We had the good fortune of connecting with Jennifer Winslow and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jennifer, why did you pursue a creative career?
Why did I choose a creative career?…I didn’t. It is in my soul, and it chose me. I have always been an entrepreneur, even before I knew what that was. As a child, I would make crafts and trade with friends, like friendship pins, and hair clips and soon realized not only did I really enjoy the hustle I was good at making “stuff”. When I entered college, I felt I could not make a career out of “making stuff” and fine art relly had no future, so I chose a “real” major. After a few years of studying psychology, I gravitated to graphic design and was hired at an ad agency before I had graduated and, off I went into a creative arts field. (Ironically, what landed me the art director position was a handmade 3-dimensional book that I wrote and created.)
After various art director positions at The Integer Group, and then designing fabric patterns for The Boppy Company, I got married and had kids and decided the corporate schedule was not a good fit for me. Wanting to have more time with my kids, my entrepreneurial spirit took ahold, and I began the journey of creating for and with children. I started painting murals in kid’s rooms, then created children’s products for craft shows, owned my own children’s boutique and offered interior design for children’s rooms.
When the paint and wine industry began, I was very intrigued as this business was about making “stuff” and the industry was booming! Then, an up and coming paint and wine company saw one of my murals and asked me to design art for their company Gallery on the Go. It was through this company that, I discovered there were no options for families and kids to create in a fun and artistic environment. I began with after school programs, where I discovered how art can touch a child’s heart, calm their mind, and bring out their inner expression. This lead me into creating a family and kids maker studio that has grown into Red Hen Createry.
Red Hen Createry has been quite a roller coaster ride, over the last 6 years. There have been many times I wanted to quit, or financially went without a paycheck. There were times I had a great team, and times when I had to let them go and start over. Success is not a straight line, it is curvy and discouraging and exhilarating and exciting all at the same time. Kind of like art. I have had 4 locations (2 at the same time) and in December of 2019 decided to combine my 2 studios into one and relocated to create a franchise model in Aspen Grove. The grand opening date was March 14th 2020 and we were open one day when the pandemic closed Colorado. We struggled through 2020 with pivoting the business to mask making, online classes, create kits to go, and custom artwork orders (good thing I learned to make a lot of “stuff” over the years!)
We survived 2020, and through that struggle also realized the most important aspect of our business. People need people. People need connection. People need an outlet for their creativity, even if they are not an artist. Arts and crafts bring people together, nourish the soul and above all connect people in a way that technology simply cannot. Now more than ever, I believe in my soul that this is what I was meant to do, meant to be and meant to share with the world all along. Cheers to family, kids, connecting and making lots of magical “stuff!”
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I was born an artist and cannot remember a time in my life when I wasn’t making something. As a child, I experienced bullying and art was my refuge. It was what I did during my teen years to cope and express myself. It was my superpower.
My career consists of years of designing, making and creating including an intern to art director to senior art director at The Integer Group, fabric designer for The Boppy Company, freelance graphic designer, owner at Blue Daisy children’s boutique, mural artists and designing artwork for Gallery on the Go. I used my “super power” to create in many different areas and learned vital lessons along the way which I have used to grow my business. Many of these lessons I didn’t even know I was learning at the time and looking back realized what they were.
It has not been easy, in fact, it has been the hardest adventure of my life. There were times bills could not be paid and I wanted to quit fully convinced my idea for this business was crazy. I was told if I wasn’t making money, then it wasn’t a business. But I knew I had a bigger mission. Every time I wanted to quit or cried with discouragement something good would happen and keep the business going. It’s not how a “business person” would run a business, the numbers don’t always add up. But for me, keeping the faith has paid the bills (eventually) and more importantly this business has inspired others. Now is the perfect time for it to thrive and grow into a franchise that can reach kids across the country.
I am most proud of using my art to connect with children and I don’t consider myself a “fine artist”. I consider myself a “fun artist.” I make what I like and am constantly inspired by kids. They have the best ideas, are excited to learn, be silly and take risks. I realized this business idea was valuable when I saw the difference it made in my son’s life and other kids that were “fidgety”. When kids are creating, it calms their brain and focuses them in a way technology cannot. Art is about making decisions, taking risks, and expressing oneself like only they can. It is a superpower that we all have.
It doesn’t matter how stressed, or overwhelmed I become with “the business” – a child always comes in to create and reminds of why this business is awesome!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
First…spa time! Tall grass is an all time favorite. Then, just walking around Idaho Springs, Evergreen or Georgetown enjoying the mountain air. Sushi Den for sure, and maybe trying out some downtown eateries. Anything at the Denver Art Museum, and taking in a movie at the Alamo Draft house.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
The recognition of my story is difficult to pin point. It has been the culmination of people put into my life for various reasons, First, it would be my mom for teaching me to make a lot of stuff and my dad for instilling a strong work ethic and “you can do anything you put your mind to” attitude. To Maria Borrego and Mandy Thomas for giving me the opportunity, encouragement and mentor ship to learn and grow along side their business and for being inspiring leaders and cheerleaders in the paint and wine industry.
To Jill Goodman, who help me build the business and brand, and always having an “art is awesome, wild, weird and wonderful” battle cry.
To Chelsea Walters who stuck with me and the business when the end was not really the end, but a new beginning.
Mary Elizabeth Graff Photography www.mbgpics.smugmug.com