Is there ever a suitable time to say, “I’ve made it,” and feel comfortable resting on your laurels? Not for artist and Austin, Texas native Mitch Brookman. For him, such a day will never exist.
Mitch first found success with his intricate ceramic portraits. His creations spread through word of mouth and piqued the interest of celebrities such as Johnny Depp, Willie Nelson, Debbie Harry and Carlos Santana, all of whom have commissioned Mitch to immortalize their faces in porcelain.
Mitch’s successful career creating art and hobnobbing with celebrities would be a distant dream for most people. Therefore, it came as a surprise eight months ago, when Mitch pulled a 180 and relocated his life and career to Vietnam to pursue a different kind of art — the art of hairdressing.
“I flew to Taiwan to do a commission for a wealthy man for his penthouse apartment,” he says. “After the project wrapped up, I decided to visit Vietnam for a vacation. While I was here, I met a young woman who needed a haircut. I owned a salon for 17 years, and I have had my [hairdressing] license since 1987.”
Who could have known that that one fateful coif would change Mitch’s life trajectory? The young woman he served posted her new ‘do’ on a Facebook group called Hanoi Beautiful. A popular women-only group, Hanoi Beautiful boasts a membership of over 2,000 foreigners and locals sharing their beauty secrets. Mitch’s fame seemed to grow overnight, and he now works in a small local hair salon in Truc Bach Lake.
“I was offered a position at an upscale salon in Hanoi Tower, but I declined. I love the salon I work in on the quiet street on Truc Bach Island. The owner and assistants are like family to me. I am committed to improving their standard of living. I pay them very well and have made their salon something to talk about on the island.”
In just over half a year, Mitch has managed to fully settle into a new life and now considers Vietnam his home.
“I fell in love with Hanoi and I am nesting quite happily in my beautiful apartment in the Old Quarter. I don’t plan on leaving, and my husband will join me eventually.”
So, what made the 59-year-old Mitch want to uproot his home base after reaching a comfortable stage in his life?
“It’s more of a life change, really. My time here [in Vietnam] escalated so quickly. As the hair appointments piled on, my art took a more relaxed approach. But I love the artistic licence the girls are willing to hand over to me when they sit in the chair.”
Those on the waiting list for art pieces from Mitch back in the States, will know he has already missed a few deadlines. “The clients have been patient as people tend to buy the art as well as the artist,” he says.
Although Mitch has already begun to build a solid foundation for himself, his husband, and their dog, he hasn’t quite given up on his passion for art just yet. The beauty of Vietnamese culture has sparked anew his long-forgotten love of oil painting.
“I am a goal-seeking mechanism and you will be seeing my art one day in high-end galleries around town. I am already making connections. I feel as though I am living in a foreign film,” Mitch continues, when asked about his future plans.
“Having been here for only eight months, I have embraced what I think is a gift. I can see clearly that this chapter of my life will be spent here in Hanoi.”
Photos by Julie Vola
To read more stories about people who have made substantial personal change, click on the following links:
Todd Gilmore, The Triathlete
Sophie Pham, The Introvert
Ha Minh, The Woman
Laura Sheehan, The Mentor
Robin Babu, The Fitness Dude
Sheereen Amran, The Pastry Chef
Mitch Brookman, The Hairdresser
To read about some ideas for personal change, click on the following links:
Get Into Stand-Up Comedy
Take Art Classes
Get Professional Help
Nutrition and Vietnamese Food
The Power of Habit