Artist Spotlight: Marla Arna Jackson

Meet Marla Arna Jackson, self-taught fiber artist, painter, doll maker, indigo dyer, shibori dyer, portrait artist, seamstress, and author. Marla is the Founder and Executive Director of Marla Quilts Inc. African American Quilt Museum and Textile Academy, whose goal is to be “an impetus for developing artistic skills, enhancing individual and communal expression, and furthering intellectual awareness.” We had the honor to get to know her a little more as an artist and as a person – and we loved her so much that she’ll be taking over the Missouri Star Instagram on February 23rd, 2022 to share a little more of her passion with our quilting community! Before Marla’s Instagram Takeover, take the opportunity to get to know her a little better yourself!

What is your favorite part of the quilting process?

I am a portrait artist, most of my quilts are inspired by historical figures and my favorite part is researching and the visualization while I’m creating. I never know where the process will take me until I’m standing in front of the fabric. I don’t really enjoy the sewing, the applique, the quilting part as much as I love seeing my vision come to life.

I love learning everything I learn from the Civil War to Civil Rights, research is a major part of my process. I use pre-civil war fabrics, tapestries, fabrics like silks wools, cotton, African fabrics.

Who are your favorite fabric designers?

My favorite fabrics come from Vlisco in Holland, I love the vibrant color and patterns. I don’t know any others by name.

What notion or sewing tool are you most dependent on?

Scissors, I create my images for my quilts as I go with my scissors. No patterns, just my imagination, my hands and my scissors. I don’t measure nothing, I just go for it.

How were you introduced to sewing and quilting?

My mom introduced me to sewing, and my grandmothers and great grandmother taught me the technical parts of sewing and quilting. All of us kids helped my mother sew while she was pregnant, we worked the feet pedals for her. I’ve always loved doing it my way though, I got kicked out of two sewing classes in high school for not following the rules.

What was the most frustrating sewing project you ever worked on?

Putting in a fly zipper into pants – I’d gotten in trouble and as punishment for getting kicked out of sewing class my mom made me put in a fly zipper in 15 minutes. I finished it in 5 minutes. Later I was glad she taught me but I sure was mad while I was doing it.

What do you do to find inspiration/encourage your creativity?

Meditation, quieting my mind and tapping into my imagination.

What occupation would you like to try if sewing/making wasn’t an option?

Costume Designer.

Who is your favorite fictional character?

When I was a little girl I preferred watching the news over cartoons and stories and stuff, but I did like Shirley Temple and Annie Oakley- cowgirl boots, hat, and holster, that was me all dressed up.

What fabric have you been hoarding/saving the longest?

African fabrics and Asian fabrics.

Describe your perfect day.

Hot tea when I’m feeling good, teaching my students how to sew and quilt and research and bring history to life through quilts.

Don’t forget to join us on Instagram on February 23rd, 2022 as Marla (who you can follow @iammarlajackson) takes over the Missouri Star Instagram (don’t forget to follow us too @missouriquiltco)! Can’t wait? We can’t blame you – it’s going to be so much fun! Learn more about Marla and Marla Quilts Inc. by checking out her website and her blog If you’re looking for even more inspiration, be sure to follow her on Pinterest, Facebook and YouTube as well!