Maker Profile: Jenna Blazevich, Owner and Designer of Vichcraft
How did you start doing calligraphy and design?
I was first introduced to modern calligraphy when I was working at a Paper Source store as a customer service associate. We had some wedding invitations and greeting cards that were lettered in more of a modern and fresh version of calligraphy than what I knew existed. Through that, I was introduced to Molly Jacques’ work; she’s in Michigan and she hosted an Ann Arbor workshop to learn how to use the oblique nib holder and ink, which is what I teach now. So when I took her class in October of 2012, that was when I was really introduced to the actual tools that acted as a turning point for me. Before that, I was working to figure out how those calligraphers were doing it, but not knowing how to use the real tools and faking it with Micron [pens].
What is your background?
I’m a graphic designer by trade. I went to University of Illinois at Chicago, but I studied fashion design for the first two years of college. In hindsight, it makes sense, or I’d like to think that it makes sense, but now that I’m designing my line of products, a lot of those are wearables and my background in screen-printing plays into the way I design everything now.
What inspires your work?
It’s hard because I consider Vichcraft to have three focuses at this point: I work on branding for small businesses, I have my line of products that I fabricate and ship myself, and I teach calligraphy. I feel most moved to create things when I think that there is a void somewhere, and that because I have the ability to beautify phrases and letters, that I can encourage people to sit with something for longer than they might have if they just saw it in a group of text. If I spend all this time making a phrase worth looking at, I can possibly cause someone to think more about something that they otherwise wouldn’t. So when there is something that there is personally, as an activist, to think about, I like to use my skill set to facilitate that.
What brought you to Chicago?
I grew up in the suburbs; my parents are from the South Side of Chicago and got married young and tried to move us farther west for the sake of having a better education. I’ve left Chicago before. I went to school in Cincinnati for fashion school, and after college, I worked at a job in Boulder, Colorado, but I’ve always liked the idea of staring my business in Chicago because of the community here.
If you weren’t here, where would you be?
My first thought is to say New York because that’s where all of my friends are and that’s where a lot of the close people in my life are doing a lot of exciting things. But, when I think about being anywhere other than Chicago, I think I like the idea of maybe one day taking my business into an area where life has a little bit less commotion. Since my business is service-based and product-based, those things can kind of exist from wherever as long as I have the facilities to house product or work on projects. But, I love being in a major city and being apart of a really hardworking city.
If you weren’t doing Vichcraft, what would you be doing?
I’d like to think I’d be playing in a band as a drummer. I have no idea how to play the drums, but that’s what I’ve always wanted to do, and this year for my birthday, my boyfriend got me drum lessons.
What are you trying to learn right now?
I want to continue to learn how to ride my motorcycle. My boyfriend and I have made intentional trips outside of Chicago with some motorcycles to get comfortable with riding, so I want to keep getting better at that because I’ve always wanted to.
What are you most proud of?
My first activist piece was “The City Beautiful.” It represents me being able to take an idea just in my brain and put over 100 hours of work into it knowing that I wasn’t going to make any money off of it – I would lose money on materials and I would lose money on time – but the act of making it was cathartic and I felt like I was putting something into the world that caused people to think more about Chicago’s relationship to gun violence. I’m proud that I figured out a way to make something that was just an idea in my head without having any guide to do so because there is no exact path to make a sculptural piece. In life, I hope that my friends and family would say that no matter how busy I am with my business that I’m still accessible to them and that I’m still a part of everyone’s lives. It is something that is challenging every single day because I have to be held accountable by so many clients and so many customers, but that is happening alongside my family and my boyfriend and my friends.
How do you take time for yourself?
It’s something I’m not too good at. I’m not good at the work-life balance. I was thinking last night on my bike ride home, part of the reason that I love riding my bike is that it forces me to be without my phone and let my mind relax. That’s something that I try and tell myself is a self-care thing, but it’s probably not. I’m transporting myself from home to work, and then when I get home, I’m still working.
Why do you think it’s important for creative women to come together and collaborate?
Since I’ve been growing my brand and expanding into the community, I think there is something really beautiful about having that support and seeing people come together. There is so much solidarity with each other and I am so thankful to be a part of that because, unfortunately, a lot of women feel undervalued in their jobs and it does take a lot of courage to go out on your own. Being able to recognize that in one another and knowing what it took for you to do that and supporting her in that is important because society wants to tell us what our value is.
What’s your advice to someone who wants a job like yours?
I don’t think that everyone is cut out for self-employment. It isn’t the only way you can feel creatively fulfilled. You can feel fulfilled without being your own boss. But if you did want to start your own business, I would suggest doing it part-time while you have the safety net of a salary or a paycheck, that way you give yourself the time to work out some of the kinks and get better at handling different projects at once. The idea of quitting your job and cutting off your ability to get a paycheck and then launching your business is bold and there are ways to do it differently and I would suggest that.
Favorite female creatives?
Kathleen Hanna is super influential to me and my work. I am also in the same building asLeah Ball, and I think that what she does is super bad ass.
Favorite Chicago places?
I’m vegetarian, so I love Ground Control and The Chicago Diner. I like to go to shows at the Empty Bottle and Double Door. I like Reno; they have really good coffee and bagel sandwiches. There is a really good latte at Wormhole that I think about a lot.
Top three items of clothing in your closet?
I pretty much wear the same thing all the time. I wear lace-up Vans every single day, my “Girls to the Front” jacket and a black band t-shirt.
I wish I had more of a routine, but my boyfriend travels a lot, and I’ve been traveling a lot, so it’s been hard to have any kind of routine. I make coffee here, usually. I wish I could say that I did something more picturesque, but I’m that person who wakes up to a phone alarm and sees all the notifications of things I have to do.
Coffee or Tea?
Favorite travel destination?
I like to go to new places, but I went to New Orleans recently and loved it. I did have the chance to see enough of it to say that I love it, but I want to plan an immediate trip back. I love going to Colorado, too.
A tie between red wine and ice cream.