Johari Fuentes: Designer, Dreamer, Entrepreneur, Wife & Mother

Johari Fuentes loves beauty. As a graphic designer, she sees a world of beautiful possibilities in everything around her. Since moving to Montclair from Puerto Rico a year ago, Johari (Jo) has gone from being a mom of one to a mom of two. Then, on top of growing her family, she has also grown her business, Fizgig Studio. Jo also recently added clothing designer to her portfolio with a wonderful collection of gender-neutral children’s shirts at MyJoshu. She’s definitely a busy Montclair Mom!

We spoke to Johari about moving to our area and balancing her business and growing family. In addition to answering our questions, she graciously agreed to a giveaway of one of her adorable children’s t-shirts!

1) How did you choose Montclair when moving from Puerto Rico?

Montclair chose me. I was counting on coming back to Brooklyn where I lived while I attended college at Pratt started to work in the city. My husband grew up in Somerset, and his family is now in Hasbrouck Heights. While I dreamed of going back to the brownstones, he and his brother found my place in Montclair. I rolled my eyes all the way here until I started to see the trees, the parks and how it is such a great place to raise kids. I didn’t want to accept it, but this was the perfect fit for us. Now I can’t see myself anywhere else.

What drew you to graphic design? What has been your favorite type of design?

My father is an old school graphic designer. I learned the craft from him back when you had to get your hands dirty and cut and paste, not push buttons on a keyboard. Both my brother and I followed in his footsteps and are now Creative Directors. I love anything printed, anything I can smell the ink from. I am a sucker for old school signage, Art Nouveau and stained glass.

MyJoshu’s most popular t-shirt.

3) Why did you start branching into clothing?

I had so many icons in my head, little ideas that started to fill my sketchbook and that developed into more simple, childhood ones after I had my first boy. I liked the idea of keeping alive some of the imagery I grew up with and keeping childhood clothes innocent. Also, I love to see what I create in action. That’s why I love the web’s immediacy and a t-shirt’s mobility.

4) Does your Puerto Rican heritage affect your work? How so?

It does. Mostly the songs I grew up with. My mom didn’t draw but she would sing to us all the time. Our car trips where one long concert of my mom singing or the radio blasting all kinds of songs from José Feliciano’s boleros to Menudo. Those trips around the island, the backdrop to our songs and everything I learned about it are still with me, and although my New York art education gave form to all my ideas, the island back home gave me the colors.

5) How about being a parent? Has that changed how you work?

It has. I am faster now, and I can work with one hand! I also have had to make peace with the fact that if I want to be there for my kids, my career had to change paths, and the overachiever in me is still getting used to that. Still, I see what it does to my kids to have me at home and can’t get myself go back to the 9 to 6.

6) What are your goals as a designer?

I want to be able to stay creative in many disciplines, to be able to grow my business again staying on top of print, web, information architecture and usability trends. I am in the middle of designing an iPad app for kids and I am learning and loving it. I just want to be able to keep making a living from what I love and get to know cool people in my path.

7) How does your career affect your children? Are they artistic?

I think they have no choice. Liam (2) has painted since he was an infant. We let him paint with his food, we painted our doors in chalkboard paint and covered the floor with rolls of paper so he could paint and draw from day one. I post his master pieces online and I guess soon I’ll be doing the same with Evan (3m). So you have been warned in case you befriend me on Facebook.

8) What kind of jobs and clients do you most enjoy?

I enjoy working for small businesses and startups. I enjoy getting to know my clients and giving form to their ideas. I specialize in branding, and creating logos for companies is a particular joy for me. Working on new t-shirt designs has allowed me to flex my creative muscles with a focus on my family.

Johari has generously offered one lucky reader a choice of any one of her three t-shirt designs at MyJoshu. T-shirts are available in sizes 6m, 12m, 2T, 3T, 4T, and youth extra-small. They are printed on Rabbit Skins brand shirts, and are 100% cotton. Check out her designs on Facebook, and follow MyJoshu on Twitter.

To enter the giveaway, visit MyJoshu and tell us, in comments, which design and t-shirt size you would love to own!

One commenter to this post, through 11:59 p.m. EST on Tuesday, September 4th, 2012 will be chosen at random to receive one t-shirt from MyJoshu.

Please post only once. No purchase necessary. Starts Thursday, August 30th at 8:00 am EST and ends Tuesday, September 4th, 2012, at 11:59 pm. Open to U.S. residents ages 18 years and older. Void where prohibited.

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  1. My nephew was born in the middle of the night after a long and very scary night. The staff at St Barnabas was amazing and my brother and sister-in-law are so grateful for everything. I would love to give them one of these charming and whimsical shirts to help them move beyond the scary night of his birth look forward to the fun part!

  2. My husband calls all 3 of our sons “pollito”. So 4T, 2T or 6m would work for us. (4T would be best, so when the 2T and the 6m are old enough, they can wear it, too!)

  3. I love all three designs, but I think the paper airplane is my favorite – ordering matching for my son and daughter. Does the OSONE design come in long sleeves?

  4. I would love the Osone in a 4T. I just saw Kdwald’s tweet on my phone, got up, logged on, just to comment because this shirt is just too darned cute to resist. Thanks!
    farrah dot ritter at gmail dot com

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