Let’s just be clear about one thing. Kansas City is FULL of amazing makers. Really amazing. Last May, Pop Shop America was able to host the DIY Lounge at one of my favorite events – Strawberry Swing. It’s not just that the organizer of Strawberry Swing is great, it’s that the city truly supports this mission of shop local.
It’s no wonder that I met the fabulous maker there Chloe Jennings, founder and creator of Positive Pennants. It was my first purchase at the event. And it was one of those “I need this right now” kind of purchases (I got myself the Water Your Plants Pennant. It’s a message that I need badly.)
I was only able to talk to Chloe in her booth for a few minutes, but it told me I needed to talk to her more. In just those few minutes she mentioned how she creates her own illustrations that become silk screens to later get printed to the pennants. And she told me about how she has been using glow in the dark ink on her new zodiac collection. Swoon. Meet Chloe Jennings, creator of the brand Positive Pennants.
What is your business name and what do you make?
My business is called Positive Pennants, I make wool felt pennants that have positive sayings on them to hang in your home or office. My goal for the pennants is that they will either brighten your day whenever you glance at them or to encourage you to keep on going when life gets rough.
Where are you from? What is it like to be a maker there?
I grew in the Metro-Detroit area of Michigan, went to school in Lansing, Michigan and then after graduation moved to Kansas City, Missouri, which is where Positive Pennants was formed. Before moving to Kansas City I didn’t even know it existed. When I road tripped down for my first summer here I didn’t look at any photos so I had no idea what to expect! But I drove into a wonderfully growing city that embraces the arts. Every 1st Friday the Crossroads district comes alive with open galleries, street performances, pop up shops, studio tours, you name it! All the makers that I have met in KC lift each other up and are so kind to each other. It’s a wonderful community that I am glad to be apart of and help grow.
Tell us about the process. How do you make the designs, the screen prints, and the pennants?
I was trained as a graphic designer and then after school developed a passion for hand lettering. So much emotion can put into one letter or phrase with just they style of the letters. I started teaching myself, taking classes online and messing around in my sketchbook. I started to get better and better and I wanted to do something with this newly taught skill. So I started brainstorming on how to combine my interest in antiques (I always run for the box of old pennants at antique malls), lettering, and screenprinting into one passion project that I could create at home.
I have a running list of phrases that pop into my head throughout the day. When I start a pennant I comb through that list and see if any phrases pop out. Or sometimes I’ll think of a phrase that I really need to hear – if I so badly need this phrase in my life, I can’t be alone. So I turn that into a pennant. I start by loosely sketching my ideas and composition on my iPad. Then once I find a solution or design that I love, I finalize the design, pick my colors and order the felt.
When I get my felt I take my templates and get to hand cutting all the fabric needed for the pennants, bands, and ties. Then I’ll prep my screen (in my bathroom! This whole project is very DIY), then print my design out, expose my screen, and get it ready for printing. To keep the DIY spirit, I made my own hinged press for the screens which helps with registration of the design on the pennant. Then I’ll put on my favorite movies (most of the time it’s Harry Potter) and then get to printing.
Once they dry, I pin all the bands and ties and take it to my trusty sewing machine to sew them right up! And then I quickly tag them so they are ready to go on someone’s wall! 🥳 It’s a long laborious process but I love being able to hold a tangible piece of art in my hands.
Do you have favorite materials? Do you get to use them in your work?
I wouldn’t say I have favorite material. I love working digital, painting, shooting 35mm film, collaging. I have other mini projects where I get to use these other talents I have: #ISO_feelings on Instagram, which focuses on my film and lettering, and #closhootsfilm which is just my lettering, also on Instagram.
I saw on your Instagram that you have a job working for Hallmark? What is that like?
I started as an intern at Hallmark summer of 2017. When I graduated college in December of 2017, they offered me a full time position as an associate designer on their then titled card line Studio Ink which is now called Good Mail. Since then I’ve been promoted to designer and still work on Good Mail, in addition to Shoebox (their humorous card line). I feel blessed almost every day at work that I get to design cards that so many people will use to connect with those they love. The creative community at Hallmark is so next level. I’m blown away by the talent of my peers and their eagerness to share their work and process with each other. I’m constantly learning ways to better my design and finding new avenues to harness my skills in ways I never thought I could after graduating college.
It seems like you can make anything and everything! Do you have a craft kryptonite – like something that you suck and making?
I do love to make. I am DIY to the core. I’d rather make something then go out and buy it. I think that maker part of me stems from my dad. He’s a carpenter / mechanic / electrician / plumber, and I grew up playing in the garage and making things with him for school or small projects around the house. Hell, I even made my craft show tables from scratch with the blueprints he drew up for me. But something that scares me to make is clothing. I’m a big thrifter, so if I find something that needs fixing, I can hem and add darts and things like that but making a clothing item from scratch is so scary to me. I have never tried it and I feel like when I finally knock on that door I’m going to mess up hardcore and make the most hideous ill-fitting item that I’ll crack myself up and go back to my normal maker creations.
7. What’s next for your business?
Next up for Positive Pennants in 2019 is a really FUN collaboration with a friend, Alyssa Gonzalez. We just sat in my living yesterday, passing my iPad back and forth playing around with a design for a new pennant we are launching at the September Hallmarket (a Hallmark art market open to the public in KCMO.) I’m in the works of doing a few custom pennant orders for some folks. I’m also applying for Holiday Swing in November where I’ll be launching a new kind of pennant product that I’ve been experimenting with and I’m really excited to get started 😎
8. Where can people find your business and stay connected with you?
I’m most engaging on instagram (@positivepennants) and I have that linked up with my online store where you order pennants, stickers, and enamel pins and I’ll ship them to ya (anywhere in the US, we aren’t internationally… yet!)
Let’s Stay Friends!