‘These Are Things’ goes from digital shop to gallery wall at CCAD

For the first time, Columbus-based artists Jen Adrion and Omar Noory display the pins and patches from their online store at Beeler Gallery

Joel Oliphint
Columbus Alive
Jen Adrion and Omar Noory, founders of These Are Things, at the exhibition of the same name at CCAD's Beeler Gallery.

A couple of years after Jen Adrion and Omar Noory graduated from CCAD in 2008, the graphic designers began making silk screen posters and art prints. One item, a world map designed in a midcentury-modern aesthetic, took off, getting mentions on prominent blogs, which led to more orders than they had anticipated. It was a light-bulb moment for the pair.

“We realized that was a career path,” Noory said. “We can design our own work and sell it.” 

At the time, Adrion and Noory were also doing freelance illustration work for magazines and advertisements, but by 2015 they began zeroing in on a line of art products that used their backgrounds in graphic design and illustration but in a small, minimalist format. Under the banner These Are Things, they started designing and selling iron-on patches, sticker patches and enamel pins. Since launching the business, Adrion and Noory have sold around 2 million pieces. 

Today (Monday, Jan. 31) through Feb. 26, those pins and patches are on display at CCAD’s Beeler Gallery, with every piece mounted in a straight line across four white walls, serving as a timeline, of sorts, for several years of work from These Are Things.

Pins and patches from These Are Things.

“They're all files on our computer and in little bins in the studio and the warehouse. But to see them actually displayed... I never thought I’d see them this way,” said Noory, walking into the gallery for the first time last week with Adrion and CCAD Faculty Director of Galleries Tim Rietenbach. 

“I haven't even seen some of these in real life,” Adrion said. “They're huge on the screen, and then you see them in real life and they're so tiny.” 

The little pieces can deliver big messages, though. The designs, which often incorporate humor and political themes, are a way for customers to wear their identity. One patch reads “Feminist.” Another depicts a flag with the word “Freak.” “Cool to be kind” fills the center of a flower pin. One shows a smiling Earth with the words “Please save me.” “Ask me about my pronouns” implores a recent pin.

“They can signal those beliefs and help you find your people in the world,” Adrion said.

Pins and patches from These Are Things.

Other designs are more lighthearted — pizza, hamburger, “Plant Mama,” coffee, cats, a glow-in-the-dark alien baby. “They feel emoji-like here on the wall,” Adrion said. “We are so used to using symbols now to communicate.” 

The simplicity of the designs represents one of the biggest challenges, along with constantly keeping in mind the fabrication constraints. “You have the limitations of the medium itself. You can't get too crazy. You can't have gradients; the colors have to be separated by the metal,” Noory said. “You have to think, OK, how am I going to design this thing in a simple way that can actually be produced?” 

Noory and Adrion never had a grand plan for These Are Things. “In the beginning, we were just making things that we wanted, so it all feels very personal,” Adrion said. Now, the product line is constantly evolving, with new designs reflecting recent trends (succulents, avocados) and vintage throwbacks (mixtapes, boomboxes).  

“Every month, I'm like, OK, this is going to be the last month we'll be able to do this. It's going to dry up,” Noory said. “But they keep on ordering.”