Katie Hof of Faux Fox Studio is also a collector drawn to ‘every pin in existence’
“It’s really easy to buy from a lot of sources and not realize how much you spend on pins. You’ll buy five pins and you’ll realize, well I spent $50—that’s fine, I’m supporting an artist. It’s really easy to just spend all of your money on pins. It’s not difficult when they’re so tiny and you can put so many in a small space. That’s part of it—that’s a small part of it. Part of it would be, like I said, that they’re little pieces of artwork. By buying it, you’re supporting an artist that you like. And that concept, the whole community, really, is what makes it desirable to buy pins. I’ve met so many people from the community and have bought pins just to support artists personally—their dreams, their ambitions, their small businesses.”
There’s this kind of funny thing that happens whenever Katie Hof meets someone who isn’t part of the pin community for the first time.
After she tells them a little about herself—that she’s a mom, a Marine Corps veteran and a cancer survivor, she’ll mention that she’s also a small business owner.
And when she provides the details of what kind of work she does for a living, somehow, these new acquaintances often mishear her.
“They usually ask ‘well, what is your business?’ And then I have to tell them that I make and sell pins. And they’re like “pens?” And I’m like, ‘pins.’
“Whenever I say ‘pins,’ it always gets confused for pens,” she laughs. “I don’t know why.”
Hof, 32, runs Faux Fox Studio out of her home in Marshalltown, Iowa, a small Midwestern town that’s approximately 50 miles northeast of Des Moines. Marshalltown was in the national headlines this summer after it was unexpectedly struck hard by a series of powerful tornadoes. While more than a dozen people were hurt, entire neighborhoods and a downtown business district were wiped out, and some people lost everything, Hof said she and her 9-year-old daughter were fortunately unaffected by the storms.
Faux Fox Studio officially became a business last year and Hof’s daughter is included in running the business as much as possible.
“She has helped me put pins on cards before and she has helped me weigh packages and write the weights down,” Hof explained. “She gets upset if a pin comes in the mail and she’s like, ‘You didn’t tell me you were designing this.’ Or, ‘What is this? How did I not see this?’”
The business produces stickers, jewelry and patches, but Hof is probably best known for her brightly colored collections of enamel pins, which run the spectrum of being inspired by animals and nature, vintage culture and anime.
“I try to make it so that when people come to my website looking for pins, anybody can find something that they would like,” she said. “So I’ve dabbled in really cute pins, and more, I don’t know, I guess poetic pins. And illustrative and cartoony. I did a couple of pop culture ones. So just a little bit of everything.”
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly which of Faux Fox Studio pins is Hof’s most popular design, she said, and so when put on the spot, it took her a little time to figure it out.
“I’ve done so many limited runs that have sold out,” she said. “My peacock seems to be a big hit. I’m going to go with my peacock or my carousel. I made the peacock because I love animals. There are a lot of animal pins out there, but there wasn’t a really good peacock design. I think a lot of other people saw that, too. The carousel too—it’s an interesting, different design that makes people gravitate towards it.”
The carousel pin has had a few different variations—pastel, “blue star” and a design that used the same structure, but had been tweaked slightly for a collaboration with another artist. With a single run consisting of 100 pins, Hof said she has had somewhere between four and five orders of the carousel pin since its launch sometime last year.
Collecting pins has shaped Hof’s Life
While Hof has always been an artist, she was a collector long before she was a pinmaker. Her connection to pins started in a way that Hof herself couldn’t have predicted—and started, in a way, with Facebook.
Hof said she left stopped using the social network after a slew of “family drama,” In its place, she started using Instagram as her go-to social media service.
On Instagram, she found a community of artists and immediately began following as many as she could find, she said. It wasn’t long before she began her collection, toward the end of 2015.
Hof started an Instagram account under the name “DangerosivePins,” where she would share some of the enamel pins she liked, as well as some pieces of her collection. She found herself feeling like she was a part of a community–as her collection grew, her Instagram followers also seemed to grow.
“I thought, ‘Why don’t I do my own pins?’ So I made one and started to use it to trade, mostly,” Hof explained. “From there it kind of exploded.”
While she hasn’t officially counted out the number of individual pieces in her collection, she estimates she has somewhere around 3,000 pins, including the ones she has produced via Faux Fox Studio. Her collections within her collection include pins themed on Sailor Moon, mermaids, foxes and pins made by her best friend.
Pins are actually how she met her best friend, who is known on Instagram as Malzpalznyc.
“She makes dog pins and we both love dogs,” Hof said.
The two friends met on Instagram and met up for the first time this past spring at Patches and Pins Expo in New York City.
“We traded pins and I invited her to one of the Instagram comment pods, which is where groups of pinmakers share their posts and comment and like each other’s posts, talk about pins—and we ended up getting really close. We started talking everyday outside of Instagram, and we became best friends through pins. She’s in New York, we met at Pin Expo.”
During a recent conversation with For The Share of Flair, Hof said she had just checked her mailbox and discovered that two recent pins orders had arrived: a mermaid by Squidvishuss and a pin inspired by the bathhouse from the Hayao Miyazaki animated film “Spirited Away,” created by the artist Catscratch.
A natural question seemed to be whether Hof was drawn to any specific kinds of pins in particular.
“Have you seen my collection? Every pin. Every pin in existence,” she laughed.
“I’ve tried to slow down this year, I really have. Something has to speak to me, but it’s still a very wide spectrum of different types of pins.”
Selecting a favorite pin within her collection, or even a few, was also hard to say.
“There are some that I think are extremely clever,” she said. “And then there are some that I think are extremely cute. And then there are some that speak to me on a personal level, not just aesthetically. So that’s difficult.
“I think if there was a fire, I’d grab my best friend’s pins—I’d grab that board first. Just because she is my best friend and it has a lot of meaning. She gave me those pins, and it means a lot.”
Collecting is a passion Hof also has passed down to her daughter, who has a pinboard of her own. The board holds some Faux Fox Studio pins, as well as others that were very carefully picked out and given as gifts during Christmas or a birthday. Hof joked that her daughter might also want to consider slowing down on collecting, though.
“I keep telling her ‘you know, when I croak, you’re going to get all of these pins,’” she laughed. “So why should there be doubles?”
Instagram users can follow Katie Hof at @FauxFoxStudio. Her merchandise is for sale at her website fauxfoxstudio.com.