California-based artist and designer Bridgette Thornton started taking painting seriously all the way back in 8th grade. “That age was very intense for me socially and academically. Art making was not only an emotional outlet but made me feel empowered,” she says. “As a child my mom would always have me working on a craft. Whenever I wanted to buy something, instead of purchasing it from the store, she would say, ‘you could make that!'” This early encouragement sparked a smart painting and product designing career; her flirty florals can now be found on cheery Anthropologie products like plates, shower curtains and more. Her professional savvy also means she gets to work from the comfort—and beauty—of her own home. Here’s how she made her version of the work from home dream work:
Start With a Broad Foundation of Experience
How does one go from a love of painting in middle school to an envy-inducing professional life that includes getting to work from a sunny home studio? Thornton majored in the fine arts while at the California College of the Arts, and when it came time to find an internship, she turned to the corporate world. “I loved fashion, so the summer before my last year at CCA I interned for the clothing company Tart Collections. During this internship I participated in styling photo shoots, creating marketing content and photo editing. I also painted patterns for textile designs,” says Thornton. While here, she created a textile design from one of her floral water color paintings that ended up getting printed on a bathrobe and nightgown set. “This experience solidified my thoughts on how valuable painting and art can be when intertwined with fashion and home decor.”
Persistence Pays Off
Seeking out broader (but related) experiences and skills beyond just putting paint on canvas seems to have been a key to her career successes early on. After graduating from CCA, Thornton says she moved to Malibu and interned for Honolua Surf Company, a small graphic t-shirt company owned by Billabong. One quality that carried her through it all: determination. “I was always a huge fan of the fact that Serena & Lily sold original art on their website and not prints. I think that original artwork brings more richness, warmth and history to a space,” she says. “In college I reached out to Serena & Lily multiple times via email, trying to sell my work on their site. Finally, once I moved to LA and emailed them probably for the forth of fifth time, they said I could be one of their represented artists. That was back in 2014, and I have been selling my original paintings there ever since… power of persistence!”
Build Confidence to Make the Change
A few years ago, Thornton found herself pulling double duty: working in advertising on e-comm and editorial photo shoots at BCBG Max Azria, while painting in her free time and selling her work at outdoor art markets. And markets like Abbot Kinney Festival and Artists & Fleas in Venice Beach became a career turning point.
“Through showing my art locally and selling at these art markets, I gained the confidence to quit my corporate job in fashion and pursue painting full time,” she says. “In July 2017, Anthropologie reached out to me! Over eight months we created an Artist Collaboration product line featuring my artwork on over 30 home products. I also sell four art prints with them!”
But Make Sure You Feel This Way First:
When it comes to sharing advice to others thinking about trying to work from home, Thornton had this to say: “The timing will never feel 100% perfect to quit a stable job and pursue something you love. I recommend making the leap into working from home, or pursuing your passion, only if you strongly feel you can’t live another day working for someone else. Towards the end of my time working in my corporate job, I would dread driving to work everyday.
“This feeling was not because I didn’t like the work, but because it was taking time away from my passion of painting. If you are an artist I also recommend getting your work out into the public before making any drastic life changes. I always tell younger artists to try and hang their art in cafes and restaurants. Doing this allows you start thinking about your work in spaces beyond the studio.”
Will she ever go back to working in a “regular” office again? Thornton doesn’t think so. “I was telling my friend the other day about how I love making my own schedule. Eliminating the stress of getting to an ofﬁce was life changing for me. I love how working from home allows me to be more in tune with myself. I’m less tired and less stressed, which enhances the quality of my painting practice.”
*This interview has been edited for clarity and length.