Issue May 11, 2010

Art: Bubble gum or local art?

Put your quarters in a Vend-A-Pin!

It’s springtime, and in addition to daffodils, a new crop of Vend-A-Pin! machines have been popping up all over town. The machines, which dispense nickel-sized buttons designed by local artists, can be purchased from retrofitted gumball machines at various locations around town. “We have about seven out now, but we’re working on getting five more out,” says David Buschermohle, creator of the Vend-A-Pin! and owner of Royal Buttons.

For Buschermohle, the Vend-a-Pin! concept seemed like a natural extension of what he was already doing. “I started Royal Buttons making buttons for bands and comic books, and then branched out to other promotional products. But I was really excited about the Vend-A-Pin! project. My dad and I bought the machines from a guy in Southern Indiana and rehabbed them together.” The sleek black dispensers made their debut at Ultra Pop (1414 Bardstown Road) in mid-April and have since spread to businesses throughout town. “It’s been awesome collaborating with all the artists and businesses,” says Buschermohle, whose young business, Royal Buttons, seems to have found its niche — in addition to the standard buttons for businesses and political campaigns, he’s also created buttons for weddings, graduations, and even funerals to great success.

After witnessing the popularity of a prototype Vend-A-Pin! machine at “The World’s Second Most Awesome Art Market” in March, Buschermohle contacted six artist friends to each design two pins for the series. “This is just the first series,” he says. “I hope in the future to be able to roll out more pins designed by different local artists.”

Clearly, Buschermohle’s affinity for comic-book art is reflected in his selection of this first batch of designs. Featured artists include Ron Jasin, whose UFO and cowboy pins are small tributes to retro kitsch; Justin Kamerer; Patrick Jilbert, whose “How We Doom” pink reaper is a tiny, tart tribute to mortality; Jeral Tidwell; and, my favorite, Frank Peak’s animated, cooped-up birds that are like tiny cartoons for your lapel.

The pins, which cost 50 cents each, are available at Ultra Pop, ear X-tacy, Nachbar, Derby City Espresso, Spinelli’s, Prosound and Derby City Chop Shop. Now we can safely retire our hardworking Pegasus Pins, secure in the knowledge that, fortunately for us, thanks to Royal Buttons, there is more flare out there.