Featuring Jenna Blazevich of Vichcraft | By Brittany Moseley
If you find yourself strolling around the University of Cincinnati and the surrounding Clifton neighborhood and notice the artwork from Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible spray-painted somewhere it shouldn’t be, there’s a good chance you’re seeing Jenna Blazevich’s early work.
While she was a student at the University of Cincinnati in 2009, Blazevich, who was studying fashion design at the time, decided to make a motorcycle jacket for a course project. On the back of it, she screen-printed the cover art from Neon Bible, one of her favorite albums. Looking back, Blazevich says her design choice was “absolutely idiotic.”
“I was spray-painting it on things and defacing property, but also screen-printed it on a school project. My textiles teacher was like, ‘I saw that somewhere else. Did you do that?’ And I was like, ‘No…’” Blazevich says, her voice trailing off. She’s quick to laugh about this period of youthful rebellion, but that jacket is an important marker in her career.
Blazevich is the founder of Vichcraft, an independent multidisciplinary design studio based in Chicago. She has collaborated with brands on logo and packaging designs, created an art installation from 27,000 bullet casings, and designed campaign buttons for Hillary for America. What most people know Blazevich for, however, is her beautiful hand lettering and the products she makes and sells. From a black t-shirt bearing the famous “Girls to the Front” mantra in gold foil to a hand-lettered “Not Nasty Enough” print to Vichcraft’s first product, a patch that reads “Tough Little Self-Employed Bitches”—inspired by Cincinnati band Tweens—it’s easy to see the echoes of the leather jacket in her current work.
“My background, when I trace back the earliest, is in clothing construction and fashion design,” Blazevich says. “There’s a pretty rich history of embroidery and clothing-making within the women of my family, a few generations back and to my mom. She taught me how to sew when I was younger, and [I] continued to develop more of an interest in pattern-making and figuring out how to make clothes for myself. It just led to this very seamless and obvious path into studying fashion design when I decided to go to college.”
Once at college, she took some introductory drawing and graphic design classes. Those, paired with an internship at Powerhouse Factories—a company known for their gig posters—solidified her decision to pursue graphic design. Blazevich transferred to The University of Illinois at Chicago and earned a Bachelor of Design in 2014, growing her portfolio through internships and freelance work along the way. After graduation, she was offered a job at an advertising company but instead started Vichcraft in January 2015. Blazevich has a strong interest in social and environmental responsibility, which is prevalent in the products she designs and the clients she works with. It’s also the main reason she decided to start her business.
“Across all of my advertising and design agency jobs, the most problematic incidents specifically regarding sexism didn’t happen to me personally, but, of course, other things did,” she says. “There were enough experiences to cause a frustration great enough to decide that no dream workplace exists—i.e. one that prioritizes environmental and social responsibility with their client work, along with creating a safe and diverse workplace—and if I wanted to be in that kind of work environment, I would have to create it myself.”
The environment Blazevich created is accessible, unique, and completely hers. She works with brands that share her vision of social responsibility. Each item she sells is designed by her. She strives to source local goods. She hosts beginner calligraphy workshops at her Chicago studio. She created a “Nevertheless, She Persisted” t-shirt, and donates $10 to the National Women’s Political Caucus for each shirt sold. Blazevich began creating products as a side project, a way to keep her lettering fresh and to show clients a broader range of her work. But thanks to social media and old-fashioned word of mouth, her designs have become a much-needed antidote to today’s political climate. In a time when it’s difficult to hear another person’s point of view above the name-calling and shouting, Blazevich, through her work, is urging people to start important conversations.
“In addition to [being] intersectional, something I’m passionate about is making feminism accessible,” she says. “I wasn’t able to find my own ‘entry point’ into identifying as a feminist until I was enrolled in a Gender and Women’s Studies class in college, and I want some of those prerequisites that I felt existed to change. I don’t think it’s fair or productive to have people feel like they need to meet certain requirements to be part of a conversation and/or movement, but I certainly did.”
“Not long after identifying the social issues that I was most interested in by means of that class and other feminist literature,” she continues, “I joined discussion groups and threads and a book club that all contributed to me learning more about intersectionality: classism, ableism, racism, transphobia, and other important issues that affect the ways someone like myself needs to be informed as I contribute to the collective fight for progress and equality. Staying involved in those groups and having difficult conversations is something I continue to be passionate about and see as one of the most important ways I’m able to stay critical of my own work.”
Outside of the designs that focus on social justice issues, many Vichcraft products center on Blazevich’s favorite musical artists like Against Me!, Peaches, and Salt-N-Pepa. Her passion for music is evident in the detailed artwork she creates and the stories she tells—from the excitement she felt when Jamila Woods wore a jacket Blazevich designed to getting wine-drunk and talking to Laura Jane Grace to her dad’s love of early ‘90s hip hop girl groups.
“My dad was super into Very Necessary by Salt-N-Pepa, and there’s some really fun home videos and photos of my older sister and I doing the Running Man in front of a stereo system that he had no business buying because we had no money, but we had this big stereo system,” she recalls. “It’s super cool to think back about my dad wanting to listen to Very Necessary and [TLC’s] CrazySexyCool and these lady bands that were sex-positive and so fucking positive.”
When asked what she’s listening to nowadays, she mentions Two Parts Viper by ‘68 but admits to being on a nostalgic kick ever since Trump was elected, because she wants something that can bring “a quick hit of joy.” She used to be the go-to for friends looking for new music, but that hasn’t been the case lately. “I’m just over here listening to Taking Back Sunday, because this is what makes sense today,” she says.
Then again, if her friends are looking for suggestions, they might do better soliciting the opinion of Blazevich’s bird, Pz. “She loves when things are loud, and I appreciate that,” she says. “She loves Blood Vision, the Jay Reatard album. She fucking loves that album, and I think it’s because it’s really drum-forward. I love it too. Whatever she wilds out to, I’m like, ‘Yes, this! Of course this!’”