This month we meet OLFA Creator Joanna Marsh. Joanna is a former high school Ag teacher who left education to create a new dream in the quilting world.
Tell us about your business. How did you get started?
In my previous career, I was a High School Ag teacher and FFA advisor. My husband and I lived in Houston and he had a hobby, but I didn’t. I needed something to wind down after a long day and decided I needed to figure out how to sew. I started making little bags and selling them on Etsy. Then I found machine embroidery and went down that rabbit hole. I really enjoyed making little projects and doing custom embroidery. That lead me to design more durable bag patterns that I could customize with embroidery. I still make these bags – I call them Mamacita Loca bags.
How has your business evolved since?
I did a little quilting as I was learning to sew. We moved to Pipe Creek and I found the San Antonio Modern Quilt Guild. That really got me into quilting and longarm quilting. I was able to leave my teaching job and focus on quilting full time just before our daughter was born a few years ago. My business has evolved from making basic little bags to more commission oriented and custom longarm quilting with some fun pattern design. Once I learned to sew and quilt, I become enamored with every part of the quilting process.
Do you specialize in a specific look or technique?
I specialize in longarm quilting and pattern design. I focus on modernizing traditional elements in quilting. This photo is a round-robin quilt I recently quilted from the San Antonio Modern Quilt Guild. The quilt is by Erica Mitchell, Debra Barnes, Ruth Bass, and Susan Santos.
Where are you from? What is your community like?
I’m from a small town near San Antonio, TX. I grew up on a family farm/ranch where we raised our livestock and horses, had a huge garden where we grew our own vegetables, and just worked really hard.
My husband and I both attended Texas A&M University and worked in Houston before we moved back to the San Antonio area to start our family. I live in a very giving community. It has a small-town feel where everyone knows everyone else. We bought a little piece of land and we have a pair of Flemish Giant rabbits and a small flock of laying hens. We also have two random ducks that our daughter Gemma named Frito — both of them are named Frito. I guess that makes it easier to not get them confused?
How have your quilting and sewing tastes changed over time?
Ha! Oh, this is a good one! When I started sewing, we lived in Houston and I didn’t realize there was better fabric than what was available at the big box stores. The first fabric I bought was what I thought I was supposed to buy, according to the traditional quilting magazines. Then I found a small quilt shop on the west side of Houston (sadly, it closed recently). I still remember a sticker on their window saying they carried “Amy Butler” fabrics – and I remember thinking that Amy Butler was the coolest, so I bought nearly every print they had from her. Long story short, I went from thinking I had to buy navy, maroon, and beige fabrics to make a quilt to buying what makes you happy and not what someone else tells you will work. I love bright, saturated colors. I still laugh (cringe) when I think about the first few quilts I made that were totally not my style.
What craft or hobby did you do before sewing? Do you still continue?
I was really into art in high school. My grandmother Florence was an artist and made beautiful oil and watercolor paintings. I think I got my love of painting from her, but I wasn’t very good at it. I tried my hand at sculpture and loved that medium, but my art teacher told me I didn’t really have the talent to go anywhere with it. I dropped the advanced art classes in my senior year as a result and took more agriculture science classes. I don’t paint or sculpt anymore, but I feel like my creativity all gets funneled into quilting. I like that the things I make have a purpose and use, rather than just being a thing to look at.
What have you dreamed of doing but haven’t yet?
This is it. I dreamed of leaving my high school teaching job to do what I do now full time. I absolutely love quilting.
How do you organize your fabric and quilting supplies?
I planned out my sewing studio for months before we built it. We bought most of the furniture from IKEA. My favorites are the Alexx drawer units and Billy bookshelves. I use the Alexx drawers for longarm quilting supplies. My books, notebooks, and fabrics are organized in the Billy bookcases. I obsess about organizing my longarm quilting thread in an aesthetically pleasing way,. I love to walk into my studio and see them lined up in rainbow order.
Is there a color you love to use most?
Can stripes count as a color? Kidding … kind of. I love stripes, but if I need to pick a single color, I’d have to say it’s probably bright blue. I really love incorporating stripes into my quilts and using solids a lot. My Moroccan Tiles quilt pattern is one of my favorites to use solids and stripes with.
What has been the most rewarding part of your business?
I love quilting other creators’ quilts. I enjoy talking about their vision for the quilt and making the quilt come alive with our collaborative quilting plan. Seeing the maker’s face when they see the finished quilt is one of the best feelings.
Besides OLFA, do you have any favorite tools?
Acrylic templates that make cutting easier are probably the things I use the most. I love using my acrylic templates for my Trippy Triangles quilt.
What is your favorite holiday to create for?
I love to make things for Halloween, especially now that my daughter is old enough to get excited about it. I’ve always loved Halloween! I like making components of her costumes when I have the time.
Fill in the blank: A household chore I don’t mind doing is _______.
Yikes! I hate housework! I don’t mind ironing, as long as it’s fabric and not laundry.