Welcome to eMbroidery, a series of interviews with male embroiderers. This month, Dale Rowse.
Name: Dale Rowse (a.k.a Quilting Cowboy)
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Main embroidery medium: Quilting
Noteworthy projects or pieces: My Texas Star was photographed for a book.
How did you come to be an embroiderer? I was a ballet dancer and often on a tour bus with many idle hours to fill. My friends were all having babies and I thought a hand made baby quilt would be quite special. So that’s what I did… I started hand sewing on the bus.
What does it mean to you? It’s my legacy. My job is real estate but I doubt any of my real estate transactions will ever be mentioned at my funeral… however I’m pretty sure my art will. My job is a reflection of my mind but my art is a statement from my soul.
Where do you like to work? I currently have a 2nd bedroom converted into a studio however I’d like to get a bigger space eventually. It’s a bit cramped.
How do people respond to you as a male embroiderer? Depends on their age. The older folks get a little uncomfortable. I see this as veiled homophobia. The younger generation think its pretty cool.
Who inspires you? Its not who but what. I see inspiration everywhere. In an ironwork fence, in a way 2 colors work together in an ad, in a tile mosaic, in nature, in a Persian rug… everywhere I turn I see something that I want to incorporate into my work. If I live to be 200 I will still never be able to get to everything I want to try.
How or where did you learn you learn how to stitch or sew? I’m mostly self taught… which is ridiculous because my Mom is a sewing teacher and my sister has a fashion design degree. However they failed to think that maybe I wanted to get in on the sewing action as well, but I do think being around it as much as I was growing up made it more accessible to me.
How has your life shaped or influenced your work? As a former ballet dancer, the sets that we would often perform in and around play a huge part in hoping to create magic, mystery and playfulness. I try and capture this in much of my work.
What are or were some of the strongest currents from your influences you had to absorb before you understood your own work? Each project is a HUGE learning curve and because the work takes so long to produce my stream of inspiration if often months ahead of what is being produced. With each project I get revelations. The latest I’m absorbing is that I love to work in variations of night and dark blue. For a quilt it speaks to me of magic possibility, of nighttime, sleep and dreams.
Do formal concerns, such as perspective and art history, interest you? I love to incorporate the classic patterns into my work (a texas star, a nine patch, a dresden plate) but then really mess with them and make them my own. It’s the balance of what was, my interpretation of that and then what I think is possible that keeps me excited about the work.
What do your choice of images mean to you? Its the emotion the image creates that I’m going for. Same with colors… I try not to see colors, I see emotions/feelings.
Do you look at your work with an eye toward it like what can and can’t be visually quoted? In other words what you will or won’t cut out? Absolutely. I keep an eye out for balance, what can and can’t be in there visually. What information works visually and what doesn’t.
Do you have any secrets in your work you will tell us? Not really… what you see is what you get.
How do you hope history treats your work? I hope my learning curve is treated with kindness. Put another way I hope the progression of my work is seen as moving towards something great and ever evolving. I hope it’s also noted that it takes tremendous guts to put the work out there as a guy who’s passionate about something that culturally is not seen as a guy’s thing. It has taken me years to ‘come out’ as a quilter and not hide behind a screen name (Quilting Cowboy) but rather stand on my own, be proud to be: “Dale Rowse, elfin’ rocking’, not your grandma’s bullshit kitty project, quilter”
Where can we find you and your work? You can Google ‘Quilting Cowboy’ and all my sites will come up. or go to: