How She Did It: Junkprints Founder Chanel Kennebrew Talks the Business of Art
“I was 16 and I didn’t like it at all. It smelled and it was dirty,” added Kennebrew. Following her dad’s advice, she later journeyed to Toronto from Denver where she attended Ryerson University. “I pretty much just fell in love with the city. I loved the culture, I loved the vibe.” While in Toronto, Kennebrew sharpened her skills by creating graphics for local musicians and contributing photography to Urbanology Magazine and NIGHTLIFE Magazine, based in Montreal.
“Canada is interesting because it’s influenced by the States. I find that [their artists] have a really high level of skill, but not necessarily the creative drive that’s here,” she said. “Even in campaigns and the commercial world, it’s more so spin-offs of things that go on in the States. It’s just so different and the arts are primarily funded by the government, so that switches things up.”
Back to Brooklyn
Luckily for Kennebrew, after her five-year stint in Toronto, she was offered an Art Director position at Fredflare.com in 2005. There she worked on design projects for Macy’s and The Limited Too. This time around — largely because of her introduction to Brooklyn — New York wasn’t so bad.
Establishing herself as a rising force in the art world, two years later she decided to take Junkprints to the next level. What started out in 2002 as a site documenting personal freelance art projects and miscellaneous creations — Kennebrew transformed Junkprints into what she calls an experiment.
“I think it was important for me to make tangible items. As much as I loved working in the commercial world, it can definitely drain you. There aren’t a lot of African Americans making visual decisions as far as what people consume, buy and the way they’re marketed to,” said Kennebrew. “That can get very sticky and stressful. At the end of the day I was like, ‘I don’t want to be behind this to this capacity.’ That was why I wanted to branch out on my own. I started with a few tees and took it from there.”
Since 2007, Junkprints has developed into a full service design company offering creative services, handcrafted, painted and photo-illustrated accessories, clothing, computer sleeves, buttons, bags and all sorts of customized items.