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Meet Troy Murrah of Built Quilt in South Bay

Today we’d like to introduce you to Troy Murrah.

Troy, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I was born and raised in Texas and have been drawing ever since I can remember… My days back in the ‘80s were spent outside playing sports, skateboarding, lots of swimming, and riding bikes everywhere. Bikes were essential… nights were spent listening to music, going to games, and drawing. Also, back then, a lot of church youth groups had dances on the weekends… all were invited; it didn’t matter what your beliefs were…

Community and personal connection were important. Then, when it was time to start college, I began my college education in architecture. I ended up taking a year off and worked in a machine shop fabricating BMX bike frames. When I went back to school, I decided to switch majors and got my degree in studio art at the University of Texas, Austin.

Right out of college, I did set design for a dance company; then moved to Los Angeles and stayed in the production design field. Lots of long days. Next, I began working for a sculptor in the early 2000’s… fabricating and welding his large-scale pieces. Did this for about 5+ years.

Then, set out on my own doing freelance design and fabrication for the TV and film industry, and for a company that designed and built recording studios. During all of this, I was making my own art––Usually, figure based mixed-media paintings… AND making music and touring a lot in my two-person band, RESTAVRANT.

At this point, music started taking up more of my free time than visual art. It wasn’t until 2018 that I really started to focus on the art I am doing today. In late 2017, my mom––a quilter, designer, and educator––passed away.

In some sort of memorial, in her honor, and as therapy for myself, I decided to take a shot at making a quilt my way. Using wood, Formica, plexi, and metal left over from old jobs and salvaged from furniture neighbors were throwing out. The making of the first one was surprisingly fun and came so naturally, almost instinctively. This piece was well received, and so was the next one… and the next…

So, I continued making them, exploring and experimenting with new possibilities, but sticking with the basis of a traditional quilt block composition. This is only the beginning. With such a positive response, my wife and I also rebranded our old décor business to reflect this new body of work and focus. We’ll see what happens…

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It has definitely not been smooth or quick, but it couldn’t have happened any other way.

The craftsmanship, skills, and knowledge of tools I picked up through the years doing set design and fabrication jobs have given me the foundation to actually make these new wall hangings become a reality.

And, sad to say… I never would have made these while my mother was alive. Hard to explain, but her passing was the spark that ignited this.

Please tell us about Built Quilt.
Our company, Built Quilt, is built off my wall hangings and art. Combining inherited family skills of quilting and carpentry, I cut thousands of wood fragments, from leftover remnants, to construct elaborate wall hangings that replicate traditional quilt patterns.

Look closer, and find engravings of wallpaper designs—illustrated and designed using imagery influenced by my past. Reflecting these designs, patterns, and my artwork is our line of décor — mainly sets of coasters, tealight holders, and other wood-based products.

My wife, Michelle, and I engrave different designs (either from my drawings or influenced by vintage quilt block patterns) on to our products… to give it a kick.

I am most proud of the fact that I get to work with my wife and a small team of friends and put my own original artwork directly to use… and I think this is also what sets Built Quilt apart from others.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
I didn’t know it or think it at the time, but it’s a simple memory that makes me always smile… Being with my family on one of our regular, afternoon picnics in the park in Houston, Texas…

My brother and sister, mom and dad … sitting on an old quilt eating fried chicken. Then, my mom would usually roller skate while we rode bikes throughout the park… and my dad would either relax with a beer or film us with an old silent Super 8 camera. Sometimes both.

Simple times and simple pleasures that I hope I, and other humans, never lose sight of.

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