You may remember a few weeks ago I purchased a beautiful painting of Iris Apfel from an artist I  found on Instagram. This artist is a young talent with her hands and all types of creative endeavors.

She even makes me want to pick up needlepoint again.

Enjoyed getting to know

Brooke Thorn McGowan

Burlington, Vermont

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What is your training? 

Formally, my artistic training is from St. Lawrence University (Canton, NY), Rhode Island School of Design (Providence, RI), the University of Georgia (The Lamar Dodd School in Cortona, Italy), The October Gallery (London, UK) and The Institute of Ecotechnics (London, UK)

This passion of mine has also taken me over the pond to over 25 cities in Europe including London, Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Edinburgh and Florence. My extended travels include a four month study abroad program in London, a four month internship in London and a three month artist residency in Cortona, Italy.

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What inspires you and your designs? 

When I’m getting after it in the studio, I pull inspiration from my travels and my surroundings. It comes from nature, colors, patterns, architecture, what I’m reading and definitely the music I’m listening to. My nomadic upbringing me has exposed me to a lot of different cultures and lifestyles so I definitely have a cosmopolitan/Grand Tour approach, mixing and matching old and new. I can honestly say that my works are bits and pieces of me and what I love in this world.

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What is your favorite piece? 

Last year, a few months before I graduated from college, I decided to do something I’d never done before. I was really nervous about graduating and had to create something for my senior show, so I was like, screw it, I’m going to try sculpture and build a big ass elephant. I have a bit of a “go big or go home” mentality so I built a life-sized elephant out of chicken wire, tulle, fishing line and spent bullet shells to discuss how the exotic animal trade industry has an impact on our eco-system. To give you an idea of size, it was nine feet tall, fourteen feet long and six feet wide.  It was certainly the elephant in the room… It was really fulfilling to not only educate people on the population decline of elephants, but to know that I could do something like that. Unfortunately, it was only a temporary piece and no longer exists, but it really taught me so much about myself and what I am capable of. 

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How has the your area influenced your work? 

I never thought I would move back to Vermont, but absolutely love living here. I love the mountains, I love the live music, I love the people. It is a truly magical place, but is also slow paced enough that it has allowed me to focus on my art and living in the present. It is very grounding, humbling and inspiring all at once.

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What is your favorite restaurant in Burlington?

There are so many yummy restaurants in Burlington, but I think my absolute favorite is The Farmhouse. In Vermont, farm to table is a bit of a given. I grew up having a farmers’ market across the street, picking herbs from my parents’ gardens and collecting eggs from our chickens in my back yard so I definitely value knowing exactly where my food comes from. This philosophy is the heart of The Farmhouse as well as many of the other restaurants in town and it is a true luxury.

(Insert Portlandia jokes here)

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What is your favorite cocktail?

Champagne is my default setting. A girl can conquer anything with an open mind and a glass of Veuve Cliquot.

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How do you balance personal life and work?

I often struggle compartmentalizing my personal life and my work. At 23 years old, there is a lot of overlapping.  My parents raised me with the Marc Anthony quote, “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Because I love what I do, I have to constantly remind myself to break away from my work. However, the nature of my work does allow me to focus on my personal life when I want to. For example, my boyfriend lives about three hours away in Boston, focusing on building a sensor that detects and collects microplastic in the ocean. Cool, right? His schedule is much less flexible than mine so it is nice that I can be like, “Okay Brooke, you need to hide in your studio and crank out some work for a few days so you can enjoy your time in Boston.” The separation that comes with long distance is actually a blessing because it allows us to focus on our work so that when we do see each other, we can unplug and focus on the time we do have. 

I have also been known to be a bit nocturnal- so fun fact: most of my paintings have actually been painted at 3 am so that I can sleep until noon, and meet friends for lunch or go snowboarding.

Dream trip?

I want to see it all, but for right now, I’m dying to go to Iceland! And then I would shamelessly love to go everywhere HBO films Game of Thrones

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 Dream commission?

Let’s just say I have BIG plans for the windows at Bergdorf Goodman if ever given the opportunity.

Your favorite host / hostess gift to give?

It really depends on the occasion. I really love to add personal, Vermont touches to my gifts. They are not your average gifts, but if I am in a rush, or going to a low key gathering, I have found that a dozen farm fresh eggs tied with a velvet ribbon goes a long way. If the hostess is throwing a big dinner party, I love to bring a basket of homemade muffins for breakfast the next day. If the party is hosted by, well, a host, some of the coveted Heady Topper is my secret weapon. 

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Who is your style icon?

Amanda Brooks hands down.

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She defines her own style on her own terms. I have read both of her books (gifted by my mother) and have never identified with someone more in terms of philosophies of style, living, and travel.

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I am also seriously crushing on Emma Watson’s mission to bring sustainable fashion to the red carpet. She is my ultimate girl crush and I love that she is using her platform to tackle social and environmental issues.  Read about it HERE.

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Your favorite up and coming artist?

Donald Robertson aka @Drawbertson. I have been following him via Instagram for years and have been incredibly inspired watching him grow as an artist. Dude, I hope that one day, I could design something Princes Eugenie would wear… I also get a kick out of his twin boys as I have blonde, identical twin brothers.

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What is your most treasured possession?

My passport. I cannot emphasize enough how much traveling has shaped me as both an artist and a human being. There’s a saying, “travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer, ” and I couldn’t agree more.

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What are you reading?

Dork alert: I am a BIG reader and constantly have a stack on my night stand. Currently, I am flipping through a biography on Robert Plant,  

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One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez 

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and Ivory Vikings: The Mystery of The Most Famous Chessmen in The World and the Women Who Made Them. I am OBSESSED with the show Vikings (History Channel) and love the air of mystery around the history so I’ve been getting my nerd on.

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What are you listening to?

Oh man, that’s a tough one because I have like 80 playlists on Spotify… My music taste is quite diverse, ranging from Duke Ellington to Kendrick Lamar to Lake Street Dive. But, if I had to pick one, Odesza’s In Return is my go to when I’m in the studio. I’m seeing the duo this weekend at Boston Calling so I have been preparing accordingly!

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What are your favorite blogs / publications?

I really love The LaLa, The Jungalow, Refinery 29, Kelly Golightly and of course, The English Room <3 

In fact, The Lala just did a feature on a contemporary needlepoint brand I co-founded, Tess & Thorn

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A look at Brooke’s portfolio…

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And my favorite piece in my own collection….

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Follow Brooke on her website, Instagram and follow Tess & Thorn on Instagram

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