Flower Girl: Bridgette Thornton
Moraga artist Bridgette Thornton debuts a colorful home-decor collection for a major national retailer this month.
Thornton, sitting in front of her paintings, regards flowers as vessels "to express what I want in paint. They’re a great way to work with color, texture, and form.”
Photo by Terry Riggins
When Bridgette Thornton was in eighth grade, she walked into an Anthropologie store and made a wish. “One day, I want my artwork here,” she recalls thinking. “One day, I will do this.”
Now, 13 years later, Thornton’s dream has come true. Anthropologie sells prints of her botanical paintings, and she’s collaborated with the retailer on a collection of home accessories featuring her artwork. Thornton’s floral imagery will appear on pillows, shower curtains, cups, bed linens, and more items launching nationwide this month in Anthropologie’s stores and online.
Although she’s only 26, this success has been a long time coming. She started making art consistently in elementary school, and by eighth grade it had become her escape. “It was sort of like art therapy,” says Thornton. “[It] helped me feel so empowered and really calmed me.”
By the time she got to college—Thornton attended California College of the Arts in Oakland and San Francisco—she was selling her paintings at local restaurants, including Chow in Lafayette and Rick and Ann’s in Berkeley, and interning for the fashion brand Tart Collections in Walnut Creek. “I was on the digital-marketing team, but I was also allowed to do paintings that were then turned into [textile] prints. One was actually put into production,” recalls Thornton, noting that the experience helped her “see the way that art and business could interact.”
That led to a full-time job at the high-street fashion label BCBG Max Azria in Los Angeles, but the 12-hour workdays and two-hour-plus daily commute began to take a toll on Thornton, so she turned to painting once again as her escape. Still inspired to create commercial art, she persistently e-mailed the retailer Serena and Lily about selling her paintings on their website—and after several attempts to reach them, they finally agreed. That win motivated Thornton to take a leap of faith and quit her fashion job to make art full-time.
Now living in Moraga and painting in a Berkeley studio, Thornton sells her work at Artfully Walls and HomeGoods, in addition to Serena and Lily and Anthropologie. She also collaborates with interior designer Leslie Price, producing custom artwork for Price’s clients. The alliance suits Thornton’s artistic process well. “I do think of my pieces in the space that they’ll eventually live in,” she explains. “I feel like my work is aimed toward a buyer who is styling their home.”
Price—who displays Thornton’s paintings in her Lafayette showroom, Price Style and Design—thinks Thornton has a natural design sensibility. “Her colorful floral paintings are balanced with just enough white space so that the eye is not overwhelmed,” Price says. “People feel happy when they view her work. Simply put, her art is joyful.”
Perhaps that’s why Thornton’s imagery is such a perfect fit for Anthropologie—a retailer known for its colorful, feminine aesthetic. After working with the brand on its line of home wares, Thornton has been inspired to create her own products, such as pillows, phone cases, and stationery. She’s also drawn to interior design, she says, “but if I had to keep things simple and only keep making paintings, I’d be totally fine with that, too.” .