Political Pins, Policy, and Protesters, Oh My!

No pressure or anything, but the 2016 US Presidential election is possibly one of the most important elections in our country’s history. I say this because we are a world-policy-driving country in the midst of a world that is dealing with terror attacks, race wars, environmental upheaval, and a host of other as of yet unthought of issues. And our choices, if both the Democratic and Republican conventions go according to speculation, are the first woman to hold the office of President or the first man without any prior political or military experience to take the office. So yeah, it’s kind of a big deal.

This Monday the Republican party will holds its national conventioNationalConvention16n in Cleveland, Ohio. Here delegates will formally nominate Donald Trump as their presidential candidate, and he will likely accept that nomination. It will be four days of speakers, platform-planning, and excitement-building programs, aimed to pull the party together and planning the way forward to the November elections.

Then the following week the Democrats will host their own National Convention, nominating Hillary Clinton, this one in Philadelphia PA. Their convention will run much the same, though no doubt their agreed-upon party platform will look markedly different.

One thing all the delegates can agree upon, regardless of party affiliation, is their love of political swag. The spectacle is easily half the reason some of the delegates enjoy going to the convention, and it’s certainly one of the main reasons I enjoy watching the televised portions of it. Everything from outrageous hats and costumes to the more traditional political pins and ribbons will be on display. Think of conventions like the political Lalapolooza: with every trending and established political “rock star” taking part.

There will no doubt be protests outside both venues, and personally, as long as they’re peaceful, I’m all for that. That’s part of what makes our country great: the ability to speak freely and openly about important issues. And also the passion that both the delegates and the protesters alike feel for issues facing this country. We always need passion: now we just need the next great leader who can channel that passion into policy.

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An End to Memorial Pins

It’s not an easy thing to talk about: all of this violence happening to police and to the people they are sworn to protect. The truth is that none of this should be happening, and we shouldn’t have to talk about it at all. Or rather, I wish that we didn’t need to talk about it anymore. As a human I watch the news and sometimes cannot bear what I see. As someone who works with awareness products for a living, I feel exactly the same way.

The understanding that doctors and scientists all over the world are working each and every day to improve and remove the likes of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and Lyme disease (to name but a few) makes wearing a pink breast cancer ribbon, or a red heart disease ribbon, feel hopeful, as well as a way to honor those who have been taken from us. But when I see requests flowing in for awareness ribbons to remember young black men who were killed during routine traffic stops, or the horror that was Dallas last week… it’s almost too much to take.

Our business is built on recognizing and inspiring change with products like memorial pins memorial pinsand bracelets and the like. But I don’t think there’s a single person here at PinMart that wouldn’t gladly give up all of the orders that come in after tragedies like Sandy Hook, 9/11, or the Dallas massacre. I would like nothing more than to never see a black awareness ribbon pin, or a heart with “Remember…”, ever again.

But we’re not there yet. This world is full of the painfully beautiful and the just plain painful, and you can’t, as yet, have one without the other. But that doesn’t mean we should turn off and shut down. It’s time to renew our faith in our fellow man, to be kind to strangers, and to be cautious about labels and stereotypes.  And not having to put together another order for a memorial service for someone who’s life was cut short… that matters.

Here’s to doing everything we can to be our very best, most compassionate, patient selves. Here’s to kindness. And here’s to crazy cat lady pins, and avocado pins, and snow cones and martini glass pins. To pins that make us smile.

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Happy Holiday Weekend from PinMart!

Ah, the obligatory 4th of July blog post! I don’t say that grudgingly, as this is one of my absolute favorite holidays, especially as I get older. It’s an opportunity to celebrate family, friends, and community, as well as our country and all it stands for. When I was a kid it was mostly about the fireworks, and the excitement around the subsequent landscape or siding damage that inevitably occurred. Now the fireworks are still wonderful, but the social aspect with friends and family is just as much fun.

And the 4th has grown to be so much more than just a backyard BBQ holiday. Summer festivals are scheduled for the 4th, parades, block parties and craft shows. You could fill up every minute of your long weekend going from one festivity to another. Or you can simply relax in the backyard with a book for the long weekend. And in a way, that’s a good analogy for the American spirit, and the 4th of July celebration. We have the freedom to do whatever we want this weekend, because previous generations, and current service men and women, won that right for us.

Keeping in line with that, Americans show their pride in any number of ways. Some go to Patriotic lapel pinsbaseball games and sing the National Anthem with gusto (if not perfect pitch). Others don patriotic lapel pins before hitting the golf course. Someone like me, I’ll likely probably go out looking for some live music and dance the night away with a diverse crowd of my fellow Americans. In my opinion nothing brings people together quite like live music.

