10 MINUTES WITH...TONI THORNTON
Today at Abbot Kinney we grab a cosy corner of the living room, a much needed warm cup of coffee and surrounded by our new beautiful art work, we chat to the lady who created the pieces herself....
THE VERY TALENTED & TOTALLY LOVELY TONI THORNTON
Toni's pieces now hang in homes and spaces across the UK, Europe, North America, Australia & Canada. Toni's abstract art is rooted in mark making and for her commissioned work she draws inspiration from the space itself where the art will be hung, whether it be as obvious & simple as the decor of the room or as hidden as a knot hiding in a wooden staircase. Toni limits the capacity of her original designs to 100 items signed and numbered by her to keep each design exclusive.
We chat to Toni about her business, artwork, inspiration and life......
AK - Toni, thanks so much for spending some time with me. Firstly, congratulations on your launch of 'The Gold Edit' with Lydia Millen... I love my new pieces. I've been wanting to purchase for ages and when you launched these pieces they really spoke to me. I understand Lydia was originally a customer and now you're collaborating. How was the collaboration experience for you and what inspired the pieces?
Ah you are so welcome. Thank you so much! Yes Lydia started as a customer, she bought some pieces from me way back in 2017 and was kind enough to share my work with her followers. So when Lydia approached me earlier this year for some smaller pieces for her lounge, it sparked the idea of a collaboration project, as so many people wanted to replicate what Lydia had purchased last time. We decided to create a luxury series of prints so that people could shop Lydia’s beautiful style directly. This is where The Gold Edit was born and we are just blown away by how well the collection has sold, all over the world too! The main inspiration for the artwork was found when I visited Lydia’s beautiful home and we discussed our vision, we wanted to create artwork for cosy, candlelit spaces, little pieces of escapism and we both loved the idea of old romantic nostalgia, hidden love letters and embedded quotes, as words are often something that inspire us both.
AK - How do you think you have been able to turn your passion and art work into a business when so many talented artists fail to do so and secondly, what advice would you give anyone aspiring to your success?
Thank you, that’s so kind of you to say – although I guess the journey is never over so I’m still working, growing the business each and every day. I get asked this question a lot and to be honest I find it quite a difficult one to answer, but I would say stay authentic to what you love to create and keep a clear vision of where you want to see your work on display. The journey is only worthwhile if you are enjoying what you create along the way! Also, I genuinely believe that being kind is one of the best things you can possibly be in business (and in life.) A polite reply and staying true to promises means you build up respect and a good reputation and in turn you see happy, returning customers. It’s also very important to give back when you can, it’s such a feel good thing to do when you know that your hard work is also helping others.
AK - How do you ensure the business element doesn't take over your creativity and how do you keep your passion for art alive?
This is a balance I found quite difficult at first, I actually started up my business while I was a full-time teacher of Art and Textiles at a high school. I used to stay up late making sure I had answered all of my emails from the business and I didn’t really have much of a social life as I had to paint in all of my spare time (not that I am complaining as I just love to paint!), however then it quickly reached the point where I had to reduce my teaching hours and work part-time – then eventually, I reached the decision to leave teaching as I was finding the work/life balance very difficult. I was very strict with my timings and made sure that I put enough time into my teaching hours and planning, as I owed it to my students and I never entered the teaching profession to be part-time, so as the business was really growing I decided it was the best thing to do and this has allowed me a much better balance ever since. I now have a small team of people who work in the studio and a wonderful publicist who helps with a lot of my enquiries and some social media, so this has really helped and allowed me to have more creative time. I don’t know a better way of saying this, but I just love art! I love marks and textures and I feel very lucky that I get to live this passion now as my full-time career.
AK - You qualified as a teacher of art, what stopped you pursuing this career path and instead what spurred you on to take the risk to set up your own business?
The reason I entered teaching in the first place was because of my lovely mum! She has worked in school with disabled children for years and she inspires me with her commitment to her students; she is always thinking of ways to enrich their learning and inspire them. I found school quite a difficult place personally, I loved learning, but it was very overwhelming at times and art was always my escapism. I wanted to provide a place for my students to discover and enjoy art.
It was while teaching I was asked by a friend to create some artwork for a new house project. I created the pieces and thought I would share them on Instagram and from there the business started to grow quite organically. As mentioned previously, I then worked really hard over a period of years to build up the business while teaching and I think that meant there was less of a risk as I managed to build up my following and collectors before taking that final step into being a full time artist. I will always love teaching and I hope to inspire with what I am building and creating with Toni Thornton Art. I was very fortunate in that I worked at a wonderful school with an incredible team of people and I still have great friendships there, so I hope to invite some of the older Art students into the studio (when it’s safe to do so) to hopefully show them that you can turn art into a full time career.
AK - Which artists are you inspired by?
