Fine artist and designer Bridget Parris has made a livelihood doing exactly what she loves to do: painting and drawing.
She has always enjoyed a challenge.
Bridget received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting and drawing from Southern Illinois University. She went on to graduate from the LSU School of Art with dual degrees, a Master of Arts in art history and a Master of Fine Arts in painting and drawing.
She has made brave choices.
Bridget moved to New York straight out of graduate school to pursue a career painting, exhibiting her work, and teaching in the fine arts—not an easy feat in a city studded with established and up-and-coming artists. Her success is evident.
She has taught courses and workshops in fine arts and industrial design at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, the Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Arts and Design, the Fashion Institute of Technology, and Parson’s: The New School for Design.
Throughout her career as a designer, she has designed products in a wide range of materials including ceramic, glass, metal, and wood, creating artwork for apparel, fashion accessories, and home textiles. In her longstanding history designing tabletop, gift, and home décor products, she has held such positions as senior designer for Anthropologie and design director at Springs Global.
In January 2013, she was invited to design a collection of porcelain dinnerware, serveware, and gifts for Magenta’s boutique line. Bridget Parris for Magenta was launched at the spring shows that year, including the New York and Atlanta gift shows, and was featured in an article in Casa Grazia Italia alongside new work by such design stars as Phillipe Starck, Tom Dixon, and Marcel Wanders.
Through Bridget Parris Design and Consulting, she has provided clients with superior services in trend direction, creative concept development, technical drawings, production specs, and direct interaction with factories regarding production details. Her industrial design work has been featured in Oprah’s O Magazine, Domino, In-Style Home, Timeout New York, House Beautiful, and Real Simple.
Bridget’s accomplishments don’t end with her teaching and industrial design careers, however. Her non-traditional and ever-evolving career has supported her vocation as a fine artist and vice versa.
“I enjoy taking all my areas of interest and finding ways to make them work together and play off one another,” Bridget said.
For example, the paintings in her most notable recent exhibition, And Then There Was a Revolution, at the Chair and the Maiden Gallery in New York, December 2010, draw parallels between the practices of the 18th-century French aristocracy and those of the 21st-century United States. A review of And Then There Was a Revolution on re-title.com stated:
“This relationship between delicacy and power is one that you will see appearing over and over again in the paintings before you: in the frosting-like application of paint, the delicate layering of glazes, the color choices of pale pinks and baby blues, as well as in the design of the costumes and poses of the figures. Throughout the body of work that comprises And Then There Was a Revolution, great respect is paid to the skills and accomplishments of the artists and artisans of France before the revolution while the immense loss the end of this aristocracy brought to the decorative arts industry is made evident.”
As a product designer working on tableware and gift items for an Anthropologie holiday collection inspired by 18th-century French style, Bridget collected a vast archive of research on fine and decorative art from that historical period. She spent hours in the New York Public Library, traveled to Paris to go antique shopping, and planned vacations to areas that would add to her research, tying everything together impeccably as designer and artist.
“My fine art and design interests are completely interconnected. Having a design career helped me support my painting career, and you can see the influence of my design work in my paintings,” said Bridget. “On the important topic of research, my ability to find the references I need to complete various projects can be attributed to my background in art history, which has helped me to be a stronger and more-worldly designer. My aesthetic choices are made with a distinctive and evident knowledge of historical style and reference,” she added.
Bridget’s work was also featured in a group exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Design, where she completed a residency as an Open Studios Artist over the summer of 2009. She has completed two public arts projects to date, commissioned by the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh and the Washington, D.C., Commission on the Arts. Awarded an Artist Assistantship Grant by the Vermont Studio Center and a Residency Fellowship by the Constance Saltonstall Foundation, she has completed residencies at both institutions. Her artwork has received coverage in noteworthy publications including The New York Times, the Washington Times, and the Washington Post.
Most importantly, throughout her life, Bridget has consistently remained inspired.
For example, after establishing a successful career as an industrial designer of decorative home products, she decided to translate her already developed design skills in a new direction and create a career as a fashion designer.
Bridget explained, “I was very successful as a decorative product designer. My need to approach very new and real challenges in creative problem solving and construction techniques propelled me to seek the opportunity to embrace a change of direction and develop other areas of expertise.”
She received a degree in fashion design from the prestigious Parson’s School of Fashion in 2012. A year ago, she finished a seven-month internship at Marchesa as part of the couture and bridal design team, where she worked on couture and runway gowns and participated in fittings and collection evolution and alterations. The internship provided a behind-the-scenes opportunity to gain insight as to what it takes to run a high-end fashion brand—something she aspires to herself. She is now working with an experienced fashion designer in New York and designing high-end custom bridal and evening wear for private clients with a goal of establishing her own high-end fashion brand one day.
“I have always enjoyed three-dimensional design. When you are designing something like a lamp, a glass, or a goblet, you have to consider consumer use, production details, and technical skills,” said Bridget. “In fashion design, you use the same skills but also have to consider that the user is moving. It is a refreshing challenge to take everything I have learned and apply it to a moving, breathing, human being—to continue to solve problems in new ways.”
Bridget’s career exemplifies the many ways an artist manages to remain inspired as well as the many paths open to fine artists.
“What I appreciated most about my time at LSU was that I had teachers who encouraged me to find my own path and develop my own creative style,” Bridget recalled. “Having a design career helped me support my painting career. My background in fine arts and art history has opened many doors for me.”
“There are many paths to any given destination,” Bridget continued. “When applying for creative positions, having a less traditional background can often give you the advantage of appearing more unique than someone who followed an anticipated path. My fine arts training gave me that edge when seeking design positions, particularly in the early stages of my career. I built my future by showing potential clients only the kind of work I preferred to be hired to do and, therefore, was hired by clients who were interested in me because of the work that I had presented. Clients appreciated me as an artist and as a designer because of what I had to offer that was special.”
Bridget’s advice for aspiring artists is to “make sure you see every one of the visiting artists, writers, dancers, and musicians that your university, college, and school invite to exhibit, speak, or perform. Attend all of the lectures. The best way for you to assess the options that may be open to you is to see what other artists have done with their careers, to be inspired by them.”
She recalled having the rare opportunity to meet Jonathan Miller, a British opera director, who was invited by the honors program she was enrolled in while pursuing her BFA at Southern Illinois University.
“I was 17 years old and had never seen an opera. He invited me to rehearsals of operas he was directing that summer in Florence, Italy. I went, and it changed my life.”
Bridget encourages young artists to be open minded about what industries they may want to apply their skills to in the future and to embrace the opportunities that come their way throughout their lives.
“When I was in art school, I never thought that I would design dinnerware or enjoy traveling to factories, or end up working in fashion,” she laughed. “I wanted to be an artist, show my work in galleries, teach, and spend my summers in Italy. I love the work that I do, both as a fine artist and a designer, and I never want to have to give up either pursuit. My creative interests will continue to overlap, intertwine, and inspire each other indefinitely.”
View more of Bridget’s work at bridgetparris.com.