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Robin Pickens: Celebrities, Flowers, and Fabric Design

Robin Pickens: Celebrities, Flowers, and Fabric Design

Written by: 
Linzee McCray

Can you design with the both Kardashians and Moda in mind? If you’re Robin Pickens, the answer is a definite YES!

Robin signed on as a Moda designer in 2015 after winning the Moda and Spoonflower Fabric8 design competition from a field of nearly 800 entries. At the time she was doing broadcast design graphics for television, including for E! Entertainment and other channels:  she still takes on assignments during the stations’ busy times of year and creates graphics for Kardashian specials, celebrity reveals, and other specials.

Still images from the work Robin did over the years for E! Entertainment network. "I think it's interesting to see the visual crossover between something like 50 Shocking Celebrity Confessions and quilt design!" says Robin.

(Broadcast design graphics includes animations showing lights glinting off a logo or backgrounds that move over video footage.) It sounds complicated and it is, but Robin’s discovered that the linear-thinking skills she’s developed translate well to quilt design. More on that in a minute…

Robin grew up in Michigan and Chicago, where she learned to sew from her mother who quilted—Robin still has her mom’s first yellow-and-green log cabin.

Robin's mom's first quilt, which Robin still has, and the sewing machine she used to make it.

After Robin moved to southern California the two of them took a class at a local quilt shop. “I thought it would be a fun mother-daughter thing to do while she was visiting and it was,” says Robin of that class nearly 17 years ago. “But that was also the point where things shifted for me.” Robin started taking other classes—on improv and free motion quilting, among others—and started wondering who designed all those quilt fabrics. She couldn’t find the exact fabric she wanted, so she drew with Sharpie pens on the fabric she had in her stash. And she took classes in surface design at OTIS College of Art and Design. “I loved them,” says Robin. “I’d be gone all Saturday at class and then I’d come home and for every assignment I’d create three things.”

Robin discovered Spoonflower and started entering the fabric design competitions. “They were really fun and forced me to do different kinds of work,” she says. When she saw the Fabric8 competition, she was thrilled. “Moda was a top dream company to work for and I was so motivated I stayed up til 4 a.m. to get my repeats just right and turned in on time,” she says. “The hours were crazy but I was determined. And it was worth it.”

Her win resulted in her first line, Poppy Mae followed by Blushing Peonies.

Robin's Harlequin pattern made in her Dear Mum line

Her latest line, Dear Mum, is in stores now. And at Quilt Market in May, her latest fabrics will be revealed. “I’m really excited about it, it’s such a happy line,” she says.

Nature is a continuing source of inspiration for Robin’s fabric designs. “I live in southern California where its dry and desert-y so the fabrics are my way of having an English-style garden,” she says. “Flowers lift my spirit.”

Robin's Tokyo Terrace in her 1960s-era home
Equalizer adorns a wall in Robin's home

No doubt the art and music that fill her southern California home provide additional exuberance—Robin and her husband, also a broadcast graphic designer, enjoy taking on redecorating projects in their 1960s-era abode. Her daughter sews, knits, embroiders, and does illustration work and her son plays double bass in youth and school orchestras and jazz and rock bands.

Her husband is also a musician and recently bought Robin two vintage Singer sewing machines, including a Featherweight she named Celeste. “The man he bought them from said ‘How nice you support your wife’s interests,’ and my husband said “She supports mine, too!”

Robin's Blockstep pattern made in Blushing Peonies

In addition to her fabric lines, Robin’s created multiple patterns. Designing quilts wasn’t something she realized she’d be doing, but those broadcast design skills have proven to translate well into this aspect of her new career. “There’s a huge crossover between visualizing something and thinking about how to put it together,” says Robin. “When I first started doing patterns, it was like figuring out a puzzle—it’s very logical. It’s similar to animation work in that they both require linear thinking.”

Because most of her quilt-making experience was improv quilting, Robin hadn’t used a lot of patterns and says her own designs reflect that. “They’re beginner-friendly because that’s how I think,” she says. She works with a pattern editor and crowd sources them with her mom, sister, and folks at her local quilt shop. “At times it’s a collaborative process and that’s been very exciting.” As her skill set grows, her patterns are growing more complex. “I made 14 quilts last year,” she says. “At this point, I’m no longer a beginner.”

You can find Robin on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/robin.pickensand on Instagram at @robinpickens

You can find her patterns at local quilt shops and through her web site, www.robinpickens.com



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