Bend company creates iPhone app

JuJu, an art mashup, lets users sample work of visual artists

By Joseph Ditzler / The Bulletin / @josefditzler

Mona Daly’s artwork is well known, even if the Bend resident’s name is not.

That could change with the advent of JuJu, an Apple iPhone app developed in Bend that allows users to create their own artistic statements using work from Daly and a battery of artists. The artists gain not only recognition but a taste of the financial pie, as well.

Julia Junkin, an artist and businesswoman, conceived the idea, and Bloomcrush, a Bend-based tech firm that develops apps, brought it to fruition. Junkin, who also lives in Bend, previously produced a line of ceramics, posters and kitchen apparel she marketed online and in department stores.

Through JuJu, she said, she expects to capitalize on licensing agreements with artists who come on board, while offering users a creative outlet.

Junkin and the other creators describe JuJu as an art mash-up, in which users sample visual art the way DJs sample music.

Daly, a freelance commercial artist who’s drawn images of Barbie for Mattel, said the idea of her work becoming popular through a mobile phone is a “whole new realm.” Making money is secondary to the opportunity to network with other local artists, she said. Twelve of the approximately 40 artists, graphic designers and other contributors to JuJu live in Bend.

“I had extra work I never sold the rights to, lots of extra work I could reuse,” Daly said.

The free basic app comes with a catalog of digital art that users mix and match, like a collage, to create their own messages, emails, wallpaper or digital postcards and greeting cards. For 99 cents, the user can purchase more art packs. Each artist receives 5 percent of that purchase, Junkin said.

“If we had a million users, which is our goal for the first year, … the licensing is amazing for artists,” Junkin said. “They could make a living.”

The app in its first week in June rose to No. 193 among top-grossing apps on iTunes, said Jacqueline Smith, JuJu marketing director. It’s since fallen to No. 636, but she hopes it will rise again with wider marketing, she said. It has about 1,500 users thus far, Junkin said.

A financial backer, Junkin’s brother Jay Junkin, owner of Thump Coffee and Jackson’s Corner restaurant in Bend, said his sister’s artistic talent and business acumen sold him on the idea. He also likes the notion of an app that encourages creativity over violence and point-scoring.

“Once they understand what it is, parents will direct their kids to it,” he said. “It offers kids a chance to engage a screen and learn while they’re doing it.”

JuJu does not allow users to upload their own photos, but provides photographic art from people like Tyler Roemer, a locally based outdoor photographer. Julia Junkin said the app will soon permit users to add their own text.

She and her team bank on JuJu feeding its users’ creative impulses.

“I think people are pretty tired of doing the same things on their phones day after day,” said Matt Kern, of Bloomcrush. “There are social networks, but there’s not a lot in between that’s engaging. And I think this has the potential to spark creativity in people who don’t necessarily have it.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7815, jditzler@bendbulletin.com

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected. In the original version, the name of the company Bloomcrush was spelled incorrectly.

The Bulletin regrets the error.