Paint + Petals: Artist Bridgette Thornton on Her Anthropologie Houseware Collab (and Picnic-Party Tips)


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Bridgette Thornton for Anthropologie: Paint + Petals picnic party.

Photo courtesy of Bridgette Thornton.

Just the mention of floral decor will often bring our dear grannies to mind—or at least their living rooms, trimmed with pansy wallpaper borders and rose-clad tea sets. But then someone young and modern freshens up our image of florals and our passion for pansies is rekindled. This is probably what the buyers at Anthropologie, the retail chain that forever encapsulates the cool, vintage edge of granny chic, thought of artist Bridgette Thornton when they spied her botanical prints on their sales floor.

How the prints got there is a long, wending tale, but the gist is a third-party art distributor picked up the 26-year-old artist’s work and arranged the sale of several of her illustrations in Anthro stores. Fortunately, the artwork piqued the artist collaboration team’s interest—and a capsule housewares collection was launched. It was everything Bridgette had worked toward since first visiting an Anthropologie store as a teenager. An avid believer in vision boards, she might even tell you she “manifested” the collection. And now that Nordstrom carries a curated assortment of Anthropologie Home, you can find and buy the whimsical, colorful pieces—from throw pillows and quilts to dishware and phone cases—on our site.

We recently caught up with the Bay Area native to discuss inspiration and career motivation. Oh, and picnic menus—seeing as the collection’s melamine dishes literally deliver summer parties on a platter. (Bridgette and her boyfriend even created a delightful dining-al-fresco video for our viewing pleasure!)

Video courtesy of Bridgette Thornton.

Nordstrom: How did painting florals become your thing?

Bridgette: There were two things that made me change my major to painting and drawing. One was in the summers, during college, I would go to Lake Tahoe, where some younger cousins lived, and I would put on an all-girls art camp. So I’d have their friends come to the house—I would have about 20 girls come for a few days—and I would teach them how to paint. The camp was called Camp Wildflower, and everything was flower themed, which was kind of a good way to make my projects a little bit more directed, and to give the camp a bit more structure for the girls. So we would do everything from making flowers out of paper to painting floral still lifes on canvas.

And then also during the summer, in college, I interned for a company called Tart Collections—they do women’s apparel. I was on the digital marketing team—however, I became close with the textile designer, and I did a couple of floral watercolor paintings [for her]. She showed me how to make them into repeat patterns and apply them to CAD drawings. And so, during my time at Tart, one of my paintings was actually put into production on a nightgown and robe sleep set. And that was a floral print, so that also solidified my love for flowers and painting—and just opened my eyes to how painting can be valuable in a corporate setting.

Photo courtesy of Bridgette Thornton.

Florals are a pretty popular subject matter for artists. But yours remind me of botanical prints that have been reworked in a modern, slightly eclectic style. What do you think draws people to your floral work in particular?

Well, I had those experiences that made me like working in florals. But I also feel like when you’re painting flower forms, it translates really well into textiles. It has sort of a loose structural quality, whereas a more architectural painting doesn’t translate as well when it’s applied to fabric. And so that’s why I enjoy working in these loose floral motifs, because I feel like it looks good when it’s applied to these other products.

I guess in my work, I try to keep the pieces really light and bright and fresh. And I do that by keeping a lot of the white paper showing. I think a lot of artists have a tendency to paint the whole canvas first, whereas I like to work on paper. And I like to keep a lot of the white paper showing, and the white paper can also make it like a bright negative space within the artwork.

Photo courtesy of Bridgette Thornton.

Not every artist has a chance to make a living out of what they do (or love). But obviously, you’re doing that. How do you think this has worked out for you? And what advice would you give to budding artists?

Well, I love the intersection of art and commerce. When I was in college—and still a graphic design major painting on the side—I would show my artwork at local cafés, so that’s definitely some advice I would give to an artist starting out. Just get your work out there into the public, and then you’re able to see what people gravitate towards, and that can kind of help shape your career. I really love art in restaurants, because you tend to get a lot more people viewing your work as opposed to having it in a gallery space—because nowadays I feel like not as many people are seeing work in galleries. They’re seeing it more incorporated into interior spaces or on Instagram. So definitely just getting your artwork out into the public.

I guess also, for me, back when I was just starting to make artwork, I always would think about the end goal. When I first started making art and I’d see art in Anthropologie stores, I just visualized and pictured my art in the Anthropologie stores, and that kind of helped me form what type of art I was making. It also gave me a kind of audience to think about when I was creating the artwork. So just thinking about what audience you’re targeting, and where you want to see your work end up.

Even though when you’re first starting out, it seems impossible, having that sort of as an end goal is really, really important because it just helps you be more directed on your path. A lot of times a creative career path can seem very unpaved and unpredictable, and that can be scary, especially as a young person pursuing something that isn’t considered really “normal.”

Photo courtesy of Bridgette Thornton.

I’m glad that you’re telling us this—I think our artist readers will appreciate the advice. Do you have a mentor yourself, someone who encouraged or motivated you? 

Not that I know personally, which is kind of a bummer. That’s why I’ve been trying to really act as that mentor to other people, even though I haven’t achieved everything I want in my career. I think just getting a foot in the door—Anthropologie and having products on the Nordstrom website—is definitely something that I dreamed of for a long time. So lately, I spoke at Santa Catalina high school for girls. It’s a boarding school in Monterey, and I spoke to five of their art classes and just made my Instagram and phone number available to them. And then I also just spoke at my old school, Campolindo High School, to two of their art classes.

And some artists that I’m inspired by are Lulie Wallace [who also collaborates with Anthropologie]. And Ashley Longshore. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Ashley, but she’s done an amazing job marketing herself. She just got a full page in The New York Times for her art, and then she also did a whole collaboration with Bergdorf Goodman, where she got a whole floor of their department store and sold her paintings through them. And then she also got to incorporate her paintings into their window displays. So although I don’t have a personal relationship with them, I definitely look up to quite a few artists like that. Just seeing what they’re able to achieve—it allows me to make new goals, bigger goals and then re-strategize based upon that type of stuff.

Some of the pieces in your Anthropologie collection—especially the dishes—are prime for a garden party or picnic scene. Can you help us out with a Paint + Petals picnic menu?

When I’m planning an outdoor summer picnic, the last thing I want to do is spend hours cooking in the kitchen. My favorite outdoor menu consists of fresh, healthy, beautiful food that I can serve to friends in a casual manner. I love to have bright fruit juice and plastic glasses for the beach! And I always make sure to have fresh strawberries or watermelon. I love the bright pop of color the fruit adds to my picnic display.

Photo courtesy of Bridgette Thornton.

The star of the show is always the cheese platter. I fill the platter with multiple kinds of cheese, crackers, bread, truffle honey and olives. I also use mixed greens, arugula, avocado, radishes and carrots to create a fresh summer salad. I make the salad dressing from scratch using olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Paint + Petals Cheese Platter:

  • Kalamata olives
  • Marcona almonds
  • Brie
  • Truffle honey
  • Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam triple-cream cheese

Paint + Petals Salad Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon whole-grain mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Juice from 1 lemon

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