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Life & Work with Janelle Crawford-Hine

Today we’d like to introduce you to Janelle Crawford-Hine.

Hi Janelle, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I call myself a printmaker but after graduating with a degree in illustration, I still consider myself an illustrator at heart. I grew up drawing (and riding) horses and always knowing that I would be an artist when I grew up. People would often tell me about starving artists and that I would need a real job. So I decided not to listen to them and went to the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design to study Illustration and prove that I really could make money doing this art thing. As it ended up, I graduated right into the recession of 2009 and couldn’t get any kind of job. So, I looked at my options and went into education as a Montessori teacher. While I loved my students dearly and loved Montessori, I always felt that I had given something up and had never given myself the chance to blossom as an artist. In 2017 I had my daughter and found myself at home making linoleum cuts of different animal families. From there, I started my Etsy and began doing Craftshows.

2020 was a year of struggle for many and in response to cries for social justice, I started a new line of work centered on Art Activism. I decided to make a line of Black Lives Matter shirts and prints which benefited a local solidarity fund for those who are struggling to pay their bills. Inspired by a local group G.I.F.T (Generating Income For Tomorrow) I decided to make a print that I would sell and donate all proceeds back to them. The piece ended up as a sticker as well as a print and has gotten an incredible reception! I also created pieces featuring Yamiche Alcindor of the PBS benefiting the ACLU and Stacy Abrams benefiting Fair Fight.

This year I am expanding my business into new realms and my work can now be found at Shop Local KC!

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
The biggest hurdles have mostly been mental challenges. I was very nervous to start my business because I honestly didn’t know if anyone would buy my work or not. Subsequently, each new expansion I take on seems to come with its own issues. One of the biggest struggles right now is that most of my time is dedicated to administrative tasks and production rather than creating new pieces. Hopefully, some of those struggles will smooth out as I am able to dedicate more time to the business.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I am a printmaker but my background is in illustration which I think gives me a different perspective from traditionally trained printmakers. When I started my business, my work was very focused on themes of love and family and has morphed to explore pregnancy, labor, body positivity, and social justice. I use a lot of gradients in my work and often a technique called a jigsaw print where I cut the block apart, ink it, and then put it back together before printing it.

Networking and finding a mentor can have such a positive impact on one’s life and career. Any advice?
In the age of the internet, there are online networks and irl (in real life) networks and both have been very important to me. Instagram has a wonderful printmaking community who have urged me on and inspired me. And here in Kansas City, I have met incredible makers through events like the Strawberry Swing. I would say that the best way to network is to find places where people are pursuing similar goals to yours. Friends want to see friends succeed and you will be amazed at how people will help each other out.

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