#77: Jaime Jennings
Ten years ago, as crafting with a DIY ethic enjoyed a national resurgence, Jaime Jennings helped start a tiny, local revolution on Broadway, where she opened Fancy Tiger Crafts. Under the Fancy Tiger banner, Jennings has engaged and supported Denver’s crafting community, even instigating a fierce buy-local holiday craft fair for several years. Today, Fancy Tiger remains a cornerstone of the vibrant Baker retail district, filling a niche for all of Denver by offering fabric, yarn, kits, books and other supplies, along with cozy craft nights. We caught up with Jennings on the eve of the store’s tenth anniversary; here are the answers she crafted to the 100CC questionnaire.
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
Jaime Jennings: I would love to be able to work with knitters of history who developed some of the traditional techniques we still use now — the Shetlanders who developed Fair Isle knitting and Estonians who developed their intricate lace knitting. I love exploring these cultures and learning techniques, but to be there when these were a part of everyday life and being developed would be a dream come true.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
Feminists and witches, and especially feminist witches. The world is a scary place right now, and we need big changes. I’m hedging my bets on women and magic to solve things.
What's one craft trend you want to see die this year?
Corporations jumping on the handmade bandwagon and mass-produced products made to look handmade. Also large companies that “reinterpret” designs by artists. I love that handmade and local is in the spotlight so much, but it means that it’s catching the greedy eyes of the few.
What's your day job?
Running Fancy Tiger Crafts with my business partner, Amber Corcoran. After ten years, my day-to-day currently involves behind-the-scenes things such as event and class planning, marketing and special projects. As we’ve grown, we’ve been able to take on more exciting projects, like publishing our own sewing and knitting patterns, creating our own yarn lines, and bringing world-renowned craft celebrities to our community here in Denver for workshops and lectures.
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
Open a Fancy Tiger Crafts retreat center in the mountains with multi-disciplinary retreats, hiking, hot springs and a crafter-residency program. This is a current dream of ours; interested patrons, please contact me.
Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
Love it! Denver has always had such an inspiring and supportive community for local creatives and businesses, and this just continues to grow with the new surge of people flocking to our great city. Currently, I am concerned by the growing pains and the fast-rising cost of living. I want to continue to be able to pay a living wage to our staff, and this is becoming harder and harder for small businesses. Opening an online store and diversifying our business is how we are hoping to continue to grow and offer our Denver-based staff competitive wages.
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
I would love to see more shared art collectives that can offer affordable studio spaces to different types of makers, not just fine artists. One of the reasons Denver is so amazing is that this city has a history of being such a supportive environment for creative folks to start businesses. The people of Denver shop independent businesses, and that is one of the major reasons we were able to start small and successfully grow to what we are today. Being able to afford rent is a major factor in taking a risk on your ideas. As rents go up, one way we can continue to foster maker culture is by finding a way to subsidize rents for new creative businesses. I see these spaces in other cities with high rents. We have a few, but we’re going to need more affordable studio-space options as Denver grows if we’re going to keep creative people here, including jewelry designers, fashion designers, ceramicists, woodworkers and food-based businesses. I want to continue to see these grow and thrive, as this is such an important part of our city.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
There are so many! I’m inspired by fellow creative-business owners Missy Rhysing, Ali Two Eagles and Tran Wills. We have so many talented artists: Sara Guindon, the Ladies Fancywork Society, Molly Bounds, Marsha Robinson, Jaimie Gershen, Gemma Bayly, and makers Shauna Lott, Roy Katz and Tanya Fleisher. I love all the new women-owned businesses that keep popping up, like Queen City General Store and Sacred Thistle. There are so many inspiring people here!
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
Gearing up for the Fancy Tiger Crafts ten-year anniversary on June 18. We’ll be releasing a new yarn that we’ve been working on producing that is entirely grown and milled in Colorado. We’ve been working with local farmers on this, and it’s been a longtime goal of ours. I’m so excited to see it come to fruition! We also have some new sewing patterns and online classes that will be released this summer. Personally, I’m also working on launching a new business, Ladies Mountaineering Club, that will be an outlet for my love of hiking and backpacking in Colorado and beyond. LMC will feature articles, trip reports, foraging advice, patches and pins for the modern, nature-loving woman.
Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
I have so much Denver pride, and I’m excited to see more of our talented folks receive recognition beyond Denver. I love it when folks from Denver get national and international attention.
Join Jaime Jennings and Amber Corcoran from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, June 18, at Fancy Tiger Crafts to celebrate the store’s first decade with a day of special guests, classes, prizes and treats, as well as a champagne toast. Learn more about Jaime Jennings and the goings-on at Fancy Tiger Crafts online.