JOHANNA SWANSON CREATIVE DIRECTOR OF MAR Y LANA
Fake it till you make it! Don’t wait for perfect! & If YOU believe so will THEY!
Introducing Johanna Swanson founder of Mar Y Lana, a cozy Colombian poncho brand based in South California but with South American roots.
Johanna recently joined We Are Creative Adventurers on our trip to Morocco. Read more about how Johanna started her business based on her passion for textiles and giving back.
What makes you a creative adventurer?
In my opinion to be a Creative Adventurer is to be imaginative, a dreamer, and an explorer of unknown territory within yourself, others, and the world around you.
How did you start Mar Y Lana and what inspires you?
My mother is Colombian so I grew up wearing traditional wool ruanas (ponchos). When I had children of my own they started wearing some that had been handed down through the family. The response in the community was extremely positive. So I decided to find the artisans who were making them. Once I learned about the artisans’ stories and how their tradition is at risk of being lost forever, I felt inspired to start my passion project. The idea of helping these artisans reclaim and preserve their traditional practices is so inspiring. I have also started a program called Pledge Our Profits where we give back 5% to the artisans’ community school.
You recently went to Morocco with us on our Land and Sea Adventure. How has that trip influenced you and your project?
Morocco has been calling me since as long as I can remember and it sure did not disappoint! It was so inspiring to see all the artisans creating so many incredible and unique items. The natural dyes, the traditional practices, and modernization alongside it all.
One of the most special moments was going to visit Project 19. This is a project similar to my own in which a westerner is helping preserve the traditional weaving practices of Morocco. I felt so inspired by what they were doing and then it dawned on me that my work mirrors the same vision. It was really encouraging for me and reinforced that I am on the right path.
Why do you find textiles so fascinating?
I am so intrigued by the history behind all of these traditional practices. To look at a garment and know that each stitch was made by hand without any electricity. To see how each thread is made, organized, and manipulated to create items that support our basic needs is like a time warp.
Weaving tells so many different types of stories; that of the artisan, society, and all the commonalities we share as humans. Across the globe woven textiles also suffer at the hands of social norms when we are told that only men weave on the foot loom or only women spin the thread.
I also love the way the patterns of the loom persist across oceans and continents from one culture to the next and the love and care you can feel when you hold one of these treasures in your hand.
Do you have any daily rituals that you practice or routines that keep you grounded?
Breakfast is my daily ritual. I must sit with my coffee, my eggs, fruit, etc. and enjoy a relaxing breakfast. I connect with my children, husband, and my intentions for the day. This sets the tone for my whole day. When I don’t eat my breakfast in peace I don’t feel at ease going into the day.
Also, several times a week my husband ,two kids, and I wake up, eat breakfast and head down to the beach. My husband and I take turns surfing and watching the kids. We catch up with our closest friends, play, and daydream. These are currently my two favorite rituals.
Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for other women thinking about pursuing a lofty dream?
Fake it till you make it! Don’t wait for perfect! and If YOU believe so will THEY!
I’ve noticed that surfing is an important part of your life. Can you tell me more about your relationship with the ocean?
Oh, goodness! How can I make this short and sweet. Well, I grew up in Arizona but have always been a water baby. I used to come to the beach growing up and I just remember how exhilarating it felt to be held under by a wave. The minute I was set free and able to get a breath of air I just felt so alive; like I had survived at the hands of Universe. I loved being a little afraid and out of control.
When I finally moved out to California, I moved here by myself. A friend had taken me surfing once and I decided I must learn in order to curb any loneliness. It was the best thing I could have done. I met some of my best friends surfing and traveled to some of the most incredible destinations for surf.
When I am in the ocean I don’t think about anything else and I am always glad that I went. Being in the ocean is always a good reminder that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. It’s humbling and calming.
All the ladies in Morocco fell in love with your ponchos. How do we get our hands on one of them?
My ponchos are for sale on my website https://marylana.com I also have some stockists in Cardiff by the Sea and Santa Cruz, California.
I participate in local markets here and there and am expanding my wholesale accounts. So keep your eyes open for stockists near you!
Photo Kat Reynolds & Natalya DeSena