Pins have always been cool. Everyone is proud to have a pin from their favourite brands and pin design is highly varied. It can be a logo all the way up to a complete miniature piece of art. The pins from Leen Customs are definitely the latter. Especially the one he created of the Pfaff Motorsport GT3-R. Creator Hansel Echeverria tells his story.
Hansel, how did you get into pins? What’s your background?
I grew up in LA, working as a graffiti artist and in graphic design. Graffiti was big when I was growing up in California and I was really fascinated by the culture, so my first steps in the art world where through graffiti. That’s where the brand name Leen originated as it was my graffiti artist name. Three years ago, when I was still a graphic designer, I used to visit events and I always noticed a lot of brands and artists made these very cool collectible items. But there was never something that was about car culture and the likes of Initial D and Fast & Furious. I had always been a car guy, so I thought it was a good idea to try and design some automotive-style pins.
What’s the process of designing a pin? The work behind the Pfaff motorsport one for instance.
That was an interesting one to make. For this one I used a hard enamel to allow for the detail in the plate design. What’s unique about my work is that it’s a specific piece of art made to be a pin. Not a t-shirt or a print. When I have the idea I immediately start drawing in Adobe Illustrator. The designs themselves are just on the edge of what is possible with the material of the pin. Not too much and definitely not too little. I want every line to be visible on the pin and not to have to make any concessions. The pins are printed overseas and either handed out, sold at events, or available to buy in our web shop.
You’ve been doing this for three years now. How many pins have you made so far?
I try to keep one pin of every design I’ve made, and so for we’ve created around 900. The designs have been really varied from Formula D cars, to classic hotrods, to race cars. The first one was a Subaru rally car because it was my favourite car at the time, and it all took off from there.
A lot of the pins are 80s and 90s inspired, a time when pins were all the rage. Is that a coincidence?
You know I never really thought about it like that, but you are right, pins have been around for a very long time. In fact, I did come across some really cool vintage pins that had been handed out at Le Mans and the like. I really try to make the pins as diverse as possible but you’re definitely right that there are a lot of old modern classic and JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) pins in my collection.
The Pfaff Porsche pin was a collaboration with Motul. Are there more coming?
Yes, actually we’re going to launch an entire series of Motul pins very soon. Motul is just one of those companies that has been seen on so many cool cars, whether an old BMW M1 or a Nissan GT-R SuperGT. I can’t wait to get started on this.