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Art & Life with Joanna Sutton

Today we’d like to introduce you to Joanna Sutton.

Joanna, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
After experiencing a difficult breakup and trying to find myself again through art and traveling, I took 2017 and 2018 to cross some countries off my list and experience culture and God’s creations, in between full-time teaching high school math in low-income communities. In early 2018, I traveled to Tulum, MX, where I found a beautiful, bright, multi-colored, hand embroidered textile in a shop with a woman and her daughter, and I loved. It. I didn’t know what I was going to do with it, so I hesitated to purchase it. About two days later, I excitedly woke up my boyfriend and told him I knew what I wanted to do with the textile. First thing in the morning, I went to the shop and bought it, fair-trade. When I got back to Dallas, I pulled my favorite denim jacket from my closet – a jacket that I had purchased second hand some years ago, and I started trying to position the textile to the back of it. A couple of hours later, I sewed it to the back, and I had a jacket that was brightly colored floral, and I was obsessed.

As many other artists may be able to relate, I am insecure about my art. After making this jacket that I loved so much, I hesitated to wear it in public for a couple of weeks. After finally mustering up the courage, I wore it to Trader Joes. As I shopped, I had three women stop me in the store asking where I got it from, and I replied that I made it. That is where Vagabond Denim was conceived.

Fast-forward to October. After moving to San Diego in August, and taking a few day trips to Mexico, I found another place to source these textiles, fair-trade and I was elated. I called my close friends who run their own marketing and branding company, Six Things, in LA and they were so happy to help. In about two weeks, we took some photographs of the four jackets I had made and got a website up.

After I got an order for the first time for someone who wanted something I had taken the time to hand make – I cried. Excitement overwhelmed me, and I was honored that people could not wait to wear my creation. My vision has always been to create something that helps our world, and Vagabond Denim aims to connect travelers, artisans, and eco-sustainability, through absolutely unique denim jackets that give back on multiple fronts.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
I make denim jackets using materials purchased at fair trade prices and hand sewn and embellished onto gently used denim jackets in hopes of giving these jackets a second life and displaying unique artwork from artisans around the world. The inspiration behind Vagabond Denim is my love for travel, art, creating, and wanting to give back. With that, I hope people are inspired to travel, to connect with art, to thrift more, to give back, to connect with other humans and their culture. I hope my creations are conversation starters – jackets that others are proud to wear because they know that they were hand created and gave back to others. As I begin releasing collections from specific countries, I also hope people feel connected with these countries – whether through heritage or just having traveled somewhere very special – I want my denim jackets to connect people. Not only this, but I want others to know that each jacket is uniquely made – literally, no two are the same, and so when someone purchases one, it is truly their own.

Vagabond Denim focuses on art and giving back by using premium, vintage denim jackets to display unique and beautifully made textile works of art from artisans all over the world, purchased at fair trade prices, and gives back 20% of profits to feed the hungry, in hopes of connecting all humans with travel and art through handmade attire.

Any advice for aspiring or new artists?
This is my first go at running a company, so I am still in the stage of accepting advice from others. As for advice in the jacket creation, I wish I wouldn’t have been so nervous to wear my first jacket. For artists, I think it is so important to support other artists – everyone is out here just trying to create. Also, connect!!!!! with others in the field. The connections I’ve made at the pop-up shops I’ve been a part of have been invaluable. I think I’ll have more hindsight in a year, but for now, this is where I am at.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
The best way to see what is going on in the world of Vagabond Denim is through the website:, or on the Instagram account @vagabonddenim. I primarily manage those two accounts, and as I create, I post! As a newly formed company, I am working to get into weekend pop-up shops and artisan fairs and festivals around Southern California, throughout San Diego County and Los Angeles area, which is really exciting! Through the website, almost all of the jackets are custom made, and there are small requests one can make when ordering. Other ways to support this work is through donating to “I was hungry,” run by CJCOC, or by donating any gently used denim jackets. Additionally, if there are things that others want to see – I would love to hear about them!

Contact Info:

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Image Credit:
Julia Silva, Brooke Davis, Joanna Sutton

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