Godzilla is the star of Long Island artist’s designs, collection
Godzilla has been ruining lives since the 1950s.
Over the course of 32 movies, the furious, radiation-charged monster and his Kaiju pals (and arch-enemies) have violently stomped and smashed to bits not only Tokyo, but major metropolitan areas all over the globe.
The “King of Monsters,” as he’s sometimes called, is a world-famous pop culture icon—Godzilla even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His status might lead you to assume that finding Godzilla-themed enamel pins is a relatively easy task. But that’s not the case, says Bryan Berio, 40, a collector based out of Floral Park Long Island.
“Not that many people make Godzilla pins – or I’m just not looking in the right places,” Berio said. “I try to stay off the Bay (eBay) to look for them because I’ve seen some go for $80, and that’s just nuts for a pin.”
Growing up, Berio was drawn to Godzilla for the giant creature’s ability to destroy everything in his path, and for his epic fights with other massive, equally powerful creatures.
Berio told For the Share of Flair he has carefully acquired 26 different Godzilla pins in total, but anticipates that his collection could easily swell to more than 30 by the time the story would go to print.
“I’m still waiting on a few to come in,” he said.
Berio “keeps his collection tight,” though, he explained, only specifically seeking out and buying Godzilla and Star Wars Black Series Rebels pins. With so many different types of pins in the world, it’s too easy to get carried away, he said.
For now, the collector displays his Godzilla pins on a circular cork board, but when the collection outgrows the board, he said he isn’t sure if he wants to continue to display them for the world to enjoy or if he will prefer to curate them just for himself, by putting them in a book.
“I like them all because they are all unique and an artist’s representation on the character,” he said. “I think that’s why I collect Godzilla. It’s visually pleasing to see the Kaiju Monster shown in so many different forms and finishes.”
Berio is an artist himself— the owner and operator of the enamel pin studio I Saw A Dino.
“Godzilla is the closest thing to my dino. It’s like his older brother with anger issues,” he laughed.
His original designs do include monsters that are clearly influenced by Godzilla (see his Jerkzilla series), but he has also designed pins that come from other places in pop culture, like Hayao Miyazaki’s animated film “My Neighbor Totoro,” the “Predator” films, the “Transformers” franchise and the ’80s action TV series “The A Team,” to name a few.
The artist’s cartoony designs have a “miniature,” minimalist feel to them, almost as though Funko Pop vinyls have been mashed up with LEGO figures. The artist Pencil Fighters at one time described the I Saw A Dino aesthetic as “cookie cutter style,” specifically noting Berio’s unusual “dino” template and thick bold lines–and Berio has allowed that designation to stick.
I Saw A Dino opened for business in 2010, but it wasn’t originally a pin studio. Berio used to make and sell hand-sewn plush dinosaurs.
“It was cool at first, but when you make up to 300 of them by needle and thread, it’s not so much fun. It’s a hard thing to do,” he said. “Much respect to the people that sew by hand … but I have a really bad back. Been on disability twice due to my back issues.”
Berio gave the sewing machine a try, but never could master it. He needed to find another way to express himself in a way that wouldn’t be as difficult as sewing. He soon began making 3-inch laser cut wood dinos and painting them. But again, he found this, too, was a strain on his back.
“It was very detailed work and I enjoyed it. I learned the hard way that this wasn’t something I could do all the time,” he said. “When I sat crouched for five hours, I would be in so much pain. I had to move on from that.”
Occasionally, Berio will make one of the wood dinos as a special giveaway item, because he misses painting by hand, he said.
It wasn’t until 2017 that the artist began making his own brand of enamel pins. Prior to making pins, Berio never really collected them. The very first pin he ever bought was one made by Max Toy Co. called Kaiju Eyezon, and it’s the pin that sparked the idea that he could make his own.
“I immediately wanted to make pins out of my own designs when I saw how cool they were,” Berio said. “I could do everything I did in my own painting, but they could be worn and made at a higher amount.”
From that point on, Berio said, I Saw a Dino became a pin studio—and since then, he has made more than 55 pins, with 37 extinct, never to be re-released.
He said his wife, back then and now, has been his greatest inspiration and influence.
“She believed in what I did and do,” he said. “She gave me $500 to start making pins and it is up to me to make that money grow. I want to prove to her that she was right to believe in me; also, to show my kids that working hard pays off and nothing is handed to you.”
The first pins Berio ever made were a Jerkzilla and a Giant Moth, designs he had made two years prior to “pinning” them.
“I wanted to find the correct medium for them and thought the Jerkzilla line would be perfect for pins,” he said. “People loved them and it made me happy to see people collecting them.”