Sunday, June 7, 2009

Craft Athens Team: Meet Jenny Winchell of Prairie Dog Inc.

I have known Jenny for a while from the music scene here in Athens. I am a fan of her felting, knitting, embroidery, and beards! Let's learn more about Jenny and her Etsy shop, Prairie Dog Inc.

Tell us about yourself and your craft.
My name is Jennifer Winchell and I run a craft business called Prairie Dog Inc. I came to crafting through knitting but since then I have learned (or tried to learn) many other skills and mediums with varying results. My crafts tend to lean on the side of being bright solid blocks of color, which is where my personal tastes also lie. I like things that are bold and simple with a touch of cottage cuteness.

How long have you been crafting?
It's hard to say when I started crafting. I've always liked creating things. I went to college for Ceramics and there's always been great debate over whether that's a craft or an art, but I don't really distinguish the two much, except to say that I think art is more of an intellectual process and craft is more of a visceral reaction. That said, I think something can be both art and craft and the two worlds definitely overlap.
I guess I really got into crafting, though, when my college roommate taught me to knit. She said I was her only success story as everyone else she taught had given it up. I still enjoy knitting in the winter but have also found that I'm somewhat impatient for results, and so have taken refuge in the more immediate satisfaction of creating something like a felt pin or a pillow.

Are you originally from Athens? If not, how did you wind up here?
I'm not originally from Athens, and like a lot of people, I came here for school. I actually grew up in the midwest. I was born in Omaha, NE and spent almost all of my childhood in Topeka, KS. I moved to Atlanta with my parents when I was in high school and my Dad got a new job. The HOPE scholarship basically tells the rest of the story. I went to UGA and came out with a BFA in Ceramics and Art.

What are some of your favorite and least favorite things about living and crafting in Athens?
I love Athens because it has all the concieniences of a big town with a the feel of a small one. I love that there is a large community of artists and musicians here so there's always someone to get advice from and bounce ideas off of.

The one thing I don't really like about living in Athens is the university, which is ironic because it's the reason I'm here and the reason the whole town is here. I have to admit that when I lived near downtown and I had to wake up to people tailgating at 8 in the morning on a gameday, I really hated this city.
On the flip side of having so many artists and musicians here, there's also the problem of over-saturation. It's a little hard to stand out in such a large crowd of talented people. Overall, though, I think Athens is a great place to live.

Do you feel Athens is a good place for artists? Why or why not?
Hmmm, I guess I sort of answered this above. Oops. To summarize, though, I think Athens is a great community for artists because there are so many others like you who you can lean on for support, but that great number can also be a negative when you're trying to get your items seen.

Please tell about some of your favorite things to make.
I think my favorite thing to make is probably my Beardie pins and ornaments. They're really quick to make but satisfying because each one ends up looking slightly different. I don't have a template or pattern for them so they all have different expressions or slightly different hairstyles.

What is a typical day like in your studio?
Well, during the week I spend my mornings working at Barnes and Noble, so when I get home in the early afternoon I try not to fall asleep and then I get working on crafting and keeping up the online store. I usually have a few things to photograph, which I will do first to make sure I have enough daylight. I always use natural lighting. I tend to be a little all over the place when it comes to making things. I like to try out different crafts a lot so what I make depends a lot on what kind of mood I'm in. Lately, it's been embroidery so I might make a pillow or embroidery a little hoop of wall art.
Sometimes I sketch out my designs but a lot of the time I free hand it or sketch something right onto the fabric. I guess I'm a little impatient.

Name five websites that inspire you.
Honestly, I'm not really online a whole lot. I think I'm more inspired by things I see everyday or a feeling I get. Does that sound cheesy? Yep, that definitely sounds cheesy. I don't read very many blogs and especially not religiously, but I'd have to say that Emily's from The Black Apple is something to see just because of how she's managed to capture this wide audience of people who basically hang on her every word. It's kind of amazing. I think she probably would have been a great preacher or salesman. Also, I know she's an extremely hard worker who basically spends every waking hour sketching or painting or making(when she's not cooking up a storm or blogging about these things that she's doing) and that's inspiring in itself.

Also, I like just browsing around Etsy. It's the one sight that I spend a significant amount of time on. I love hopping from one shop to the next and discovering people I haven't seen before and then getting jealous that they thought of a great idea before me.

Besides making things, what else do you enjoy doing?
I enjoy sleeping. I also like to read quite a bit, and watch the occasional bad TV. I used to craft almost exclusively while watching movies because I love movies, but I don't do that as much anymore. I think I've seen everything. I'm also in a band with my boyfriend Tim, called Captain #1. It took me a long time to overcome my fear of performing in front of other people, and while it's still not my favorite thing to do, I like playing the music, especially when I can tell people are enjoying it.

Thank you, Jenny. You can see all of Jenny's creations at her Etsy shop and see Captain #1 play at Athfest later this month.

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