Well this is a difficult question again because there are just so many! I love the way that Mark Rothko translated moods into his paintings, by building layers of colour but with more raw edges. My background is in textile art too, so I love looking at the way fibres are used and built up in layers, I am heavily inspired by mixed media and textile artists such as Jan Miller and Gizelle Warburton. I also love ceramic artists and the way that people manipulate materials, I find the whole process of working with your hands and building up layers very inspiring.
Of course I am not only inspired by other artists but also I am very heavily inspired by the world around me, the knots and textures in wood, the marks of a muddy shoreline, the way that sunlight passes through linen weaves. I find so much beauty hidden in everyday places, it’s more about learning to look rather than trying to find inspiration.
AK - As a creative business woman, what have been the biggest lessons you have learnt since launching your own company?
I am still learning every day to be honest and I think that in itself is an important part of business, the drive to keep learning and keep improving and ultimately to not become complacent. I feel lucky every day that I get to do this as my fulltime career, and I want to make sure that this comes across in what I share with my customers. I think reflection is a really important part of business, pausing to realise how far you’ve travelled and to remember the days when it was all in your head and what you’ve managed to now create. I often pause to just reflect, and it makes me so thankful. Of course, making money is a huge part of any business, but it is important to really enjoy the journey along the way and not take anything for granted.
AK - When you are not painting, what do you get up to in your spare time?
I love spending time with family and friends, especially my little nieces. I also really enjoy getting lost in a good book and cosying up with my husband and dog Dexter. One of my most favourite things to do is also to go out for breakfast, there is something so exciting about the start of a new day, I love sitting with a good cup of coffee and watching the world wake up! I enjoy getting all dressed up for a night out with the girls as I spend most of my time covered in paint, so I really enjoy choosing a nice outfit and laughing the night away with friends, but equally I do love staying in under snuggly blankets watching a good documentary (with mandatory snacks of course.)
AK - I'm reading Claudia Winkleman's 'Quite' and there's a chapter in the book on art and how enriching it can be to simply look & surround yourself with beautiful artwork. Art though is so subjective and it can create such differing reactions and emotions depending who is looking at it and what it means to them. What emotion and thoughts do you hope to convey when producing your pieces?
I am also reading ‘Quite’ at the moment, it’s brilliant isn’t it! I really like Claudia Winkleman, I find her so funny and engaging and I just love how she writes. I really feel strongly that the best pieces of art should make you feel something. I love going to galleries and exhibitions and walking out with new questions or new ideas after seeing pieces that challenge or provoke me. With my work, I really enjoy creating different moods, it depends primarily on the colours and marks used within the pieces, but I would say the most current theme running through my pieces is a sense of home. I love the rustic, minimalist, textured style and I have been working to create pieces more recently that reflect this. I like to explain my intentions for the artwork and the kind of emotions I intend to convey through my art, so you will find more about each piece on the website descriptions, often explaining what the pieces are inspired by and what they aim to suggest.
AK - What does the future hold for Toni Thornton Artwork and yourself personally?
That’s the million-dollar question…. I guess none of us know what the future holds and so I don’t want to take anything for granted. Personally, I hope to stay healthy and happy and professionally I hope to keep building Toni Thornton Art and growing my collectors. It would be wonderful to see my artwork displayed within a gallery setting and as the world returns to a new normal, I would love to travel and find inspiration for new pieces too.
AK - What 3 words or phrase do you live by?
A very wise man once told me, “From little acorns, big oak trees grow.” The phrase really resonates with me because if you have good foundations, if you get the basics right such as being kind and thankful whilst being determined, you can always be proud of what you manage to achieve and grow.
AK - Outside of art, how would you describe your own personal style?
Well most of my wardrobe is covered in paint! I’ve always been a very relaxed and comfortable type of dresser, I love the boho style, layering fabrics and textures and similar to the way I paint, I tend to wear mostly neutrals, white or black. I love linen and soft fabrics and I really think you can dress up any outfit with beautiful, timeless accessories.
AK - If the world unlocked tomorrow where would you go and why?
This is a tricky one to be honest as I have missed the little things the most, just seeing family and friends and spending time together in each other’s homes. I am excited to travel again when it’s safe to do so though, I love Italy so much and want to see more, I would love to travel around the vineyards in Tuscany and laugh and drink with friends and family and hug them all without worrying about it!
AK - And finally, which is your favourite piece of Abbot Kinney style?
This is a very hard question because each piece is beautiful! I love a timeless gold hoop and I wear hoop earrings most days, so I love the Isla earrings in gold and I also love the Barcelona nights earrings too (as we visited Barcelona on honeymoon!). I also love the Zeus necklace too, so basically I just can’t choose – there’s too many beautiful pieces and I really admire what Abbott Kinney style do for charity, all of the giving back pieces are so precious and it’s lovely to see businesses giving back.
For more information and to purchase any of Toni's stunning artwork, visit the links below: