and comic artist, Andrea Bell. Artists may have relied on the services of an agent or manager to promote and sell their work, social media has allowed artists to advocate for themselves. “We don't want to wait to have our artwork seen. We're putting work on Instagram as soon as we complete it. And we're the ones reaching directly out to manufacturers to buy items like pins, buttons, or patches to enhance our brand.”

pin collection

Artist Kristina Ramirez, co-owner of Homesick Generation agrees. “I think buttons and pins, for a lot of artists, are a first step into taking their art and testing how it will do on merchandise,” she says. ”It’s low risk since it is so affordable and allows for a lot of creativity.”

Homesick Generation

“It’s a great way for artists to make some money outside of commissions,” says Christen Carter, owner of Busy Beaver Button Co. A good percentage of Busy Beaver’s monthly sales are to artists retailing custom art buttons. Technology has allowed these artists to easily sell their goods. “Simple e-commerce websites are so easy to make now,” comments Carter. “And with social media, word can spread fast.”

buttons on jean jacket

Analog: It’s a Good Thing

The paradox of the wearable expression trend is that people aren’t just sharing images online, they’re buying buttons, custom lapel pins, and custom embroidered patches to wear them proudly. The digital trend feeds directly into a trend towards the tangible. After all, you have to own and physically wear the pin, patch or button in order to take a selfie and share online.

Christen Carter wears buttons and pins as a form of self expression, a way to comment on the issues of the world. “I’ll wear a message button that relates to what’s going on in the world that day,” she says. And with the current political climate, her choice of buttons have become quite the conversation starters. “They are engaging— people ask me about my buttons pretty often when I wear those.”

Outrider Design enamel pins

Both artists and brands know: If you make something cool, fans will wear it and share it online. Here at Busy Beaver, we’re all about design-forward merch. We all get so excited when eye-catching artwork comes through, and we can’t wait to see the finished product.

Whether it be your own artwork, or would like the help of our Design Studio, we’re happy to make your ideas a reality, and create a physical item you can share. From patches to pins we’d be happy to help with any and all projects! Reach out to us today to join the trend!

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