After Los Angeles based set designer Troy Murrah’s mother passed away, he transitioned careers from designing at Cirque Du Soleil to creating custom “built quilts” in memory of his mother. In tribute to his late mothers’ love for quilting, Troy used leftover scrap wood, metal, and textiles to create hangable wall “quilts” through his brand Built Quilts. His artistry is the result of a personal connection he had, but his product carries emotion, inventiveness, and innovation to buyers around the country who bring life to their walls with Murrah’s projects. Together with his wife, Troy heads Built Quilts, a brand that sells handmade wall art, along with coordinating wood-carved candle holders, centerpieces, and tealights. Chat with Murrah this Maker Monday and learn about his secret talents and favorite podcasts. Intricate engravings and a bright yellow backdrop make Murrah’s “Station Wagon Under the Pines.” Symmetry is everything, especially in this Lone Star-inspired “Go West Mary” design.
Andrew Joseph – How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Troy Murrah – To me, it’s not possible to maintain a work/life balance; even while I’m living “life”, I’m working… working in my head, but I guess I don’t really consider it “work”…creating and making is my life… apart from my family and making music, it’s what I love about life the most. In a way, even making and growing a family is a creative collaboration with my wife.
Andrew – Dream country to work in? Or a dream project to take on.
Troy – My dream country to work in and dream project to take on? Easy. Italy… My dream project would be to get commissioned to do wall hanging pieces for when someone finally decides to renovate the great example of Italian Brutalist architecture––the Marchiondi Spagliardi Institute in Milan by Vittoriano Vigano. Seriously, I’ll book my flight right away.
Andrew – What’s inspiring you in life (in the industry) right now?
Troy – As mentioned above, Brutalist Architecture, and also traditional Amish quilt blocks are what I find most inspiring in my life right now. I’m in awe of Brutalism’s use of raw materials and leaving them raw, and how the final product comes out refined with clean lines done with an honest, no-nonsense composition. No wasted processes. You can basically see the same thing in the layout of an old Amish quilt.
Andrew – What are some of the podcasts you listen to and why?
Troy – Podcasts/audio are essential during my “work” day since my eyes are busy on the material I’m cutting during fabrication or on the paper while I’m drawing. I listen to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History a lot. Great in-depth, unbiased stories of history ranging from Julius Caesar and his run-ins with Celtic tribes to memoirs of soldiers from the Great War. A lot of lessons learned about leading… this comes in handy when trying to get the best production from a crew (or yourself) while maintaining good morale and camaraderie. Smiles on faces while knowing what you’re working on is important. The memoirs help remind me that even the toughest of deadlines is nothing compared to what some other humans had to go through in our past. Feeling sorry for yourself is a waste of time. For a little more light-hearted listening, I go with Spittin’ Chiclets––a hockey podcast. It features interviews with former and present players, telling stories of working hard and partying hard. Usually, stories like those are entertaining and hilarious… and again, more talk of teamwork and camaraderie.
Andrew – Best way to take a rest/decompress?
Troy – A day in the mountains with the family and sitting in front of a fireplace sippin’ on a nice whiskey or wine. If that’s not possible, then as simple as building Hot Wheels tracks or something out of Legos with my kids and playing the guitar.
Andrew – A skill you’re working on mastering?
Troy – Slide guitar. Even though I have been playing for years almost every day I am still at it. Featuring tiny Marias, this “The Sound of Music” inspired built quilt is aptly titled “Doe, A Deer.”
About Troy Murrah | Combining inherited family skills of quilting and carpentry, Los Angeles-based artist Troy Murrah uses thousands of wood fragments, cut from leftover remnants, to construct elaborate wall hangings that replicate traditional quilt patterns. Take a closer look, and find engravings of wallpaper designs—illustrated & designed by the artist using imagery influenced by his past. Troy holds a BFA in Studio Art from the University of Texas, Austin. He has 20+ years working in production and set design working on projects such as Cirque du Soleil, The Man Show, and commercials for Sony, Adidas, and Nike, building and designing recording studios, and saving up material (wood, metal, doors, window frames, etc.) leftover from jobs along with discarded cabinetry and shelving left on the roadside. Initially intended as a way to feel close to his mother (quilter, designer, author, and art educator Judy Murrah) after her passing, Troy’s ‘built quilts’ ended up being a great way to use up the salvaged material and bring new life to the old. Pieces range in size from 12″x12″ to 7’x6′. Currently, he takes commissions and produces a line of décor with his wife Michelle through his brand Built Quilt. When he is not working on art, he’s playing music with his two-person band RESTAVRANT. See & learn more at builtquilt.com. Find him on some social media @builtquilt
About Andrew Joseph | Andrew Joseph’s passion for design and rich journalistic history led to the launch of his boutique PR firm in 2012. Prior to enjoying the successes of Andrew Joseph PR, Andrew honed his editorial skills at Vanity Fair and Allure. This experience, as well as the strong network of contacts developed over the years in public relations, brings a valuable edge to his new role as contributing editor. Let the musing begin.
Like what you see? Get it first with a subscription to ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME magazine.