"Su Lee The Pin Shop Lady" Enamel Pin

One of my favorite places to visit in San Francisco is Oriental Art Gallery in the Inner Sunset District. The store is flooded with patches, baseball cards, dead-stock greeting cards, and other knick-knacks, but it's main attraction are the pins. Proprietor Susan "Su" Lee has a unique passion for enamel pins and an amazing selection of vintage pins of all types. The shop has been around for over 40 years (!!) and keeps odd hours, so I always feel like I caught the magic portal when I walk by and it just happens to be open. Neighborhood blog Hoodline has a great write-up of Su Lee's shop and lots of pictures. Check it out here.

I decided to make an enamel pin of Lee herself and surprise her with them. After working up a couple of different sketches, I found a shape that I thought might make an interesting pin and maybe capture some of Su's enthusiasm. The initial design had a cartoon Su holding a heart pin in front of a case with "I Love Pins" on it. I wanted to make it look more like a pin display case and I felt that the text was a bit distracting, so I got rid of the text and filled the case with more pin shapes.

The final design is seven colors with black metal and soft enamel. The manufacturer included glitter in the tiny heart pin as a bonus! Because of its height, the pin has two rubber clutches on the back. This prevents it from accidentally spinning upside down when affixed. If you need pins made, there are many places to choose from but I recommend the fine folks at Lapel Pins CN. Tell them I sent you.


Progress of the Su Lee pin from concept to production art


Enamel pins are all the rage right now and I've noticed an influx of young people at the shop, getting their fill of old-school pin realness. Su Lee's prices are very modest and she could easily charge double for her selection of pins. In fact, I've even seen at least one San Francisco based Etsy seller curiously offering many of the same rare pins that she carries for triple the price. My advice would be to get yourself to Su Lee's shop between 1pm-6pm and chat her up about pins. Her excitement is contagious and you'll get some great deals on pins too.

Me and Susan

I'm dropping off a bag of my "Su Lee" design with her today to sell or give away as she pleases. Maybe you can persuade her to sell you one. Oriental Art Gallery has been around for over 50 years and places like it are special to the soul of San Francisco. Support your local treasures!

Oriental Art Gallery
1340 9th Ave
San Francisco, CA 94122