Relix 44: Fan Pins

November 16, 2018
Relix 44: Fan Pins


Welcome to the Relix 44. To commemorate the past 44 years of our existence, we’ve created a list of people, places and things that inspire us today, appearing in our September 2018 issue and rolling out on throughout this fall. See all the articles posted so far here


Tiny Musical Canvases: Fan Pins

Walk around any music festival and you’re bound to stumble on corkboard after corkboard of multicolored enamel pins. Mostly fan-made, these tiny totems demonstrate the creativity of their designers and those who wear them. They symbolize the lyrical imagery of bands like the Grateful Dead and Phish in fun and often subtle ways. As Phanart’s Pete Mason sees it, pin-making requires in the Phish world a unique blend of creativity and self-restraint. “A vast majority of what is produced is quality, inspired and unique, and does not use the Phish logo,” he says of his Phanart collective.

And while pins have been around since the earliest days of the Dead, Mason argues that the pin-making economy has never been better. The internet gives artists the power to make, market and sell their pins to their fellow fans worldwide. Plus, there are always parking lots and official meetups by groups like Phanart to get buyers and sellers in the same room. “It’s the free market at work in an impressive way and continually brings in new designs from new artists who come into the scene and take away something that inspires them to be creative,” he says. “It is fascinating to see this happen tour after tour, year after year.”

Below, Mason curates a sampling of several pins, both official and fan-made, to reflect the ever-growing culture around these tiny musical canvases:


Grateful Dead:
“Fare Thee Well 50th”
by Mike DuBois and Kingpin Designs


Mike DuBois: “The graphic was taken from the centerpiece of a 50th anniversary design I did, which was used on several other products, including T-shirts, posters, stickers, kids’ clothing, women’s clothing and a few other things. It was officially approved and licensed by the Grateful Dead merchandising and Josh [Kaufman of Kingpin Designs] liked that graphic and asked me if he could produce it as a pin. However, I had to simplify the original graphic to make it work for this type of product.”


“Band in Lights”
by Andrew Bryant


Andrew Bryant: “This is a modified version of the second pin in the “Band in Lights” series (aka “BIL2”). The idea for the series came to me during a Phish show while they were playing ‘Camel Walk.’ Initially, it was supposed to have ‘Strut Your Stuff’ word bubbles. Eventually, the word bubbles were scrapped and the focus turned toward highlighting the beautiful work that [Chris] Kuroda and other lighting directors bring to the scene. The series is now comprised of several bands besides Phish and has incorporated many venues, including The Gorge, Red Rocks and MSG.”


Disco Biscuits:
“Digital Buddha”
by Mark Serlo

Mark Serlo: “This is the ‘Digital Buddha’ pin, designed and produced for the 2013 Winter Inferno run. Produced by Party Time Pins, this one has stood the test of time and still regularly commands $100-150 on the secondary market. Utilizing 3-D molding and antique gold metal, the Biscuits’ circle logo subtly appears on the Buddha’s belly. Buddha holds a purple flame in his left hand, symbolic of the Winter Inferno event.”

“Happy Fish” pin series
by Ryan Kerrigan


Ryan Kerrigan: “The series began in 2011 and commemorates various stops on each tour. Every pin is numbered and in a limited edition, never to be reprinted. The series currently contains 112 different fishies through summer 2018. Pictured are two of the fishies in the subset called “happy fish classics— pins from before we loved pins.” The four fishies in this series honor shows from the past (the 1998 Island Tour, the Utah Dark Side show, Big Cypress and the 2010 Berkeley Greek run).”


“No Hate Zone”
by Pinsanity (Chuck Hoffman and Jill Savage)


Jill Savage: “’No Hate Zone’ was released in April 2017 and inspired by the lyrics from Twiddle’s song ‘Hattie’s Jam’: ‘It’s OK to be alone/ You learn a lot about your own/ It’s a no hate zone in turn.’”


Umphrey’s McGee:
“Jimmy Stewart”
by Sam Sutton and Mark Serlo


Sam Sutton: “A ‘Jimmy Stewart’ is an Umphrey’s jam with a composed feel to it. Mark and I thought it would be hilarious to make a pin series that was based on Jimmy Stewart’s smug mug. For this one in particular, we thought it was extra funny that he was throwing a U and an M in a gang sign style. I love making pins with my friends.”


This article originally appears in the September 2018 issue of Relix. For more features, interviews, album reviews and more, subscribe here