'Whatever Forever' With Sara M. Lyons

Ghosts, witches, hand signs for “whatever,” Lindsay Lohan, eyeballs, cartoon animals and skateboards: All of these objects appear in the work of Anaheim-based illustrator Sara M. Lyons, one of the biggest names in contemporary off-kilter accessories. Lyons culls from a long list of influences, channeling them into enamel pins, patches, buttons, and even a couple of zines here and there that enable young women and girls to explore their weirder, more alternative sensibilities.

While most of her work seems to draw from the nostalgia craze currently hitting the market, Lyons explains that her interests stem mainly from youth culture, with inspirations ranging from classic Archie comics to 1980s- and '90s-era Saturday-morning cartoons to her teenage punk days. “My work resonates with people who are like, 'I might not necessarily feel like I fit in, but I still like things that are traditionally feminine,'” Lyons says, “but I like to see them through a tongue-in-cheek lens.”

With her long green hair and matching green eyebrows, Lyons calls herself a “professional weirdo.” Her enamel-pin designs include a smoking cartoon lamb, a two-piece set of hands lighting a joint, with “Best Buds” written underneath; and two hands forming a W, with “Whatever Forever” below. As with most artists, she grew up with a strong inclination to draw, even getting in trouble for doodling in the margins of school assignments. Little did she know she would become a full-time artist, taking the plunge after she lost her job at 25; she has since been applying her unique style to everything from nail decals to pins to commercial illustrations.

Thanks to high demand, as well as Lyons only being able to make a limited supply at a time, her work sells out. But fear not! Restocks for sold-out items happen every four to six weeks and are announced on her Instagram (@saramlyons) and via saramlyons.tumblr.com. While other designers might move on to clothing and illustrating larger artworks, Lyons wants to eventually get into stationary, keeping her work accessible and affordable to her target market. “I would love to sell a painting for $1,200, but that's not as accessible, and those aren't the people I'd like to reach—that's not me,” Lyons says. “I make stuff for myself, so I wouldn't make something that I wouldn't want.”

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