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Sunday, October 2, 2022
NOTL artist selling Ukrainian ‘solidarity pins’ to aid relief effort
Mel Hughes with his solidarity pins.
Mel Hughes with his solidarity pins. Evan Saunders

A Niagara-on-the-Lake visual artist has donated $2,000 to Ukrainian relief by making and selling what he refers to as “Solidarity Pins.”

Old Town resident Mel Hughes is an engineer and visual artist who works mainly with glass.

He started making small glass Ukrainian flags earlier this year as a show of solidarity with Ukraine.

“When this thing started I was so horrified, as was everybody,” he said in an interview.

“We don’t get involved politically any more, I have my ideas and I’m very opinionated but I don’t confront it too much. But this was too much. This was, for me, just one step too far,” he said of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“And I just felt I had to do something to show solidarity with these people.”

“So, I thought I’d make a little pin, like a brooch. You can wear these pins showing your support for the people who are fighting these atrocities.”

He hopes the pins can act as a show of solidarity and a reminder that Ukrainian people still need international help.

“This is falling off the radar as the atrocities continue,” he said.

He is selling the pins for $10 each and covers all material costs out-of-pocket. Every dollar made from selling a pin goes directly to the Canada-Ukraine Foundation.

His initial run was only to make a few for some of his friends. One of them, a former CBC employee, started showing them to friends and sending Hughes orders.

All in, he sold 200 through word of mouth and was able to donate $2,000 to the foundation.

“It’s not about the money or any of that, it’s about showing solidarity. That was the whole point of me making them. And I thought, ‘Well, I’m making them – I should sell them.’” 

Hughes said he never intended to make a lot of them and was caught off-guard with the demand. He looks forward to making a final batch — for a good reason.

“I wish I could make the final batch because that would mean everything is over with. The sad part is (the war continues) and they still need a lot of humanitarian aid.”

Hughes has been an artist almost his whole life as well as a professional engineer. He drew extensively as a youth and his skill with a pen was developed during drafting for his career.

He started working with glass more than two decades ago and it is now his main medium for his artistic endeavours.

He creates pieces by cutting and layering sheets of glass together before fusing them in a kiln.

If you would like a handmade Ukrainian glass pin, email him at to place an order.