We had the good fortune of connecting with Ali McCorkle and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ali, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
I began my small business, Custom by Ali, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. My fiancé and I had just moved from the Rocky Mountains to Northern Colorado, where I knew about 2 people and no longer had a 9-5 job. At the time, I was not seeking balance. I needed a distraction from the loneliness of being in a new town during a pandemic and I hoped to reignite my creative spark and possibly connect with other makers in my area. In addition to opening an Etsy page, I signed myself up for an in-person outdoor market. I got to work creating my first collection to complement my bread and butter–custom hand embroidered backpacks and painted denim jackets. While prepping for the market, I oscillated between imposter syndrome and feeling like a real creative with something to offer. I remember staying up and stitching until midnight the entire week leading up to the market and feeling a weird combination of exhilarated and exhausted. 7 months later, and now a full-time graduate student, work/life balance is different. Where over the summer, my creative work was my only work, now, it is the alter ego to my academic work. I struggled in my first semester of school with feeling like I never had time to be creative. Over winter break, I burnt myself out stitching 15 custom home ornaments in a couple of weeks. Now I realize that there is a sweet spot between creative work and academic work, deadlines and none, creating simply to create and fulfilling commissions. I strike this balance better on some days than others and at times it feels like there are many more ideas in my head than I could ever bring to life. If I were to offer one take-away or piece of advice, from my experience as a new small business owner, it is let go of perfection and the idea of doing it “right.” I used to judge myself for working too much or not enough on Custom by Ali, but I have learned that there are no rules and “balance” varies by the day.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I do hand embroidery, painted textiles, and hand lettering. I enjoy playing with the intersections of all three mediums, such as painting my fabric before I stitch on it or embroidering my lettering. I mostly create custom commissioned work and I love the process of working with clients from conception to creation. Some clients know exactly what they want while others have a color palette in mind but want to be surprised with the details. I adore working with both types of people, and feel a genuine connection to each person who trusts me to paint, stitch, or letter something special for them. It is really cool to know that the pieces I create are not just things–they might adorn a first apartment, be worn on one’s wedding day, or accompany them on their most memorable adventures. For me, making art is about mindfulness, creativity, and connection. I hope that my work inspires others to live in the moment, try something unexpected, and show up as their authentic selves.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
My perfect Saturday in NoCo: Ride with Sydnie at CycleBar Fort Collins Brunch at Ginger and Baker in Fort Collins, definitely take a piece of pie to-go Track down CC’s Flower Truck to build a bouquet of fresh interesting blooms Grab coffee at Dark Heart in Loveland, sit on the dog-friendly patio Shop at Vintage Willows in Loveland Drinks at Ace Gillett’s in Fort Collins More drinks and charcuterie at Social in Fort Collins
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would like to shoutout my incredible partner, Kyle. Since the day we met, he has been telling me that I should start a small business to sell my artwork, and when I decided to jump in he basically replied “Finally!” Kyle is the most supportive partner I could wish for. His logical, rational mind complements my creative, emotional one. From building fixtures for market displays, to copy editing, to talking financial strategy, Kyle is truly the other employee of this solopreneurship. I couldn’t do it without him and probably wouldn’t have taken the leap of faith to start Custom by Ali without his support.