Whatever you end up doing this holiday weekend, we at PinMart hope you’re safe and happy! Because this great country has unlimited things to see, do, experience and enjoy. And for those of you shooting off your own fireworks purchased from those roadside kiosks up in Wisconsin or Indiana: be careful! I know those massive shells are cool but boy can they light up a tree if they’re aimed wrong.

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Souvenir Pins Are Great Travel Companions

Road trip season is here! And “road trip” can mean literally putting rubber to the road and exploring our great country the old fashioned way. Or it can mean jumping an airplane to explore parts unknown in the USA or around the world. Summer is a great time to go exploring, no matter how you do it. And one of the best parts of “road trips” is the mementos that you bring back from your journeys. Souvenir pins are proving to be a popular choice this year.

I make a point of looking for souvenir pins wherever I go, be that a museum right here in Chicago or all the way in California at the Winchester Mystery House (which is Souvenir pinsmindbogglingly cool, by the way). Collectable pins are great because they’re unique, they represent a place and time in your explorations, and they travel well. Much better than a 1/4 scale replica of the Capital Building in Washington DC, for example. And instead of having to take time to put all of your paper souvenirs into a scrap book, pins go right up on your cork board and voila!

Another neat accessory I’ve seen recently for travelers is world map cork boards for you to attach your pins to. So now you have a memento of an experience, and a map to see geographically where you’ve been! I’ve seen a few in person and they make great conversation pieces, with people pointing to different pins to hear the story behind it.

No matter how you travel this summer, try to get out and go exploring! Whether it’s your home town or across the world, everywhere you go has something interesting, unique and fun to offer. And be on the lookout for souvenir pins when you do. Just remember to take them off your lapel if you’re going through airport security… word to the wise, they trip those metal detectors every time.

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Custom Lapel Pins Are Going Viral

It’s safe to say that lapel pins are taking over the internet. With marketplaces like Etsy out there, and web savvy people who know how to create their own website storefronts, combined with companies like PinMart who will create (just about) any thing your heart desires, the possibilities are endless. And I cannot tell you how cool it feels to go on something like Instagram or Buzzfeed and see content featuring custom lapel pins that I’ve personally had a hand in: it’s seeing a little bit of you stretching out across the world and make it a bit more colorful, unique, and edgy.

Custom Lapel Pins from Choonimals

Recently a Instagrammer (is that a word?), a creative person and pin designer herself, posted a snarky-in-a-good-way comment on how cliche custom pin designs are becoming, and I have to say I definitely saw some parallels between what she was saying and what I see daily here at PinMart. Bart Simpson, pot leafs, cats, skulls. Yeah… that actually pretty much covers a lot of the designs that cross my desk on any given day. However, as a producer as much as a designer, we also see a lot of really fantastic, unique stuff, from “Trapeze Jesus” to a the charmingly crooked smile of internet sensation Princess Monster Truck (as drawn by the geniuses at Choonimals).

And while we discourage plagiarism, and we can’t crank out images that someone else has the copyright for, we LOVE all the creative designs we see coming in these days. When I started (boy I sound old saying that) we did predominantly corporate logos, baseball trading pins, and Lion’s Club pins. Nothing wrong with that, but to be fair, they all start looking pretty much the same after a while. Then in the last year or two, novelty pins have just exploded, and it has been awesome. Vegans, roller derby girls, music fest junkies, beard enthusiasts, and yes, crazy cat ladies, have come out in force to fill the internet, and my inbox, with amazing, insane, and hilarious designs and I salute you all!

The Instagrammer I mentioned above, by the name of Penelope Gazin, added, “They remind me of tattoos, because people decorate themselves with their favorite images that also tell a story about themselves,” and I think that’s the best part of lapel pins. Whether you’re wearing a Lion’s Club pin or a Rastafarian banana, chances are you’re proud of whatever you’re pinning to yourself. You tell a story with custom lapel pins just like you do with any other piece of clothing or jewelry, or even tattoos. So wear that Purrmaid pin, or that Sad Keanu lapel pin with pride, and know we at PinMart can’t wait to see what you come up with next.

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Safety is big business

There’s one thing I know is true-well, two if you count always listening to your mother-and that’s that safety matters. Safety first. Safety is job one. There are a thousand slogans about safety and its importance at home, at school, especially in the workplace.  Some are cheesy, others are clever, but all are correct. Our lives are one big spin of the danger roulette wheel without precautions and safety protocols.

