Tess & Thorn
The Tenacious T's
Tess & Thorn is honestly a result of being lost in the right direction.
For their entire lives, the girls watched their mothers meticulously stitch and paint an array of needlepoint designs that now fill their homes. Due to the granny stigma and connotation with older generations, the girls were not easily convinced to pick up this art form by the request of their mothers.
After graduating from St. Lawrence University in 2015 with an Art History degree, Brooke Thorn McGowan decided to embrace the fact that she had no flipping clue what she wanted to do. She knew that she wanted to be a designer and to be her own boss, but wasn’t quite sure what she wanted her primary focus to be. So she decided to not limit herself and try as mediums as she could including metal casting, intaglio print making, graphic design and oil painting. When she finally agreed with her mother to take up needlepointing, she discovered that there were several benefits to needlepoint other than just the final product and wanted to encourage peers to do the same. In addition, it was a continuation of painting in a way that she can collaborate with stitchers around the globe.
Tess’s needlepoint roots are deeeeeeep. Tess’s mother has been a dope needlepoint designer for decades, known for her canvas line Doolittle Stitchery and previous work with Silver Needle. Nagle’s line features an array of ski mountains including Whistler, BC, Stratton, VT (our home mountain,) and Park City, UT.
The two girls met Summer of 2015 through the help of a local needlepoint shop owner who had been advising Brooke on her entrepreneurial endeavors. Due to Beth’s establishment as a needlepoint designer, Maria Timmerman of In Stitches (Dorset, VT,) felt Nagle could be a valuable mentor for Brooke.
It was during a studio visit that Brooke met her daughter, Tess. At the time, Tess was living in New Orleans and had been acting as an apprentice of sorts for her mother. The two hit it off right away and decided to pursue a partnership as young, female entrepreneurs.
Through their fresh-eyed look at the needlepoint industry, Tess & Thorn found that there was room for a revolution of sorts. Starting Tess & Thorn not only allows them to be creative and collaborative, but to make their mark on this ancient art form.
In the end, the girls found that the repetitive process of stitching is very meditative, therapeutic, and encourages deeper self-reflection.
Meet the Co-Founders
TESS Nagle, 32, is the daughter of Beth Nagle, a needlepoint designer and fine artist based in East Dorset, VT. Elizabeth’s popular needlepoint designs with Silver Needle and her wholesale line, Doolittle Stitchery, have graced the walls of needlepoint shops for decades.
Tugged by adventure, Tess has always been a traveler and a wanderer. She has lived in many different cities around the country including Los Angeles, CA and New Orleans, LA. In retrospect, she realizes that she had been searching for her “calling.” She recognized that she had a nagging creative urge but could never find the correct outlet. That is. Until now.
While living in New Orleans, her mother started to mention that she should try needlepointing as a stress reliever. In the past, Tess had always replied with a generous “Yeah, ok maybe.” She grew up around needlepoint. Her mom had designed and painted needlepoint for as far back as she could remember, but she never really imagined it actually playing a role in her life.
Flash forward to this fall of 2015 when Tess traveled north to East Dorset from New Orleans. She and her mother sat down and Tess finally gave in to testing the needlepoint waters for the first time. Love struck deep and Beth enthusiastically taught her everything from the basics of painting a canvas to the ins and outs of stitching. She was open to the idea of liking it, but little did she know she would fall madly in love with painting needlepoint. She knew from the first few stitches, she had found her calling.
Tess and Thorn’s statement which reads “on a mission to feed an age of addiction with some fresh threads and some soul stitching” really resonates with Tess. She herself, has been sober for three years now and has been intimate with the true meaning of addiction. Needlepoint for Tess is a way to bring life back to the present. To awaken and focus on every moment of life and observing her experiences. She truly hopes that their line, Tess & Thorn, can help other women do the same. Tess now lives in Boston with her fiancé (soon to be husband this summer!) and rescue cat, Greyjoy.
Brooke THORN McGowan, 24, is a painter and graphic designer from Dorset, Vermont. Due to her nomadic lifestyle and upbringing, Brooke’s artistic practice has been dedicated to exploring art’s interaction and reflection through various cultures in society. This interest is often depicted in her work through mixed styles and imagery.
Although Brooke's family tree is saturated with female needlepointers, Brooke refused to learn until she was 21. In fact, she learned while living in a hippie commune of sorts in London... yup.
In order to feed her starving artist and explore her interests further, she has actively pushed her creative potential through a series of programs and travels through 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), The Institute of Ecotechnics (London, UK).
This passion of hers has taken her over the pond to over 25 cities in Europe including London, Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Edinburgh and Florence. Her 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 through the University of Georgia.
Not only is “Thorn” Brooke’s middle name and family name, but a tribute to her mother for supporting her in artistic endeavors and encouraging her to contribute to the needlepoint industry.
Did you know that before the introduction of steel needles, embroidery was done with thorns?!
*Although she desperately misses the mountains of Vermont, Brooke has recently moved to Boston.
For more work by Brooke, check out brookethorn.com