“Should we start this company?” Johnna Holmgren asked her husband Max, after a weekend spent at a wedding show. She was there to showcase her photography, and he had drawn up a chalkboard sign for her. Just as many people ended up asking about the sign as they were her photography.
“We could call it Bear Fox Chalk, just think about it,” she told him over the phone. The origin of the name? He’s always called her the fox and she’s called him the bear.
“It all just happened out of nowhere,” Max explained to us. He’d always been drawing, but hadn’t worked with chalk previously—the first chalkboard he drew up was for a boutique in downtown Stillwater where Johnna was working a few months before that wedding show. “People freaked out at the show,” Johnna told us.
“We cranked for two weeks to get everything together to launch,” Max told us. In those two weeks, he had a portfolio full of work, a website up and running, and officially could call Bear Fox Chalk a business.
“When I first started, I didn’t have a voice at all,” Max told us, “I didn’t really know anything about photography. I just loved drawing and had practiced lettering growing up, but didn’t understand that different types could evoke different moods and feelings of a piece.”
“I’d say I’ve found a consistent style—one that was inside me all along,” Max explained, “I think your brand has to be personal to you.” Max’s aesthetic is reflected through his work, and is seen throughout his Stillwater home—he grew up in a home filed with taxidermy and Native American influences, so both are scattered throughout, plus a touch of whimsy. While Johnna’s now focusing on her photography business full-time, she’s always happy to provide Max with feedback and help him brainstorm.
That chalkboard outside the bus at our Minneapolis launch party? It was designed by Max! It’ll be traveling with us through the rest of our trip, so keep an eye out for it if you visit the bus.
Max is wearing the Begley in Whiskey Tortoise
Photos by Collin Hughes