Designer Spotlight: The Quilting Cowboy

Designer Spotlight: The Quilting Cowboy

Great fabric is a sewist’s best friend, but it also comes with a background that can transform creations from a beautiful piece to an amazing, visual story. fabric.com spotlights the stories and designers behind the collections that have a story you need to hear.

Introducing Dale Allen Rowse, a.k.a. the Quilting Cowboy and the creator of the newest fabric line, Pottery.

image of dale

An Artist is Born

I realized from an early age that I was a maker and an artist. As a boy I wasn’t popular at school; I was the fat, nonathletic quiet type. My escape from bullying and torment was to be alone in our basement with fabric, felt, needle and thread. My imagination allowed me to build my own world on my terms. I’d spend hours sewing by hand, crafting and designing. I guess it’s always been my happy place. Today many of the imaginary friends I created back then are still featured in my crafting videos such as the felt mice who I used to make outfits for and assign careers and photograph in various handmade scenes.

Personal Design Style

My aesthetic has changed several times over the course of my making and designing life. In the beginning I was really attracted to vintage fabrics however today I tend to like more modern designs and fabrics but with one foot solidly planted in tradition. My quilt designs represent this. They all come from traditional quilt blocks and patterns but done in a new, novel and fresh approach and always from the bold, graphic, more masculine approach. I do not care for fussy, overly colorful or novelty fabrics. More than anything this is the reason I started designing fabrics. It was born out of frustration that no one was delivering high design masculine colors and patterns. I hope to change this.

image of Dale and his quilt

Pottery’s Inception

The inspiration for my first line of fabrics ‘Pottery’ with Windham Fabrics evolved from a place of nostalgia and the items around our home that I loved as a kid growing up. I grew up in a small Canadian town in British Columbia during the 1970’s. We had a wonderful collection of pottery and I loved looking at the crackle and patina of the finishes. I remember thinking that that’s what it must be like flying in a plane and looking down at the roads and streams. A network, or perhaps patchwork of cracks that represented earth; that’s what I saw on the surfaces of pottery.

picture of pottery collection

The Pottery collection of fabrics started from here in the paint design that is solids with a crackle pattern. The collection grew from there with artistic smudges and 70’s masculine colors of gold, brown, green, grey and off-white. My hope was to meld the boldness of the 70’s but in a high design way, much like Tom Ford has done with his work and marketing.

The Perfect Partner - Windham Fabrics

When it came to this decision, I had to go with my gut reaction. There’s a caring and sense of family with the Windham team that I felt I needed as a kind of safety net. This was an entirely new world for me, and while I have a degree in graphic design, I was still really stretching myself artistically to start down this road. Mickey, Alex and the Windham Fabrics crew had my back. They supported and encouraged me when I wasn’t certain I could even do this. Their continued support has meant a lot to me and my family.

Playing Favorites

  • Fabric:

    The plaid design from my Pottery collection is my favorite design I created in the line. It’s where I live as a designer. It’s a plaid without being a plaid. This is always met hope- to bring a new fresh take on a standard design or textile so that it’s relatable as something we know (in this case a plaid), but not in anyway you’ve seen it done before. This design was also such a huge breakthrough in my design work and was my a-ha in what I can do. For that, it holds a special personal place in my work.

  • Sewing Trend:

    I love modern quilts and modern quilters, even though I do not consider myself to be one. Modern quilts and fabrics offer a fresh simplicity that I find really beautiful. This type of work, I believe, speaks to men more directly… Maybe it’s just me, but life is visually assaulting as it is. When I come home my eyes and brain need a break so I find this approach to the work relaxing and inspiring. There’s such beauty in simplicity, and yet it’s so hard to get artistically correct because in order to do so one has to have an understanding of geometry and color theory. When I teach, I review these topics quite a bit.

image of quilts

Projects

While I enjoy working with my fabrics to make quilts and other sewing projects, I actually get more satisfaction from seeing what others do with it. When I’m done designing a fabric line I often feel too close to it to then translate that into DIY work. I also tend to design quilts in solid colors only which allows the quilt design to be in the forefront of its visual impact. Seeing what others do with my fabrics will always feel like a bit of love. The fact that others see what I’m doing design-wise and find their own inspiration from that is really amazing and personally rewarding.

Must Make List:

  • Back packs and satchels - Pattern by Uh-Oh Designs in Canada
  • Teddy bears - made in my fabrics
  • About 10 original designs - that I’ve created in my computer but that I really want to give life to
  • Men’s dress shirts - 20 years of making quilts and I’ve never tried to make clothes. I’m both curious and anxious to give this a try. I think it’ll add a new dimension to my work.

Works that Inspire

I’m crazy about the work of Carolyn Friedlander & Janet Clare. They are really doing something special that speaks to me. While I don’t read a lot online, I love to buy books. This is where I draw a huge amount of inspiration from especially from the modern quilt world, vintage fabrics and Japanese indigo work and textiles. I also love scrolling through Pinterest. Tons of inspiration there.

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Coming up next…

Up next for me in 2020 is a lot of teaching opportunities all across the USA and Canada. I love to teach and get out from my studio to connect with other like minded artists. It’s a collaborative effort and we all learn from one another. When I come back home from a teaching trip I am always overrun with ideas and inspirations. In September, my husband and I are going to India on a fabric buying trip to celebrate my 50th. It’ll be the actualization of a lifelong dream.

Free time spent wisely

This might sound odd, but I love watching Project Runway. I’m a super fan and have probably watched every season and All Stars two or three times. It’s the only thing I see on TV where I personally can draw inspiration. It’s the perfect balance of kicking back and relaxing while also opening the creative juices and mojo. Besides this, I love playing with our 4 adopted fur babies, going to movies, theatre and traveling.

image of dale

You’d be surprised to know…

This may or may not come across in my work, but I’m an introverted extrovert; my soul needs both. As many people know, I was a performer for many years on stage so I know that world and thrive in that environment but I’m also an extreme introvert when not performing. My hours are mostly spent in silence. I don’t play music or listen to anything while I work. I find it interrupts what source is trying to tell me. My sewing is my 'walking mediation’ which is a practice of doing something while quieting the mind and listening to what is, not what you want or need it to be. Presence of being and mindfulness is at the core of what I hope to do in this lifetime.

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