At the Midwest Flair Fest, you’re encouraged to wear your heart on your sleeve.
More than 40 vendors selling enamel pins, embroidered patches, and other forms of wearable art will fill Thalia Hall (1807 S. Allport St., Pilsen) this Sunday, October 14, for what will be the largest festival of its kind in the city. The free, all-ages event was organized by a group of local artists — Amanda Stilwell, Bianca Xunise, Melisser Elliot, and Ryan Lynch — who are active in the pin and patch community. They wanted to invite other artists and art lovers from the Midwest to convene in one central gathering place.
“A lot of the big pin and patch shows are happening on the coasts, so we wanted something that was going to be a little more local for folks in Chicago,” says Stilwell, adding that she has noticed enormous growth within the pin and patch community in the past three years, in terms of both makers and wearers.
As the festival’s roster of talent proves, there’s a pin for every person. Here’s our guide to some vendors to hit up, depending on your interests.
For the Superfan
The Found is co-owned by Jim York and Albert Tanquero, who work with a team of dedicated artists in an Avondale warehouse space. Inspired by “vintage ephemera, retro kitsch, and pop culture,” their flair often features cultural icons and inspirational figures, ranging from Beyoncé and Chance the Rapper to Coco Chanel and congressional nominee Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
For the Horror Movie Connoisseur
Creepy Co. is a love letter to all things macabre. Founded in 2015 by wife-and-wife team Kellie Taylor and Susanne Goethals, the Chicago-based business features an ever-expanding line of not just pins and patches, but apparel, accessories, toys, and office supplies that blend both vintage and modern horrors (Zombie Donald Trump, anyone?).
For the Arts and Humanities Nerd
Or, in the words of its creator, “Pins for those who did the reading.” Freelance artist and history geek Julia Carusillo traces the origins of Salad Days Pins to one fateful visit to a temporary Greek exhibit at the Field Museum a few years ago. Frustrated by the lack of gift shop merchandise dedicated to the funerary mask of Agamemnon (who among us cannot relate?), she turned her sights on creating one-of-a-kind pins and patches that celebrate history, art, and mythology.
For the Pop Culture Enthusiast
Fandom Flair’s pins are gorgeously illustrated and extremely specific to their subject matter. Artists Lauren Mormino and Ashley Dunning-Evans pay homage to popular media franchises by digging deep into TV show and book lore to create truly unique referential works of art.
For the Sass Master
Originally founded as a shop for wedding invitations and decor, the Indianapolis-based Lil Boat Boutique is now a go-to for pins and patches filled with attitude. The artist behind the operation, Whitney Bennett, is also currently making her way through the United States with her pristinely designed state flower collection, which so far includes Illinois, California, Texas, Indiana, and New York.
For the Social Activist
Jenna Blazevich is promoting change one work of art at a time. Her Chicago-based design studio, Vichcraft, expertly combines her witchy, punk-rock style and professional calligraphy to celebrate intersectional feminism, the Black Lives Matter movement, immigration rights, and literary fiction. Blazevich is an outspoken civil rights activist and has donated proceeds of her art to organizations like the NAACP, ACLU, and Planned Parenthood.
For the One with Eclectic Style
To categorize Francis and Ann Almeda’s Reppin Pins by a single theme would be criminal, so instead I’m going to list a small selection of the exquisite pins that this one-stop-shop offers: the flag of the Philippines, a Moscow Mule, a typewriter, succulents, Arnold from Hey Arnold, and incredibly specific, adorable dogs (from a Lhasa Apso to an English bulldog). Are you sold yet?