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Senior Elise Clines pre­pares a work of art.
Ryan Murphy | Courtesy

Scrolling through Elise Clines’ online art business is like walking through a candy store of pretty water­color designs, printed on every­thing from home decor to note­books to out­erwear. Her designs tend to be chic and fem­inine — but her most popular item? A pop­sicle-pat­terned men’s T-shirt.

“A guy named Omar from Mexico is cur­rently sporting my pop­sicle T-shirt,” Clines said, laughing. “It taught me you don’t always know what a cus­tomer is going to want.” 

Clines is still fig­uring out the business world: She just launched Elise Clines Art and Design in June, selling her designs through a company called Threadless that handles shipping and man­u­fac­turing for her. 

But she’s no stranger to entre­pre­neurship. 

“As a kid, if I made any­thing, I wanted to figure out how to sell it,” she said, remem­bering that she sold handmade greeting cards and candied almonds in grade school. She used to read books on how to start your own business, but she “never got around to it” till a few months ago.

With a broken toe lim­iting her job options this summer, Clines decided it was time to plunge into an endeavour that she’d long held in the back of her head.

“I just love beau­tiful things,” she said. “And I’ve always wanted to own a sta­tionery store. This was kind of the first step.”

Some of the prints she sells are water­colors she’s done in past years, but she whipped up others this summer during a 30-day chal­lenge to create a new piece of art every day. It took her from one to three hours to finish a design, she said.

As an art major, Clines said she’s excited to apply skills she’s learned in class, where she’s demon­strated her love and talent for cre­ating beau­tiful things.

“Elise is very spirited about what she pro­duces,” said Lec­turer in Art Sam Knecht, who’s taught Clines’ water­color and other classes at Hillsdale. “There’s a lightness and freshness of touch that’s very engaging in her work. Her art is who she is … She loves life and learning, and it shows up as ingre­dients in her work.”

Clines’ artwork includes natural land­scapes, floral pat­terns, and paintings of bunnies, fruit, and pop­sicles. 

“I like to make the simple things extra beau­tiful,” she said. “Life should have pretty things.”

Before Clines even kicked off her business, her love and skills for crafting pretty things were in demand among her friends.

Vic­toria Fassett ’17 said she asked Clines for several of her water­colors — including a zebra and a land­scape from the Dominican Republic — and has them hanging in her room. 

“Elise is really tal­ented,” said Fassett, who encouraged Clines to start her business. “I’ve loved being able to watch her grow in her artistic ability.”

Fassett added that it’s neat to buy artwork from an up-and-coming artist she knows per­sonally, noting that she plans to do some Christmas shopping on Clines’ site.

“We always have spaces to dec­orate, like dorms or homes,” Fassett said. “It’s cool to have the oppor­tunity to support artists that we know.”

Though school makes it hard for Clines to devote a lot of time to her business, Clines said she hopes to have a more hands-on role in the future, and she wants to sell more sta­tionery products. 

For now, Clines said, she’s happy just that people are buying things. She hopes to grow the business, but she’s never intended it to become her full-time occu­pation.

“I’m proud of myself for starting — I’m really moti­vated to keep it going and flour­ishing on the side,” she said. “I will never be able to stop making things. I know I’ll always be making things, and the business moti­vates me.”