Photos: Tour The Brilliant Feminist Design & Stunning Studio Of Chicago's Vichcraft
By Stephen Gossett in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 14, 2017 7:05PM
In just over two years, Jenna Blazevich has shepherded Vichcraft to the forefront of the local design scene with her instantly recognizable approach, which works the intersection of precise, crisply stylized visual sense and a badass, suffer-no-fools brand of feminism.
With nary a trace of vogueishness, the political and aesthetic smarts shown off in her work feel like the most ideal design foil for the current climate, when it seems the loudest and shrillest somehow always elbow to the front. We're clearly not the only ones taken, as evidenced by her stunning, thousands-strong Instagram feed, the uber-popular calligraphy workshops she hosts at her impeccably sleek studio, the outpouring of support for her debut solo show, and the way we lose count of how often we happen across her designs on shirts, patches, walls and mugs out in the wild.
We caught up with Blazevich to take a peek inside the famed Logan Square/Humboldt Park Vichcraft digs and chat about her favorite work, growing a small business, what it means to create meaningful political design in the era of Trumpism and Pepsi-ad idiocy, and her solo show, "Nolite te Bastardes Carborundorum," which runs until July at the Cards Against Humanity offices. (The show is open to the public, but only during events. So follow their accounts for the best "in.")
Chicagoist: How long have you been designing products and doing branding/logotype
Jenna Blazevich: On the side of branding-design jobs and completing my undergrad at the University of Illinois-Chicago, I was freelancing under my name and building up the skills to work with clients directly. I designed my first product (the "Self-Employed" patch) about six months into running Vichcraft, and that first product financially funded another run, as well as an additional product.
That ad-hoc method of starting a store has been a decent enough one so far, but running my shop has grown into a significant part of my day-to-day, which still also includes client work, installations, and events. In June, I'll be bringing on Vichcraft's first employee in the role of Studio Manager, and we will be building out the Vichcraft shop much more. We are very excited!
C: Do you have a few favorite items or designs you're most proud of?
JB: "The City Beautiful" piece that I made for Typeforce in January of 2015 was the first piece that I made under the name "Vichcraft," and it's still what I'm most proud of. It marked a significant and intentional shift into creating lettering work that more closely relates to the issues that I personally care about.
My "Self-Employed" patch was the first product that I made, and it's inspired by lyrics from a song by my friend's band, Tweens. It's still one of the products that seems to resonate most with the people, and it remains one of my favorite shop pieces. The "Girls to the Front" lettering is very close to my heart, and it ties together most of the things that inspire me: punk rock, feminism, rebellion and solidarity. It's on the back of a jacket that I wear daily.
C: What can you tell us about your solo exhibition?
JB: My solo show, "Nolite te Bastardes Carborundorum" (a reference to The Handmaid's Tale, and which translates to "Don't Let the Bastards Grind You Down"), is really the first time that the most significant things that I've made over the past two years of running Vichcraft is all organized in one place. Both of my Typeforce pieces—the "City Beautiful" and the six hand-embroidered feminist banners—are on display, as well as a collage wall of product and lettering prints I've created over the past two years.
There's also a "Girls to the Front" wall, that showcases the same lettering spread across several different prints and wearables, including a motorcycle helmet, leather jacket, holographic foil, and it's all surrounded by a "Girls to the Front" neon sign. Lastly, there is a Honda CL350 that my boyfriend and I disassembled, stripped, painted, and updated to be a Handmaid's Tale-inspired piece on display.
C: How long have you been running the calligraphy classes, and how has the response kept up?
JB: In 2014, before launching Vichcraft, I taught a few classes around the country under my first and last name, and began working out the kinks of how best to teach a three-hour calligraphy course to a class of 10-15 students. Once I shifted my focus around a bit, and put together a plan to start the studio, it was important to me to still connect with the public and share my lettering knowledge and love of handcraft by means of hosting at least one or two classes a month. My beginner oblique calligraphy classes run once a month in my studio, and I'm consistently surprised and thankful that they still all sell out.
C: Finally, if you can maybe briefly talk about the importance of doing work with your focus at this current political moment.
JB: Vichcraft has (of course) always been very tied to me personally, and the causes, social issues, pieces of writing, and aesthetic styles that interest me as a person. The election year of 2016 was my second year of running Vichcraft, and I was (and am) still developing the most effective ways to use my skills, voice and platform to speak on topics that I'm passionate about.
Post-election, it is still one of my main goals with Vichcraft to do whatever I can to contribute to organizations and projects that are working to resist and counter the moves being made by the current administration. Furthermore, it is extremely important to me that I create feminist work that is as inclusive and intersectional as possible, because feminism is currently being diluted in meaning by companies monetizing the movement, and by self-proclaimed feminists focusing on issues that only relate to women who look and live like themselves. Failing to consider other classes, identities, races, bodies, and religions when doing feminist work results in an inability to progress and unite in a collective fight, and the opposition gains more leverage as a result.