How She Did It: Junkprints Founder Chanel Kennebrew Talks the Business of Art
By Makula Dunbar
If you’ve ever attended a street fair, block party or arts & crafts festival in New York City, chances are you’ve crossed paths with Chanel Kennebrew. In sunny and so-so weather, she’ll set up shop and push her designs on any hopeful looking to gain a bit of uniqueness. Try on her funky personality spectacles — carved out of vinyl displaying the word “Visionary” across the top — and you’re cool in an instant.
An illustrator, painter, all around artist and interpreter of multiple visual languages, Kennebrew officially established Junkprints in 2007 — while transitioning from working at a design firm. As an entrepreneur and the owner of a design/creative business, she’s learned that it’s a struggle producing work that is incredibly appeasing to the eye. Now a pro at photo-based illustration and graphic design, Kennebrew’s doodling has paid off in a big way.
“At first I wanted to do animation [professionally], but then I found out that you had to draw everything 50 trillion times. I was not interested in that,” said Kennebrew. “A lot of my upbringing was cartooning and animation as an 80s kid. That was the beginning. Then as I got older I moved to CD covers, musicians and kind of iconic music people.”
“I’ve always been an illustrator. My mom used to do fashion design and my dad is a musician, so I was always around creativity. I knew as an adult that my career would be making visual things of some sorts,” she added. At just 15, Kennebrew made the move from Inglewood, California to Denver to attend a visual arts high school. There she lived with her dad while taking up photo production and graphic design.
“That was a great way to be exposed and have access to artistic resources,” said Kennebrew. “That’s when I started using more mediums.”
Discovering that art was definitely the route she wanted to take, Kennebrew knew early that she’d move to New York to pursue a career. When she received a scholarship to partake in a NYC summer arts program prior to her senior year in high school, she got an opportunity to test the waters.