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Derrick Castle is an illustrator based in Nashville, Tennessee. His design moniker Straw Castle began as a small independent clothing line which has since expanded to cater to high profile clients like Van Halen, Neil Young, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Def Leppard, and Ted Nugent. He brings his considerable talent to Urban Threads in the form of something new for him, an epic patch design influenced by his interests in Native Americana.

Derrick's "Tribal Seal" is available as a freestanding patch design for machine embroidery (you can stitch it on fabric too), and as a hand embroidery pattern.

Tell us a bit about your background -- what led you into art?

I’m a Nashville based designer/illustrator that has been in the design industry professionally for 14 years now. I have mostly been working with in-house design groups on website design and UX strategies.

Just in the past 5-6 years I started focusing on the illustrative side of things, freelancing under the studio name Straw Castle. I believe the strength and stability of having a full time in-house position freed me up to be able to pursue that work, which in the beginning was pretty elusive.

When I was growing up, I always wanted to be an artist, I think it was just important to find a practical application of the things I was interested in. As I grew older I found commercial and web design was the best way for me to make a living and give me the freedom over the course of time to purse my passion for illustration.

Tell us a bit about your patch design and the story behind it.

Recently I’ve been getting more and more into the old tribal Americana aesthetic. I'm looking to create a style that’s reminiscent of post-Civil War America. I've always been fascinated by that part of American history.

I love all the old western movies and the themes of soldiers coming home from war and setting out for the west to make a better life for themselves. I have this whole narrative in my head; this design is a part of supporting that story.

What inspires your designs?

I’m inspired by everything in life. I live on the outside of Nashville, TN. There are a lot of rural areas around here where time has seemed to forgotten. Lots of farmers harvesting their tobacco crops the old fashioned way.

As the sun is setting red, orange and yellow, beautiful landscapes of weather worn tobacco barns smoking their seasonal yield, with their smoke trailing off into the distance. Words can’t even do this sight justice.

My inspirations come from scenes like these as well as all of southern Americana’s ghosts.

What’s your studio/workspace like?

I work out of my house. Since I primarily work on my illustration work in the evenings and weekends and I’m gone all day, I felt like it was important to set up shop at home with the kids. I want them to feel like they are important and a part of the process. My little girls will frequently sit down next to me and draw the anatomical skull cast that I have sitting on my desk for reference. It’s pretty funny actually.

With that being said, I needed a creative atmosphere so I got to work on building out a “Hemingway-esque” type study. I have two sturdy bookcases stretching floor to ceiling, filled with the carved blocks from my block printing process. The shelves are also lined with books from antiquity and old 20th century resource materials. Centered between these bookcases is an enormous taxidermied wild black boar.

I have additional taxidermied pieces as well as skulls from beasts that have passed on through time. You will also see thick golden embellished picture frames stretching across the walls displaying pen and ink artwork much like you would see lining an old staircase in a haunted mansion.

What’s your favorite handmade craft you’ve ever made?

My favorite handmade craft would not be a single item, it would be the whole block printing process in general. Block printing is definitely taken on more of a focus here as of late. What drew me to the block printing process was the ability to create reproducible artwork in a traditional primitive method. Each print is a unique piece of art on its own.

Finally, if you were a Crayola color, what color would you be?

If you are asking me what Crayola color I would be… it would be Black. If you were to ask me what color of paper stock, I would say Black Liquorice. Why? Because it sounds so much cooler.

You can see more of Derrick’s work on his website Straw Castle, or check out his Etsy store for goodies you can buy, including an awesome tee of this patch design.

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