June is the month that businesses focus on safety, whether it’s unveiling new safe procedures, or pinpointing areas for improvement and setting goals for the rest of the year. And while you may roll your eyes at the pamphlet on the proper way to lift from your knees and not with your back, workplace safety lapses cost American businesses north of $170 BILLION every year, according to the experts in the field: OSHA. I don’t have to tell you that is a lot of money (but seriously, that’s a LOT of money).

And believe it or not it’s not all injuries incurred at construction sites or down mine shafts. Office environments can be dangerous as well, if in sometimes sneakier ways. Sitting in front of a computer screen all day sounds innocuous until you realize what that constant safety lapel pinsbad posture is doing to your neck and back after years of sitting. Ergonomic office furniture, as well as encouraging employees to get up, walk around and stretch their legs is a very vital safety protocol that prevents millions in medical bills. And getting up for five minutes to clear your head is definitely a mental safety protocol, if you ask me.

Safety is serious business. And it’s a genuine business into itself, with companies built around helping other businesses and organizations run in a safer, more efficient manner. They create programs with incentives that run from safety lapel pins to paid vacation days and other perks. These programs may cost money in the short run for a business, but it’s guaranteed to reduce costs in the long term when businesses spend less on medical insurance payouts and sick days for injured employees.

And even if you don’t have the resources to get professional safety analysis and program instruction, common sense and simple goals go a long way. Targeting what causes the most problems and then setting goals to lower or eliminate that problem can be genuine lifesavers. And with whiteboards proclaiming “It has been 64 days since we’ve had an accident” along with swag like safety lapel pins or lanyards, can be reward enough to keep working safer, and smarter.


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How aware are you about allergies?

It’s safe to say that in our connected, content-driven 21st century world that we’re very “aware”. Social media keeps us up on our third cousin twice removed and their upcoming birthday, while 24 hour news makes sure we know every terrible thing a politician says about another politician. We almost can’t avoid this awareness. But something that sometimes gets overlooked, or at least under recognized, are food allergies. This month is designated National Food Allergies Awareness month, and I think it’s probably one of the more informative awareness campaigns out there, and wearing things like awareness ribbon lapel pins is a great way to start important conversations.

How many times have you requested no pickles on your burger only to sit down, take a bite… and taste the sour crunch of a pickle? Super annoying, I know. But imagine you’re Awareness Ribbon Lapel Pinsdeathly allergic to pickles. That sour crunch could mean a life threatening reaction is about to occur. What if it didn’t even take biting into that pickle, but just having your burger made where pickles are also used could cause the same reaction? Chances are you’d start limiting your restaurant options to places that could promise that no pickles ever make it into the kitchen. And needless to say, that really limits where you can eat out.

I know someone who’s son has this problem. Peanuts, and other nuts as well, are as dangerous to him as arsenic is to us. And unlike arsenic, nuts are in everything, and not just restaurants. Nuts are in classrooms and lunch rooms, they’re at food courts in the mall, baseball games, and in enclosed spaces like airplane cabins. So for her and her son, going to school is potentially poisonous, as is going to the mall, or cheering the Cubs on at Wrigley Field… and taking a trip across the country by plane is almost absolutely out of the question.

But because her son looks so healthy otherwise, and is as active and outgoing as he is, many people take for granted that his health could be compromised with something as seemingly innocent as a peanut. So for them, things like allergy awareness ribbon lapel pins are a great and vital way to start a dialogue about the seriousness of her son’s situation. Because while you might look at Reese’s peanut butter cups and worry about things like calories, for millions of people, they’re  not just dangerous to the thighs: they’re actually deadly.

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Lapel Pins Fit For A King… THE King

I think this story is pretty cool. Not often in my job do I get to claim that what I do is in any way tied to rock and roll royalty, much less the King himself. But this morning an article found its way into my inbox that I thought was really unique..

There’s currently a celebrity jewelry estate sale going on, one that’s traveling across the country to garner praise and hopefully sales, with items ranging from the outrageous (Elizabeth Taylor’s peridot earrings that look heavy enough to give me a headache), to the truly sentimental. On the sentimental end are a pair of very simple lapel pins, an E and P. They of course belonged to none other than Elvis Presley, during his early days of stardom, lapel pinsand the jewelry experts in charge of them admit that they aren’t even real gold. Never the less, the man they represent, and the stories that the oft-handled lapel pins tell makes them right at home beside the golf ball-sized, diamond encrusted ring once donned by actress Lana Turner.

The woman in charge of the traveling show pointed out that while most of the lapel pinspieces in the collection were ostentatious to say the least, there were a few pieces that held their own despite having little to no actual monetary value. And that’s where the King’s lapel pins come in.

