Friends say Jenna Helmken’s embroidery Etsy store, Animal Crackups, has changed in recent months, noting signs of increasing mental and emotional instability through her “quirky” and “irreverent” handmade products.
After quitting her job at the Apple Genius Bar in August 2011, Helmkin soon devoted her life to the store that combined her love of animals with her love of embroidery. Her “offbeat” embroideries, including a dog putting its paw in the face of another dog with the caption, “Bitch, fleas,” eventually became a hit. But because Jenna makes each embroidery by hand, friends claim she became reclusive and withdrawn, which is what friends believe is behind her newer, more experimental designs.
Jenna’s Etsy store now contains a design that features a bear feasting on the exposed intestines of a human being with the caption, “Happy entrails.”
“I personally find her new artistic direction a bit off-putting,”says Jenna’s sister, Mabel. “Though they still sell really well? I don’t know who is buying this stuff.”
Mabel pointed out a new design Jenna uploaded in the past week as an example of Jenna’s increasingly fragile mental state: an embroidery of nothing but blood with the caption, “Let my life force give you power.”
Mabel said with Jenna’s orders growing so much, it seems as if she almost never goes outside, preferring the company of her cats. Mabel hasn’t spoken to her in a month, as Jenna appears to have cut all communication to the outside world.
“The last time I could bring myself to look at her Etsy shop,” Mabel said. “There was an embroidery about Obama listening to everything she said, and how he wants to turn white people into jet fuel.”
Mabel said her recent designs could be a sign of Jenna coming into her own as an artist, or the result of physical and mental isolation caused by running your own Etsy store. It was difficult to tell.