Artist Buttons

Since the 1950’s artists have been making inexpensive, accessible works in a series/edition intended for wider distribution than singular objects in museums. These have served to critique commercial/market aspects of the art world, and the myth of an expensive “original”. Artist multiples have been made as prints, small manufactured sculptures, pins, artist books, magazines, postcards, t-shirts, zines and other commercially reproducible media. They are sometimes given away for free, traded or sold for low cost in bookstores, independent art galleries, libraries, convenience stores, activists’ gatherings, and more.

Artist multiples are sometimes playful and mischievous – exploring new and surprising manifestations of commercial media – and often convey ideas and meaning against expected commercial, social, and political goals.

Student buttons – I am not a Fetish (2018)

Emily Reimer, Fried Egg Buttons (After Sarah Lucas) 2018

Self Portrait with Fried Eggs 1996 Sarah Lucas born 1962 Purchased 2001

Buttons by NEThing Co. (1960’s Vancouver)

Party Without Party, Bruce Barber

RM Vaughn – Buttons

Imagine Peace Buttons by Yoko Ono

Crotch Button, and Breast Button by Yoko Ono (from Printed Matter NYC)

Tit Pins, by Paige Gratland, 2004

Yayoi Kusama, Love Forever

Jessie Eisner, Ask Me Buttons, 2014

Kelly Mark, Everything is Interesting, 2003

Lyla Rye –  Cameo buttons

Adam David Brown, phases of the moon

Sandy Plotnikoff – Flash Pins and Velcro Pins

Students making buttons – 2018

Anti-Theft Pins, 2.25 inches wide

With these pins, I wanted to run a sort of experiment on human behaviour and how people would react to seeing them. Originally, I thought that by issuing a challenge, people would be more likely to take the pin, but what really happened was the opposite.

I spent a day on campus, walking around and waiting in lines/crowded areas with the pins attached to my backpack. I thought that, since it was on my back, there were multiple to choose from, and the pins weren’t fully done up, people might be more tempted to take one. I even left some lying around in frequented areas like the library and the UC, but checking on them after a couple hours showed that out of the 12 pins I had placed on campus and on myself, only one had been picked up. The closest anyone came to taking the pins off my back were two people behind me in the Starbucks lineup that were whispering and debating about it, but eventually settled on taking a sneaky picture of my back instead. Unfortunately, people really couldn’t bring themselves to steal the pins, so they stay true to their name.

Failed Pins for Sale

While I was making the first pin design, I was having a lot of trouble with the button maker and a lot of buttons were not usable. But! That gave me an idea for a new design to make along side of them. For these pins, I purposefully found ways to mess them up. In a way, they turned out exactly how I had planned.

I thought it would be fun to try and “sell them” and see what people would say to these messy buttons if I attached a steep price to them. I’ve posted them on a couple sites, and I’m still waiting to hear if people think I’m serious, or if they react to the advertisements in any way.

Product Pictures, used as examples in the ads



For this project I was really drawn to creating buttons that were each one of a kind and couldn’t be replicated multiple times, so from the start I wasn’t very interested in creating a graphic design for my buttons. I was also very interested in using a source of media to cut-out and create my buttons, so a magazine or newspaper seemed like the best options. I already had this 1971 February edition Playboy magazine that I had bought from an antique shop and it seemed like a very interesting material to use in order to explore aspects of femininity, empowerment, feminism and the absurdity of some of the aspects of Playboy magazines. I also really liked how the cut-outs of the magazine worked together as a collection, as each of the pieces work together to hint that these buttons are in-fact from a Playboy magazine. For example, just seeing a single button that is an explicit graphic or a naked woman doesn’t really speak to much, however as a collective the buttons make sense because you have a mix of explicit graphics, naked women, bunny iconography and erotic images viewers can gather that these are Playboy buttons. The buttons can also be quite nice as stand alone pieces (maybe pinned to a jacket or bag), however they can be quite controversial depending on the identity of the wearer. I really enjoyed the particular way that I decided to model the buttons, for example the nipple pins are quite entertaining and attention grabbing to wear over your actual nipples, especially since they are life sized. In addition, I think that my thrifted playboy jeans serve as a perfect canvas to display the buttons, the only thing that might be better would be a jean jacket version of the pants.