By Teresa Hartford

Utah native and Salt Lake City-based artist Marcus Cline lives his life founded on the outdoors—which is represented in his work.

Cline has a long history as a whitewater guide, experienced rock climber, skier, and outdoor educator. His lifestyle inspires his art and vice versa. And the art he creates is often a reflection of the adventures he pursues.

Using a broad range of mediums, Cline’s work is expressive and detail-oriented. Open to new artistic challenges, Cline recently partnered with Kokatat and 10 of Kokatat’s elite paddlers to create the artwork for the limited edition Maximus Centurion PFD, shown in Today’s post. The vest is not only functional but reflects the heritage and spirit of paddling with aesthetic appeal. 

“We’ve taken the incredible talents of Marcus Cline and applied them to one of our best-selling life vests to make a colorful and unique product that captures the essence of paddling. These limited edition vests are as functional as they are beautiful.” —Shannon Finch, Art Director + Brand Manager, Kokatat

Embroidered and Screen Printed on the vest are 10 elements, shown in the photos below, that represent something significant and personal in the lives of the 10 Kokatat elite pro whitewater athletes who took part in the project.

for Nouria Newman represents her childhood skiing in the French Alps which led to her passion for adventure in the mountains and rivers.
Cactus for Mexican native Rafa Ortiz represents home.

Chasing Rainstorms for Dane Jackson represents his life-long passion for chasing them.
River Salmon for Gerd Serrasolses tells the story of his long-distance travels but always returning home.

Tehipite Valley, part of the middle Kings, is close to where Evan Moore grew up on the Kern River and represents his upbringing as a kayaker.
Van by the River for Emily Jackson tells the story of her growing up on the road traveling to kayak with her family.

Hiking Kayaker for Ben Stookesberry represents his passion for adventure that often takes him long distances on remote rivers.
The Raven, for Oregon native Chris Korbulic, tells the story of his upbringing in the Pacific Northwest.

Pictograms Chiribiquete are symbolic of Jules Domine’s time spent in Colombia discovering new rivers while studying native culture and habitat and where he is currently working on his latest project.
Southern Cross, for New Zealander Jordy Seale, means home.

Early this morning we had the pleasure to speak with Jeff Turner, Director of Sales and Shannon Finch, Art Director + Brand Manager, for Kokatat for a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the Limited Edition Maximus Centurion PFD.

Is the vest a one-of-a-kind piece of art or to be used and loved? JT | The art that Marcus Cline developed for us in this collaboration was over-the-top. We are very excited about what he developed.

Focusing on our community, we are a paddlesports company, we anticipate that the vest will be actively worn by people who are paddling whether they be professional guides or general consumers. But we also hear from people who have seen that vest, that they will hang it up on a wall because it’s a beautiful piece. We see that blend of active use as well as something that people will treasure as an art piece.

Limited-edition is not something that has not been done before in the industry. This is the first though for Kokatat.

SF | We think that the vest will be used more than will be displayed. The paddling industry is super-excited to have a piece that’s a standout and being that the vest is limited-edition, is extra-exciting because once the vest is gone, it’s gone. That adds another reason to have one especially with the way it turned out.

Will the vests be numbered? Where can you buy them? JT | We see the vest as a useful piece of equipment and the way we will approach the market. We haven’t numbered the vest as a limited-edition. Quantities will be limited to 400-to-500 SKUs and available at retail early- to mid-March 2020 through our specialty brick & mortar retail partners and 

Will you expand on the limited-edition concept on the vest or another product? Yes, we are talking about future versions, but we want to be careful not to create a flood in the marketplace so the vest, or other vests, becomes not as unique and as important.

In terms of the actual construction of the vest, were there any design changes? JT | This year we did make an update to the overall Centurion platform for 2020 but because it’s a life jacket, the certifications limit the number of changes we can make. There is a new pocket design on the limited-edition version.

The Centurion is one of the pinnacle products in the whitewater and swift water rescue categories. It is the highest-rated flotation vest, Type 5, in this category under the U.S. and Canadian Coastguard regulations.

Shannon, as Art Director on the project, can you share the background behind the concept for the vest’s artwork? I came up with the concept to tie all of our elite paddlers together and to tell their stories through the use of symbols.

Marcus and I paddle together, and I admire his work. I knew he was a great choice for creating the art that would tell their stories and that would work into a piece that would allow you to dive deeper and look from afar and appreciate both his work and the athlete’s lives. And, with their input, Marcus really nailed it.

As a company, we had been talking about creating a limited edition piece, and I started to think about all of the elements that make our brand great. We work with so many amazing elite, top-tier athletes. Telling their stories and celebrating them as a whole, as opposed to one individual or just the company, built the momentum for the creation of the vest.

This specific set of athletes are pretty incredible for many reasons including what they are doing in the whitewater world. They are at the top-of-their-game. It is incredibly exciting to tell their stories in this art piece. And they’re excited about it, too.

Were you also closely involved in where the graphics were applied on the vest? Yes. We asked the athletes to give us three different symbols. From there, Marcus and I sifted through and came up with what we thought were the 10 best elements. Marcus really owned that part of the project. Then, as we came up with what the symbols would be to represent the athletes in the presentation on the Vest, I assisted Marcus and our design team in selecting embroidery versus screen print application and locations on the vest. It was a very collaborative process to make sure all of the artwork fit the PFD.

When you hold the vest, the juxtaposition of embroidered with screen printed elements adds dimension between the highs and the lows, and really makes each symbol stand out. The mixed media adds something special to the piece.

Photos courtest Kokatat