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Pushing Pins: Taking stock of the patch & pin boom

edited by Stefanie Ucci & BP Staff
illustrations by Stacey Bru

We’ve all noticed it.

Pins, patches, and other artist-made accessories have arrived in a brand new way.

Lo-fi buttons and silkscreen punk patches have always had a small place at the zine table, but between the massive renaissance in illustrator self-publishing and newly available resources for production, we have seen unprecedented waves of enthusiasm for the likes of enamel pins, hi-fi embroidered patches, even resin jewellery and ceramic figurines.

Of course, plenty of old school punk zinesters wouldn’t be caught dead with an enamel pin on their table, and likewise, plenty of patch and pin makers don’t really see themselves as part of the zine or even comics community.

But there is enough overlap, excitement, and wisdom out there that it sparked our curiosity. In this piece, we decided to pick the brains of creators who sell this kind of merch at patch and pin shows, comic fests, and zine fairs. The result? Your go-to guide for making and vending accessories galore! You’ll find tips for selling pins and patches, the ethics behind producing different kinds of custom merch, things to consider when thinking about your products, and — best of all — you’ll meet a bunch of exciting creators and vendors.

As the patch and pin boom comes of age,
it’s time to take stock.


Pin shows, zine fairs, and the new DIY marketplace

The concept of “patch and pin show” may appear self-evident. A pop-up marketplace all about tiny swag, well, that seems legit. Yet these events, despite being inspired by the zine fair format, have different crowds and different goals – why not get to know them? But as artsy accessory enthusiasts carve out their own specialized spaces, the old guard is conflicted about how this kind of work fits into a good ol’ zine fest — or if they ever truly can. Read how different zinesters and artists are untying this knot.

Tips of the trade: patch pushers dish on making the sale

Be nice, keep it cheap, pay attention, mix it up — selling artsy goodies should really be simple. But our panel of creators dive deeper and break down the finer points of pulling a profit amidst a sea of competition and a fairly fickle crowd.

Okay, but
who really made that?

Pin politics in a sketchy global labour market

Most creators prefer to know how their products are being produced. But even with the popularity of enamel pins and the like, it isn’t so easy. We got real about intellectual property, researching the production process and the perilous potential of exploitation in the distant murky waters of globalized manufacturing.