Two Varieties | Pittsburgh City Paper

Two Varieties

Heinz pickle-pins Kerry

Heinz -- the food company H.J. -- has been studiously nonpartisan in its public statements during this political season.


Heinz -- the Democrats' First Lady nominee Teresa H. Kerry -- reportedly likes the pickle pin she received with "Kerry" in the place occupied by "Heinz" for the past 111 years.


The latter -- two inches long, shaped and baked from modeling clay by Squirrel Hill's Eric Marchbein -- reportedly ended up pinned to Teresa at the Market Square announcement of the Dems' vice-presidential choice. Her silent endorsement was enough to encourage Marchbein -- chair of the 14th Ward Democratic committee -- to make Kerry pickle pins for the masses.


But making more than one clay version of the food company's well-known plastic souvenir proved so time-consuming that Marchbein settled on a more standard button, with a drawing of the brined "Kerry" cucumber and the motto "It's a Burgh Thing" above it. He took 2,000 of them to the Dems' convention in Boston.


And then there was the tiny issue of copyright. The button's designer, Squirrel Hill artist Jessica Fenlon, says she couldn't even use Heinz's font, which to the ordinary eye looks, well, ordinary, but which Fenlon says has been the subject of "considerable discussion" among graphic artists interested in echoing the Heinz image.


At least Kerry and Heinz have identical letter counts. "Lieberman -- that would be tough," Fenlon allows.


Fenlon moved to Pittsburgh from Wisconsin two years ago and says the pickle pin's mystique is "foreign" to her, but it plays well with those who have spent their first two or three decades here. The buttons are "just disappearing" at $2 a piece from local stores --Watermelon Blues in Oakland, Artist and Craftsman Supply in East Liberty and A Pleasant Present in Squirrel Hill.


Does the H. J. Heinz Co. like the round take-off on their icon? Fenlon doesn't know. But she does know Marchbein has a call from the ketchup manufacturer waiting for him when he gets back from Boston.