Thursday, August 12, 2010

Making Waves: the Adventures of a Surf Quilter...

It's the title of a book, and a description of the adventures of the very talented Rob Appell. Rob is a textile artist and designer who takes "a manly approach to quilt making and love for the ocean". It all started a few years ago, when Rob landed a job in his mother's quilt shop, The Cotton Ball, in beautiful Morro Bay, California. Rob now blends his love for the ocean with his work as a designer under his eponymous site, Rob Appell Designs. Read on to see some absolutely gorgeous quilts, and a one-on-one interview with Rob !

Brown Pelican, 44 x 34, an Endangered Species Pattern by Rob Appell

Green Sea Turtle, 27 x 38, an Endangered Species Pattern by Rob Appell

One of Rob Appell's newest and most exciting adventures is an endangered species line of art quilt patterns, in collaboration with Michael Miller Fabrics. A portion of the proceeds from the pattern sales will be donated by Rob to an endangered species charity, and each donation will be matched by Michael Miller Fabrics. What a fantastic cause!  Two of our favorites are the incredibly realistic Brown Pelican and Green Sea Turtle, shown above.  These designs are bigger than life (literally): take a look at the photos of Rob's students showing their finished pieces.  You can see all the species that are featured - including the polar bear and bengal tiger - on the endangered species page at Rob's website, and read about the partnership in the interview below. 

In addition to his patterns, Rob designs ocean-inspired textiles. "Paradise Reef", below, is striking aquarium quilt that is easy and simple to make with the fabric panels designed by Rob for Michael Miller Fabrics.

Paradise Reef, 55 x 48, by Rob Appell for Michael Miller Fabrics

For information on the simple construction of Paradise Reef, see the pattern download at Michael Miller Fabrics.  Complete kits for the quilt top are available at Rob's site (get 'em while you can !)

Beyond the Tides

"Beyond the Tides", above, resembles a vibrant seascape painting, but it is made entirely with pieced and appliqued fabrics. This spectacular quilt was recently featured on an episode of Simply Quilts on HGTV.

Under Watercolor Quilts

Rob's gorgeous underwater fantasy quilts - with complete patterns - are all included in his book, Making Waves... the Adventures of a Surf Quilter. The under watercolor quilt, above, has scenes that cover the known universe: from the depths of the ocean, all the way up to the planets in the night sky. The book also contains patterns for Beyond the Tides, The Dolphin Dance, Underwater Color Quilts, Quick Fuse Seascapes (take a peek at the fantastic Scuba Time)... plus 48 full color images... plus a ton of other info on appliques, free motion machine quilting... and "life lived a bit less seriously." Speaking of which, we were fortunate to have the chance to interview Rob Appell about his own inspiration and aspirations:

Quilt Inspiration: Did you always think you would be a textile designer and art quilter? Or, did this "career" take you by surprise?

Rob Appell: A total surprise. I have always loved to create art, but never knew much about textiles. I love to draw and thought of graphic design, but was afraid to connect a career to it. I did not want to lose my art and income due to stress. I moved home after a few years of traveling around, and started helping out around my Mom’s quilt shop, The Cotton Ball in Morro Bay, CA. It took a few years for the quilt pox to catch, but I could not be happier today doing what I do.

Q.I.  How and when did the idea come about for the Endangered Species Project?

Rob Appell: The idea was a group effort between Michael Miller Fabrics and myself and started back in March of 2009. I was challenged with creating a line of quilts that would be easy to do, and able to keep in the cycle much longer. My seascapes are more fabric specific, and when the fabrics ran out, the seascapes became harder to do. I chose Michael Miller’s Fairy Frost line, it has close to a hundred different colors to choose from, and it will be around for along time. The other goal was to create a project line that allowed quilters to feel like they were “making a difference” through their love of quilting. Many of the Michael Miller Team and I hold the Endangered Animals close to our hearts. After a surf trip in Costa Rica, I was overwhelmed with the ideas and could not wait to get started.

Q.I. Your quilts include applique (e.g. Endangered Species), pieced designs (watercolor quilts), and combinations of the two methods, as in Paradise Reef. Do you have a favorite technique or style that you prefer to work in, or one just comes naturally to you?

Rob Appell: I really do enjoy the free motion machine quilting, so anything I can quilt on is a favorite. I do love to design through raw-edge appliqué using Heat ‘n Bond lite (FYI Heat n’ Bond is coming out with feather lite – and it is awesome) and I do not like to have to work too hard, so I create backgrounds as either pieced or a single color of fabric that lend to the design. On the Endangered Species, one of the Fairy Frost fabrics is the back ground and shows through where the appliqués are not placed. It makes the need for precision much less, which is a lead into my next answer too.

Q.I. You mentioned that your book includes advice on "taking life less seriously" and yet you are a very productive designer, which seems like a potential contradiction in real life. Can you explain your philosophy on life, and how you mesh your priorities?

Rob Appell: I love this question, and yes I am becoming a filthy liar (in that aspect). I work around the clock to be a good designer, Quilt Shop owner, Sewing machine technician and educator. I hardly rest, but I am trying not to let it make me panic. The life less seriously is more to the tune that my quilts are not perfect, my stitches are not even and my patterns do not have to be done with accuracy. What I pray is that I am able to be seen as a Blessing and Creative inspiration to all that I come in contact with. That I may uplift people with my smile, and help them achieve their creative goals. I want folks to not worry so much about all the little details in their work, and see the beautiful work that they are creating. I like to make people laugh, but the harder I work to support the animals the more changes I see needing be made in my own life.

Q.I.: What are your goals and aspirations for Rob Appell Designs... where would you like to be in 5 or 10 years?

Rob Appell: In five years, to be able to start slowing down the drive, and push for more patterns and be more involved in creating quilts that will be one of a kind. Also, I am just now taking over my Mom’s shop and I would like to see it be able to run itself so that I may create more, and play more. I am blessed to have a very busy career today, but I have two children that need to go camping and swimming, play dolls and legos, and see the world.

In ten years, I will be getting ready to watch my oldest graduate from high school and learn to drive, I hope my Quilt shop and career will still be booming, but I want to live off the grid, and be able to do what I do from anywhere so that my family and I can benefit from my years of hard work. Plus, I will only be in my mid forties, which is comforting.

Q.I. Do you have some new projects and ideas on the near horizon, and can you tell us about them?

Rob Appell: Always! I have three more animals to create before Houston Market in October and then I would love to start travailing with the whole line of quilts to places folks would not expect to see a quilts showing: Zoos, Animal Parks, Earth Day Festivals, raise money for more awareness, and promote using art to better our environment.

Q.I.: Rob, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us... we're so excited about your projects and designs, and we are look forward to following your ventures- and adventures - in the years to come!

p.s.  Congratulations to Deb, who correctly answered our two quiz questions on Monday, including "what - or who - is a surf quilter" (Rob Appell !)  For the answer to the question "In quilting, what is a sushi roll ?" see Deb's comment at the bottom of Monday's post.

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