The story goes that they belonged to Presley in the mid to late 50’s, when his fame skyrocketed faster than anyone could have wrapped their head around. And so despite the fact that he could, and did, own much more expensive and glamorous pieces, Elvis often wore the two simple faux-gold lapel pins proudly beside jewels and precious metals. They were a gift of unknown origin. And the more remarkable turn of events comes when he gave them away one day, to a fan. The woman, Julia Mason, kept them for many decades until they were sold to the jewelry collector to ensure they went to another generation of Elvis Presley fans, to be loved and cherished like she had.

I just think it’s amazing that a pair of lapel pins that were given an estimated monetary value of about $.50, could be currently traveling the country along side items with price tags in the hundreds of thousands. The two well-worn lapel pins are currently going for nearly $10,000, but that number is expected to rise.

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Dancing with Autism Lapel Pins

Dancing with the stars is the kind of reality TV I can actually get into. I’m rooting not just for the novice dancers and their journey towards gracefulness, but also for the professional dancers and their ability to take someone with little to no ability into a rough approximation of Ginger Rogers or Fred Astaire. They need to be able to teach anyone, from the body conscious to the overly confident, all while cameras are rolling and capturing their every exasperated sigh and exalted cheer. It’s genuinely inspiring.

And last week, a favorite professional of mine, Tony Dovolani, took to the stage with his star partner, actress Marla Maples, in costumes of bright yellow and blue: the colors attributed to autism awareness. And on Tony’s canary yellow lapel? A beautiful, glittering blue puzzle piece lapel pin,autism awareness lapel pins which anyone familiar with autism will know is the official symbol of the disease. The dance itself didn’t relate in any direct way to autism, and when interviewed after the dance, there was no mention of autism, but to anyone with an autistic child in their life, or someone like me who makes it her job to know about the various awareness causes out there, it was beautifully clear that Tony supported and celebrated autism awareness.

It led me to look into the reason behind the costumes, figuring there must be more to it than it simply being Autism Awareness Month, and there is. Tony has 7 year old twins, a girl and boy, and the little boy, Adrian, has autism. Tony pointed out in an interview from 2014 that it has taught him so much about appreciating a person for what they are and not what they struggle with, and that  you can learn from everyone, especially a child with something like autism.

This revelation was quite inspiring and telling to me, because as a coach he has always appeared very patient, thoughtful, and positive in his approach to dealing with the different struggles that his various famous students have dealt with. And in part that has to do with his continued appreciation and personal growth from having a son with autism.

In general I thought it was really cool that Tony brought something personal as well as universal into this last week’s dance without letting it overshadow the competition: the beautiful costumes spoke for themselves and led to someone like myself, and I have no doubt, many others, to do a little research into the costumes. Without saying a word he raised awareness for autism, and that is exactly what lapel pins are supposed to do: start a conversation, serve as a reminder, and celebrate people while honoring their struggles. And all it takes is one bright blue puzzle piece lapel pin.

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National Doctor’s Day is Near

Next Wednesday is National Doctor’s Day. I admit I wouldn’t have known this except for the fact that our stethoscope lapel pins have been backordered since way early in the month and that seemed odd, so I did some digging. Turns out National Doctor’s day has been around for about 80 years but only became a nationally recognized day in 1990. And personally I can’t think of many occupations that deserve more thanks than doctors.

Back in the early days of our country, medicine was not the same carefully cultivated 574_1kprofession it is today. Before medical schools like Harvard and John Hopkins were established, most of America’s first doctors learned their trade apprenticing at the right hand of an established doctor who had come over from Europe, having gotten their degree in Edinburgh. But nowadays, doctors will train an average of 14 years before becoming independent physicians, and incur a staggering $170,000 in tuition costs. If that isn’t dedication and sacrifice, I do not know what is.

Despite the intensity of training now required for doctors, and the debt that is unavoidably accrued, America currently has well over 175,000 doctors of all specialties and practices. And almost all of us can count a doctor as being one of the very first people we ever meet when we came into this world. And from that moment on we depend upon them to keep us moving ahead, be that with vaccines, healing our superficial wounds, treating cancer and other deadly diseases, to helping us with the next generation of children. They’re an integral part of our American life.

So this coming National Doctor’s Day, March 30th, consider stopping by your local doctor’s office or hospital to thank the staff. Whether that’s with flowers, treats, lapel pins or a heartfelt card, I can guarantee they never get tired of knowing they’ve positively touched someone’s life. Because while we may count a bad day as one that consists of losing a big sale, or not landing that next project, theirs is literally life and death. And for that, they have my heartfelt, most genuine thanks.

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