Crafty 2016 Campaign Gear Seems to Lean Left

PHOTO: Actress Sarah Silverman wore one of Print Liberations t-shirts onstage to introduce Bernie Sanders in Los Angeles last month.
Jamie Dillon/ Print Liberation
Actress Sarah Silverman wore one of Print Liberation's t-shirts onstage to introduce Bernie Sanders in Los Angeles last month.

The political season is heating up, and so is the sale of candidate- and campaign-inspired merchandise.

On the website Etsy, featuring handmade items and local vendors, a quick search for “Bernie Sanders” yields 708 results. “Hillary Clinton” gets 723 hits, including 284 items under “clothing” alone.

There are standard items like T-shirts, buttons and stickers, but also more unusual ones like these earrings with candidates' faces …

Ted Cruz post earrings. #election2016 #earrings #etsy #tedcruz #tedcruz2016 #earrings#earringsoftheday

A photo posted by Gwynne (@yourfavefaces) on Sep 29, 2015 at 8:43am PDT

... and even a Jesus-inspired Hillary Clinton prayer candle.

PHOTO: Richard Chodak makes pop-art featuring several celebrities. I am hesitant to do Donald Trump, he says, I think Bernie Sanders might be a little more understanding. Richard Chodak
Richard Chodak makes pop-art featuring several celebrities. "I am hesitant to do Donald Trump," he says, "I think Bernie Sanders might be a little more understanding."

Unlike standard campaign-issued paraphernalia, these homemade and specialty items are designed by local artists, often without the knowledge or approval of the campaigns whose candidate’s they feature. Justin Rothshank of Goshen, Indiana, has sold mugs and other ceramic items with the faces of political leaders for almost a decade. He says his bestselling products tend to feature liberal-leaning figures.

“Handmade and ‘buy-local’ tends to get support from more liberal buyers,” Rothshank told ABC News. “I do all of them, as many conservative as liberal candidates but, hands-down, the liberal stuff sells faster.

“I think it is just the nature of the people interested in buying handmade.”

While some artists like Rothshank sell items highlighting multiple candidates, others are using their talents as a way to raise money for the candidates of their choice. The Bernie Sanders campaign, in fact, has openly encouraged local artists to harness their creativity and express their support for the Vermont Senator however they see fit. This crowd-sourcing of products and imagery aligns with Sanders’s campaign message of starting a people’s “revolution.”

“I wouldn’t be doing this for other candidates,” said Kim Mills of San Diego, California, who is selling vintage-style pendants in support of Sanders.

“I just thought this would be great way to support him,” Mills told ABC News. Her business donates a portion of the profits from every “Bernie” item it sells to the Sanders campaign. “It’s quite exciting,” she said.

Another artist and Sanders fan from Akron, Ohio, is donating all of the proceeds from her Sanders-centric items to his campaign. “I’d like to do any little thing I can to help his campaign and do my tiny part to help him win,” Jacqui Keskinen said.

Keskinen sells keychains featuring Sanders’s defacto slogan, “Feel the Bern,” for a dollar, but told ABC News one customer paid $20 for one as a donation to the campaign.

Actress Sarah Silverman wore a shirt from a boutique print company in Philadelphia called Print Liberation when she introduced at Sanders at an event in Los Angeles last month. One of the company’s co-founders, Jamie Dillon, whose store features a wide-range of swag representing the political left, acknowledged that afterward they had a rush on Sanders gear, but he added that overall he feels the sale of political merchandise has plateaued in recent years.

“There was a moment before the economic crash were people were invested in what they wore on a t-shirt,” Dillon said. Since then, he argues, there has been apathy and a reticence to wear shirts that are too blunt. For example, he has been surprised that his simple products do well, like those that read: “Bernie Sanders 2016,” whereas more provocative labels like, “Take a Dump on Trump,” have not sold as well.

“It used to be easier to sell products that overtly showed one world view,” he said. But he says he thinks maybe people are now ready to get behind, what he calls, “meaningful” products again.