Abraham Lincoln is hanging out in the sunny breakfast room of Susan and David Marth’s home. Susan’s quilt wallhanging, titled “Abraham Lincoln Tribute,” features a silhouette of the 16th president of the United States. It seems right at home overlooking rolling hay and grain fields in rural Moro, Ill., just an hour from Lincoln’s law office, home and other historic sites in Springfield.
Susan, an internationally known graphic quilt designer, created the unique piece in 2008. “He was about to celebrate his 200th birthday, and I liked the feel of the fabrics copied from the Civil War era that were available.” Her finished piece is about 4-by-4 1/2-feet and made with reproduction fabrics in historic colors of black, cream and reds. Four of Lincoln’s famous quotes and classic quilt patterns frame the president’s large black silhouette.
Susan says her creative process differs; sometimes she uses a graphics program to design on her computer; or she may do a sketch on paper or design as she quilts the fabric. She makes one sample of each design and, to save time, has area professionals who quilt them for her. Judy Bishop of Piedmont, Mo. machine quilted the Lincoln piece. Susan says, “I like the creative process of making it. It’s not any fun to me to make the second and third of anything. I think creative people have to do something creative to spark their brains.”
Her creativity extends to furnishing the traditional 2,000-square-foot two-story home the Marths had built 21 years ago on two acres. “I love going to flea markets and estate sales; you get unique things. I like to be different, and my style is very eclectic.” She displays vintage items, from treadle sewing machines to wood bowls, along with her quilts. She hangs them over the rungs of a rustic ladder in one corner of the living room and drapes one on the brown couch. Interior walls are kept simple white to showcase her hangings and her beloved fabrics. In her studio neat stacks of folded fabric overflow a small grocery cart and fill a pair of metal lockers, while baskets corral notions.
Susan, whose degree is in architectural interior design, left a career designing retail stores, store fixtures and tenant office space in the St. Louis area to be a stay-at-home mom. But she missed designing and working with color and turned to fabric and quilting. Her mother, Pat Gvillo, taught her to sew at any early age, and quilting was an easy transition. She believes that her passion for space planning shows in her use of fabrics. “That’s why we quilt — because we love fabric,” she says.
She began putting her original quilt creations into pattern form and started her business, Suzn Quilts, in 2003. She sells to the trade at the International Quilt Market twice a year. Her patterns and books sell through quilt shops, catalogs and distributors, and her designs appear in quilting magazines. She has just designed a line of child-oriented fabric for Red Rooster Fabrics of New York.
Whether it’s designing, promoting her work, cooking nightly for her family or decorating her home, she says, “I don’t sit still and do nothing very often; I think I get that from my father.” Her motto is, “Family first, then quilting.”
Home • Moro
Age • 49
Family • Susan has been married for 24 years to David Marth, 49, a civil engineer for Greene County. They have three children: Chloe, 21, and Blake, 19, students at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville; Clare, 15, attends Edwardsville High School. The family collie, Nemo, is 5.
Occupation • Susan makes graphic quilt designs and is starting her 10th year of business as Suzn Quilts (SuznQuilts.com). She also teaches workshops and lectures on quilting.
The Marth Home • Susan and David had the handsome two-story brick-fronted home built 21 years ago on two acres next to the farm of her parents, Richard Gvillo, Sr., and Pat Gvillo, outside Moro. With 2,000 square feet plus a full basement there is plenty of room for four bedrooms and two and a half baths.
Living room • The designer’s quilting cozies up the family’s main living space. David’s contribution to decor is his largest buck mounted and hung. The lap quilt on the couch is Susan’s cheerful “Garden Trellis” pattern.