Unexpected Gift Sends Susan Tesch On New Artistic Journey

Susan Tesch illustrates the versatility of patterns her long arm machine has as she chose the Molecular Geometry pattern for her Einstein quilt. Photo by Jenn Bartram/ladailypost.com 

By CAROL A. CLARK
Los Alamos Daily Post
caclark@ladailypost.com

Susan Tesch of White Rock received as a Christmas gift in 2011 a quilting kit from her mother and father-in-law. She said that although she did not know it at the time, this kit would set her off on a new artistic journey.

“When I unwrapped this gift, I thought, ‘Wow, what a beautiful and nice gift,’” Tesch said. “It was one of the best gifts I have ever received, but I had no idea what to do with it.”

After some coaching from her mother-in-law on the basics of quilting, Tesch began working on her first quilt. Although the process appealed to her precise and accurate nature, she lacked many of the modern conveniences today’s quilters rely on, so the process also proved physically and mentally demanding, she said.

“I worked on my living room floor, using a really basic sewing machine to assemble my first quilt,” Tesch said. “Despite the challenges, I fell in love with the process. I was hooked and could not wait to make my next quilt.”

Tesch explained that although the exact origins of quilting remain unknown, various sewing techniques associated with it, such as piecing and appliqué, have been around in various parts of the world for several millennia.

“Quilts are often associated with bedding and decoration, tablecloths, and wall hangings,” she said. “Bedding remains the primary application for quilts today, but they also document commemorative or historical events, serve as pieces of art, and are often given as gifts.”

Tesch said that she draws her inspiration mostly from family and friends and from nature and her travels. Her designs are driven by her experience as an abstract painter.

She worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory for many years in the areas of training, quality, and performance assurance before retiring in 2018. She made the decision at that time to purchase a computerized long-arm quilting machine.

Long arm quilting machines are fascinating sewing tools and have been in circulation for over a century, she explained. Their uses remain highly specialized. At its core, a long arm is a permanent frame that allows you to use a machine to quilt a specific area before advancing the quilt. Long arm quilting is a type of machine quilting that has a very long arm and an oversized throat to accommodate large quilts.

It is the process by which a long arm sewing machine is used to sew together a quilt top, quilt batting and quilt backing into a finished quilt, she said. It is an industrial sewing machine, not for regular seamsters.

To develop competence, Tesch practiced on her own quilts before turning her hobby into her small business Rock Art Quilts.

“This machine has the automation that enables me to complete quilts much easier and faster than those days when I constructed quilts on my living room floor,” she said. “I’m an artist and I also create for others. Mastering this machine and its associated components enable me to craft quilts in comparatively shorter timeframes to offer potential customers reasonable prices. Since 2018, I have quilted well over 200 quilts with more than 99 percent customer satisfaction.”

Tesch said that she is very particular with her customer preparation requirements and prefers high quality fabrics including batting, backing and thread selection. She is only aware of one other long arm quilter (Jo Ann Painter) in the Los Alamos area and has used her as a valuable resource.

To make it convenient for her customers, Tesch offers some high quality Wide Back fabrics, and various types and lofts of batting for purchase and offers her customers a discount on retail prices. She also trims batting and backing at no charge for her customers who purchase the material from her.

Tesch has been married to Chuck Tesch for seven years.

“I would not be successful without my husband’s help,” she said.

The couple reside in White Rock with their dog Emmy that they got from the Espanola Animal Shelter. They think she is about 3 years old.

Tesch can be reached at 505.699.8844 or visit RockArtQuilts.com, for more information.

Susan Tesch’s artistic ability is magnified throughout her work. Photo by Jenn Bartram/ladailypost.com

Susan Tesch demonstrates how her long arm machine takes quilting to a new level. Photo by Jenn Bartram/ladailypost.com 

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