Tarsha M. Joyner - Photographer and Baked Goods Artist

Tarsha is owner and head Treat Maker at Mrs. Joy’s Absolutely Fabulous Treats.  She’s been in the Treat making business since July 2012.  Born in Rocky Mount, NC she made her way to Lynchburg after marrying Roger Joyner, a Lynchburg native, in 1994.  They have three children and two grandchildren.

Even though Tarsha likes dabbling in various mediums (clay, watercolor, fabric, digital, etc.) her mainstay at this time is in edible art where her creativity is expressed through bespoke cakes and artisan cookies. In 2015, Tarsha won Food Network's Christmas Cookie Challenge.

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?

An artist is not something I ever wanted to be.  It was something I just always was.  It has always been a part of my identity—I just didn’t know it.  I’ve always loved to draw, paint, color, and sculpt.  I just thought it was what everyone did.  I didn’t even call myself an artist until I was about to graduate from Lynchburg College in 2013.  

How does your personal story/background influence your work?  

The earliest I remember being a creative I was in Kindergarten and held my first brand new box of CRAYOLA crayons. They were the box of the jumbo 8 basic colors. I loved the way the paper felt. I loved the way they smelled. I loved the beautiful vibrant colors. I was a foster kid at the time and those crayons were the best and only comfort that I’d get.  I was in and out of foster homes throughout my school-aged years.

My mom was mentally ill and my father went awol from the military and his family. The foster parents were never nice people either. They were very abusive and mean, but the one thing I could count on was those CRAYOLA crayons. No matter where I went we were always given crayons and a coloring book. They became my soothers. No matter what chaos was in my life I could color or draw a beautiful and colorful happy place. There was always lot of chaos. 

I didn't get official art classes until I was in 9th grade. I had this cool hippie like teacher called Mrs. Thompson. She was so chill and laid back and we could do whatever we wanted in that art space. I loved Mrs. Thompson!  She taught me that there were NO boundaries in art.  

Which of your works are you most proud of?

In one of my art classes at Lynchburg College, my professor Mr. Richard Pumphrey gave us an assignment involving knives.  He had a big bag of mismatched knives and he gave each of us a handful.  We were told to create art.  That was it.  No other real instructions other than we had to use the knives as a part of the art piece.  I picked up one of the knives and looked at my reflection and the first thing I thought was, “Why do people check themselves out in spoons?  There’s way more flat surface area on a knife!” Then I thought, “I know exactly what I want to do!!!!”  I produced the piece called Condemned and it won first place in the student juried art show that year.  I’m so thankful Prof. Pumphrey challenged us in that way.  It was my very first time stepping outside of the box.

What is the hardest part about being a professional artist?  

The hardest part for me is finding time to do just what I want to do and not what someone else wants me to do.  I’m constantly sketching ideas that have yet to come to fruition because there just isn’t enough time for what I want.  I have some unfinished paintings and quilts and pieces that I want to build but I have to think about paying the bills first.

What artists inspire you? 

Jerry Pinkney - When my children were little I wanted to make sure they were able to read books that had people in them that looked just like them.  Jerry Pinkney is one of the most beloved artists in the our book collection.  Even my granddaughter loves his art work.

Chun Kwang Young - I went to one of his openings and was in awe of his work and his demeanor.  He seemed so at peace and so calm.  To look at his work in a book or magazine is just not enough to be able to experience the work that he does.  So many little parts that are tediously formed and then put together to create awesome work.  

James van der Zee - He is one of my favorite photographers.  I am impressed how he was “photoshopping” in the darkroom before a computer was even thought about.  He was truly ahead of his time.  

What advice would you give aspiring artists who come from minority or under-represented groups?  

Art has no boundaries.  It doesn’t matter where you live, where you come from, who you are, how much you have or don’t have, or what others think of you.  It doesn’t matter what tools you have or don’t have.  It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor.  If you have creativity within you, you must find a way to express it and share it with others.  Someone will appreciate it even if that someone is you.