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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.”