The Seed of Ambition
Let’s once more, for the time being, start our story thousands of miles from America, in the charming European country of Poland.
Joanna Figueroa, the future founder of the distinguished fabric, pattern, and Block of the Month company, Fig Tree & Co. recalls her first trip to the United States when she was 31/2 years old. Joanna refers to her family’s move to America as part of the “classic immigrant story.” With only a few thousand dollars to their families name, in 1975, her father moved his family to America, in search of a better life for all of them and a dream of his own to become a small-business owner.
It will become quickly apparent that her father’s entrepreneurial spirit runs deeply through her veins as well. Years later, in a conversation with her mother, Joanna was reminded of a story from their first flight to the United States. A long, trans-atlantic flight isn't exactly a young child’s idea of a fun adventure. A cramped and restless Joanna recalls her mother giving her a small bag of buttons, along with some needle and thread and with a plane apparently full of amicable people she set about entertaining herself by asking aisle-seated passengers if she could sew a button onto their clothes.
After that, time seemed to fly by, faster than the ocean under their feet and before she knew it, passengers were stepping off the plane with a few more buttons than they boarded with, and a story to tell of an ambitious young girl who brightened their day with her creativity and dexterous needle.
The Seed Sprouts
Maybe this was the first spark that began to kindle the fire in the heart of Joanna. The spark that creating art was a part of who she is. At the age of 8, Joanna held her first backyard art show after convincing all of the neighbors to attend and buy her wares. She came away from that first endeavor $5.00 richer than when she started, which was more money than she had ever had in her life and yet again, another piece of her heart was lost to art as she continued to come into her own, refining herself as a budding artist about to burst onto the scene.
As time passed and Joanna grew older, she and her sister entered into helping their father in the family business until they one at a time, moved away to get married, start families of their own, and finally begin trail-blazing her own path in the fabric and quilting community.
Along with each passing phase of her life, from youth, to young-adulthood, and beyond. Joanna’s art began to evolve with her. From her original dedication to painting, she began to dabble in sketches and drawing, which gave-way to hand-crafted cards and stationary, later jewelry and pottery, and in college, graphic design caught her attention. Finding herself a seeming natural in this mode, graphic design became the gateway to quilting because here, she began to learn the art of printmaking and papermaking which goes so nicely, hand-in-hand with fabric.
Upon her eventual arrival at the re-discovery of fabric and later, the inaugural plunge into quilting, something just felt different, like coming home, an undeniable, natural fit.
Utilizing her skill in many different forms of art, everything Joanna designs starts with a color palette as inspiration. This creative mind wouldn’t stay in the shadows of undiscovery much longer.
The Fruits of Labor
Soon to be the well-known Fig Tree & Co. the small beginnings of this company started proportionately to its size, first bursting onto the scene under the name of “Figlets” and as their first offering to the public, they sold wall hangings, quilted pillows, and miscellaneous other accessories appropriate for local boutiques and street fairs. However the tax upon this young wife and mother was too great at the time and she went to work at her local quilt shop.
Beginning just as an employee, she soon transitioned to be a quilting and sewing teacher. As a teacher, she quickly recognized the need for good quilting and sewing patterns and immediately accepted the challenge to create her own! The passion with which she pursued pattern making re-awakened her drive to create her own art to sell herself and this time, FIG TREE came to be.
Years later, Joanna recalls that this was “a whirlwind of good timing, good people, and we think, good design.”
While Joanna boasts (and rightfully so) that she is a self-made woman, she still credits the hours spent at her father’s side as integral to her passion, business smarts, and driven attitude. In later years of her father’s life, she loved to “talk shop” with him as they would discuss each other's careers and simply reminisce.
Why Fig Tree?
Many have asked over the years, where the meaning of the name Fig Tree & Co. came from, and there have been many over-explanations of the name by assuming queeryers but the origin story is as simple as her last name. Figueroa. Her husband Eric was often called “Fig” during his school years and since they playfully call their children the Figlets, naming the business after a theme so common in both of their lives just seemed to fit. Eric also runs all of the behind the scenes production work of the company so nothing seemed more appropriate to both of them.
The Tree Flourishes
Today, Fig Tree & Co. has produced over 150 quilting, sewing, and children’s patterns in addition to thematic booklets that tell the story behind her work.
Drawing inspiration for designs seems to come naturally to Joanna, as she draws it from the world around her. She loves utilizing vintage fabric swatches, tidbits of beauty from her flower garden, old-timey children’s drawings, unique animals, and so much more.
Never letting any of her artistic abilities have a chance to rust, she still creates her designs through painting, graphic design on the computer, doodles, and the list truly does go on. AMAZING.
Every year, Joanna designs three, licensed fabric collections for the well-known fabric and notion distributor company, Moda Fabrics and United Notions. To this day, Fig Tree and Co. remains wildly popular with their community of beloved followers steadily growing. Their combination of soft pastels with a vintage twist throughout make Joanna’s signature style one of a kind.
Once more, we have come to the end of another narration on the life and work of someone so extraordinary. With the love of her craft flowing through her veins, the fruition of which is reaching us, in fabric form.
Come back next week as we welcome another creative mind to the pages of our blog, you won’t want to miss it!