Meet Brooke: The artist behind Thorn Alexander
Meet Brooke: The artist behind Thorn Alexander.

You're likely familiar with her whimsical wild animals and her elegant patterned canvases. Brooke was one of the first artists to join the KCN Designers Collective of Artists when it launched back in 2019. Needlepoint Today we're sitting down with her to learn more about her background and design process. We know you'll love getting to know her better too!

Tell us about yourself, Brooke. Where do you consider home? 
Although I currently live on Vancouver Island in Canada, throughout my life, home has been more of a feeling than a place. 
I have been privileged enough to have moved over twenty times to seventeen different towns/cities and have lived in four different countries (including the US). For me, the feeling of home can be accomplished with a warm cup of coffee, a good book, a fun needlepoint project, a camera, a beautiful landscape to explore, and wonderful company of friends, old and new. 
On the road, on the mountain, or living out of a duffel is when I feel the most alive; hearing stories, exploring foodie treats and listening to local live music.
I'm more of a Hallie than an Annie, but do appreciate finery and fashion. 

What was your first experience with needlepoint? Are you a stitcher yourself?
With several generations of needlepointers in my family on both sides and my stepfather's, I have been around it my entire life. I have fond memories of playing on the beaches of AYC, ACK, and Martha's Vineyard as a child while my mother stitched. I also love that we still get to cuddle up to pillows my grandmother made at the cottage, years after her passing.
It wasn't until I left for Europe for eight months in college that my mom really made the push for me to stitch. With five brothers, I was her "only hope" in continuing the favored family past time. Little did she know I would take it this far and that my little sister would join in on the fun!
As an art history major and oil painter/fine art student at the time, I loved that I could create with ease whenever and wherever life took me. My first project was a bumblebee from In Stitches Fine Needlepoint in my hometown Dorset, Vermont and I brought it with me to Europe. I first gave it a go on a rainy day in London, looking to unwind after work. I finished in Venice, Italy when my mom came to visit. We were lounging in our hotel room, both stitching after a long day exploring the city and enjoying a champagne nightcap at Harry's Bar. I haven't looked back since. 
I am still an avid stitcher and paint nearly every day, just in a different context.

Did you have another career prior to starting your canvas line? 
Oh gosh, I didn't have a particular career yet as I was twenty-two, but I have had many, many jobs. 
I have been a nanny (for several years for several families), worked in admissions at my alma mater, worked in a bookstore, worked in an art gallery in London, joined a hippie commune, worked in interior design, worked as a camp counselor, a volunteer photographer for BIPOC movements, you name it! Each job humbled me and taught me a world of life lessons that I carry with me through each phase of my life.
It all comes down to connecting with people and determining common ground of what people love whilst cultivating compassion.
When I am not designing for various outlets like KCN Designers, I moonlight as a romance novel book reviewer (before they're published), a freelance illustrator and freelance creative director.
I was 22 when I started designing and certainly had a completely different outlook on life with a rebellious edge. At the time, I wanted to make art so I could travel and go to music festivals lol. I'll be getting married in October and will be turning 30 in November, so time has changed things! I find that my style has reverted more towards my heritage, history and evolved interests. It's fun to have the capacity to reflect on how my work has matured as I have.
I can't believe it has been *just* over seven years since I designed my first canvas.

What led you to start creating your own designs and painting canvases?
The tiny village of Dorset, Vermont is a secret gold mine for needlepoint!* 
In short, I was inspired by Tarra of Pip & Roo.
She and my mom have known eachother since Piper (Pip) and I were babies and we have had twenty years of wonderful overlap between our families in Southern Vermont.
In 2015, fresh out of University, uninspired by needlepoint offerings, my mom told me that Tarra designed personal projects on blank canvas. I had been an avid painter since I was a young teen and primarily studied oil painting in school. It was a seamless transition. 
Putting brush to needlepoint canvas, I painted myself a pink and purple Biggie Smalls, just for me. Or so I thought.
While stitching in airports, several people came up to me to ask me where I got my canvas. I had stars in my eyes. One stitcher in particular, Lauren Garvey, made a big impression on me while waiting for a flight to Northern Michigan. She made me feel like I could really do something with this idea and I never forgot it. Kindness matters. Being generous with others when something delights you matters.
In 2015, the niche gap had yet to be filled. I was already selling my paintings online and it seemed like a natural fit. Despite over a decade of practice and hard work, I feel so privileged to have a natural knack at creative endeavors and wanted my peers to feel the same fulfillment, pride and solace in their own creations. Needlepoint appeared to be the *perfect* vehicle to inspire folks who perhaps did not identify as being creative. It's also simply a great outlet for unplugging and is inherently sustainable. 
I was met with some resistance at first as some folks were not pleased with forward thinking methods, but I powered through and hopefully helped pave the way for newer designers.
The community aspect was a wonderful surprise I never imagined, truly gold dust.
*Maria Timmerman of In Stitches (Dorset, VT) and Beth Nagle of Doolittle Stitchery were incredibly generous mentors and I am very grateful for their guidance in the early days.

Tell us more about your designs! How do you decide what to paint?
I love the quote by Frida Kahlo and it rings true for me:

“I paint my own reality. The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration."- Frida Kahlo 

I am incessantly curious and a true philomath, chasing down each rabbit hole to new ideas and interests. Reading between the lines of what I love at the moment, I determine a vision and run with my imagination. 
In all honesty, I see images in my head and just cross my fingers that I can not only do them justice, but that other people will love them, too. For me, the most important part of the process is exploring inspiration outside of your field or industry, to discern your own style and allow it all to flourish. It's good to go back and check your work against various databases to ensure that you're not infringing copyright.your work is uniquely yours. I often turn to nature, music, fashion and books for inspiration.
Most importantly, behind the colourful designs and outdoor photographs on my IG, creating art is how I cope with what the world throws at me. Turning adversity into art has been a very cathartic process for me since I was a child. It serves as an escape and an inner exploration of truth, allowing me to turn a broken heart into something beautiful. For example, my colorful Edgartown Lighthouse design was how I coped with the loss of a dear family member as that signifier was a symbol of many happy summers together as a family. Whether you realize it or not, there is an immense amount of thoughtfulness and heart put into my work.
If you know me in real life, I wear my heart on my face and with my words, with full transparency. If you know my work, I wear my heart on my sleeve and transcend it through color and my paint brush.
Do you have a favorite canvas or design, or something you can't wait to stitch for yourself?
There are two backgammon boards that I am over the moon to share with y'all, stay tuned! This next collection includes some of my favorite work to date, a lot of which I have kept secret for over two years! In all honesty, I don't think I have designed my pièce de résistance yet and find magic and comfort in that truth.
Wholesalers click here to shop all of Brooke's new designs!

If you are a stitcher, shop through your favorite Local Needlepoint Shop!
July 15, 2022 — Polly Kramer
Tags: Interviews