CULTURE, FEATURE STORY, INTERVIEWS

Five Questions with Detroit Blogger Jess McKenzie

One of the many things I enjoy about blogging is meeting other creatives. I’m a strong believer in the popular phrase “community over competition” because it has helped me grow as a writer and form new friendships. Last year, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S., I connected with Jess McKenzie, a graphic designer who also enjoys blogging about Detroit’s art scene. We first met in March 2020 at the Women in Hip Hop event held at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. (I was also pregnant with Zaya then!) It was the last music showcase I attended because about a week later the shelter-in-place restrictions started. 

Despite not being able to meet in-person, Jess and I still kept in touch throughout the year. Our new friendship has helped me stay motivated to keep creating during a very difficult time. Through our phone and social media chats, Jess has lifted my spirits, especially since I miss networking at city events.

Jennifer Hamra and Jess McKenzie at The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit.
Jess and I first meeting at the Women in Hip Hop event in March 2020.

Just like me, blogging and creative work are some of Jess’ outlets for coping with the pandemic. Her blog The Creative Armory is a passion project she launched in September 2017. On the site, she enjoys featuring content about artists and other creatives who are making an impact in Detroit and the metro area. 

“The Creative Armory is all about helping people reconnect with their passions,” says Jess. “It’s an ever-growing hub for design resources, music, interviews from creative entrepreneurs. I really want it to be a place where people can come to inspire to just create and do what they love to do.”

Get to know my friend Jess and the remarkable work she does with her brand The Creative Armory!

MEET THE CREATIVE ARMORY FOUNDER JESS MCKENZIE

Celebrating Black Creatives During Black History Month. Meet Jess McKenzie, founder of The Creative Armory
Meet my friend Jess and her brand The Creative Armory!

Good Life Detroit: Why did you create The Creative Armory?

Jess McKenzie: As a self-taught web and graphic designer, I never really knew where to go meet other creatives that were either in my field or just in general. And when I was living downtown (Detroit), back in 2017, I would go to networking events through some of the bigger design organizations. But I really wanted to interact with creatives on a more deeper level. So I got the idea to start a blog so that I could meet more people like myself and also give other creatives a platform to tell their story and just show the world what they’re out here doing.

GLD: What are you excited to create in 2021?

I’m excited to continue building out The Creative Armory. Yes, it’s a blog right now, but I would love to get to the point where I am hosting events. I want to feature way more guests– more so in a video format. I want my content to be a little more robust. I’ve been working to build a team that can definitely help me just do some different things and build out the blog as a whole platform.

I want to be able to offer freebies. I want to be able to offer more resources for people to download. I want to offer more how-tos from professionals in the design community here in Detroit. I want it to be a better platform where people can not only come get that inspiration, but take something away as well.

“I got the idea to start a blog so that I could meet more people like myself and also give those other creatives a platform to tell their story and just show the world what they’re out here doing.”

The Creative Armory logo design.
The Creative Armory shirts available for sale now!
The Creative Armory also features an online shop where you can buy merchandise!

GLD: How do you stay motivated to create during the pandemic?

Jess McKenzie: That is a tough one because this pandemic has really taken a heavy toll on my creativity. I have found it difficult at certain times to get back into the flow of creating. So one thing that I found that really allows myself the space that I need to mentally reset– and what always helps me no matter what I’m going through– is watching 80s movies. The Neverending Story is one of my favorites! Watching things like that just helps spark my imagination again. And I like to just sit and either color or listen to music. I get to just zone out and give myself that quiet time to just get back into creating again.

GLD: What is it about The Neverending Story that you like? I remember I loved that movie when I was younger.

Jess McKenzie: I just love the storyline. I love the imagination and the thought that went into creating the movie. To create a movie– that’s telling a story in itself– it’s just been one of my favorites because it was one of the first movies that I ever watched that really took you on a journey with not only the main character, but the other character from the actual story– Atreyu.

GLD: What is your favorite story topic that you like to create for The Creative Armory?

Jess McKenzie: I would say inspiration, but it kind of competes with creative culinary because I’m such a foodie. But as it stands right now, I have a little more inspiration type posts on there more than anything.

“…a lot of us are already in competition with ourselves on a daily basis. To look at the next person and try to compete with them, sometimes it just gets to be too much and it’s just much easier to build a supportive community of people around you that can just help you get to the next level.”

GLD: What advice would you give to other creatives?

Jess McKenzie: Make sure that it’s something that you really want to do. Make sure it’s something that you’re willing to commit a lot of time to because it’s going to take a lot of your time and energy. And if you’re not feeling it from the start, then you’re just wasting your own time. I would definitely tell them to focus on who it is you want to either help or educate, and find the best way to speak to them directly through your content. 

The Creative Armory's first event was at the Michigan Science Center in Downtown Detroit.
Jess was excited to volunteer at the Michigan Science Center during Youth Day for the Design Core Month of Design in Downtown Detroit!
Jess McKenzie, founder of The Creative Armory

GLD: Why do you think it’s important to be part of a creative community?

Jess McKenzie: There’s always something that you can learn from the next person. But some people may choose not to be a student. I love learning, and I think community is important because when you have a really strong network of people who can share advice with you and help you grow in different ways that you can’t even help yourself grow in– it’s a powerful thing to have. 

And to be totally real with you– a lot of us are already in competition with ourselves on a daily basis. To look at the next person and try to compete with them, sometimes it just gets to be too much and it’s just much easier to build a supportive community of people around you that can just help you get to the next level. You’ll get there so much faster if you surround yourself with the right people.


Special thanks to Jess McKenzie for taking the time to interview with Good Life Detroit. Discover The Creative Armory’s website here. Connect with Jess on her social media:

  • Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thecreativearmory
  • Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thecreativearmory/
  • Twitter: https://twitter.com/creative_armory

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