If you have been on Instagram at all, you know that enamel pins and patches have been making a major come back this year.
Recently, we had the opportunity to hear from Tasha Burton, the founder and curator of Black Pin Maker League. If Tasha’s name sounds familiar, it is because she is also the founder of the popular brand, Belle Butters.
When did you start your personal pin collection?
I began collecting enamel pins last year, finding ones that mostly spoke to what I was interested in at the time and I was always finding pins by makers who were white. Where were the black pin makers? Shortly thereafter, I found Coloring Pins and Radical Dreams Pins, but that was it. Soon, with a bit of digging, I was able to find a few more and wondered if I was just overlooking them or if they were just buried under everyone else, making them harder to find.
Hero Sports Pin Set by Radical Dreams Pins
So, how did you come up with the idea for Black Pin Makers League?
In October of 2016, I went out of town for a few days off in Chicago when the idea struck me about making a place where all the black pin makers could be found. I searched to see if anyone else had already created a platform specifically for this and came up empty-handed. I made the Instagram page and sat on it for a month or so before posting again. What I did in the meantime was do a little more research to find other black owned pin makers and got their pins in so I’d have a decent amount of posts to put up when I made the announcement.
Owen & Hitman Hart pins by 1-2-3 Pins
Quickly after, with the help of a few pin makers and pin collectors, I was directed to other makers that already existed that I’d never heard of. All of a sudden, there was a list of ten, then twenty and now over thirty black owned pin and patch makers in the U.S. and abroad who I affectionately refer to as the BPML Squad. On average, BPML highlights 1-3 new pin and patch makers per month and I highlight these makers for free. I purchase most of the pins I own unless gifted.
I also aimed for BPML to be a way to pay it forward. I’ve been incredibly blessed over the last seven years with BB and the opportunities and connections I’ve made. Spending a bit of time to promote and support others and watch their brands grow has been very rewarding.
What overall impact and reward have you seen from creating BPML?
What I like so much about the makers that are featured is the variety. Some cover black pop culture, others historical figures, others social justice, while many do original designs, creating their own characters.
BPML was so necessary and came right on time as a way to express ourselves. We have always had t-shirts, hats, mugs and totes, but enamel pins I feel takes the cherry on top when it comes to bringing a message together.
Voodoo pin by Sournudle
For example, one day I may choose to don the Crown pin by Christa David Art, with the Domestic Terrorist pin by Yeah Charleston right underneath it, followed by my Black & Proud pin by Adorned by Chi. With just three pins, I’ve told a story and I’ve set the mood for how I’m feeling that day. It will tie into the clothes I’m wearing or make a bold statement without having to say much else when I enter a room.
Collecting pins and patches has been a thing for decades but for black people, there hasn’t been much in that world for “us.” With that said, so many collectors are springing with joy at the pins they’ve seen made. There’s a sense of nostalgia one feels when they see the Living Single pin (based on the popular tv show) by PinLivingColor or when Hard Genre, another one of my fav pin makers, makes a pin based off of the movie Juice. While there are some white pin makers who have made pins of black pop culture icons like Nicki Minaj or Gucci Mane, the coloring is off, or it doesn’t quite look like them or they’re only touching on what’s popular and not what’s at the root of what so many black people have grown up with regarding black pop culture.
Crown and Art Hoe pins by Christa David Art
I’m also seeing with the creation of BPML, that the ease of having the pin makers all in one place has created a shopping hub for collectors to actively purchase from more than one black owned business at once. Despite it all being within the same genre of pins and patches, collectors are purchasing from as many as ten different pin makers at a time (one collector purchased over 20 pins in one month).
In an effort to put black dollars back into black businesses, I’d have to say that it is unheard of for the typical consumer to purchase from that many different black owned businesses in such a short amount of time. With the exception of Black Friday and the holiday season, collectors now have the flexibility with this affordable hobby of collecting pins to make their purchases all year round. And because the pin makers themselves are designers, the collectors do not grow bored; they’re always encouraged to make a new purchase because they’ve got to have that latest pin by their favorite maker.
How do you plan on expanding the mission of BPML?
In addition to sharing the maker’s pins and patches on the page, I also began doing interviews with them so that the audience gets a better understanding of who they are, where they’re from, what inspires them, what motivates them and why they choose to create the pins and patches that they make. Majority of the BPML Squad are women and majority of the collectors of the pins and patches are women as well. Once again, proving our creative and buying power is just as magical as can be.
BPML Squad pin by Black Pin Maker League
Where can we find you on social media?
You can follow BPML on Instagram and see the master list of pin and patch makers on the BPML tumblr. BPML is always open to submissions of hard and soft enamel pins and patches by black makers. Currently, BPML does not accept or promote buttons, shrink wrapped badges, shirts or other merchandise. The aim is the break the ceiling and level the playing field of a market that is heavily saturated, so we’re taking things one step at a time.
Have you bought any pins from the Black Pin Maker League? Let us know your favorites!