Welcome to my new series, Let’s Get Creative. Similar to my Let’s Get Locals, only these posts will highlight creatives that I know and admire both in my community and afar. With that, I bring you Alli Crowson Designs based in Austin, TX! I have such an affinity for the creative arts although I possess no artistic talent myself- seriously, none. When I saw a sneak peek of Alli’s watercolor collection via Instagram, I knew I had to have a piece (or all of them). Her hand-painted watercolors feature depictions of happiness for 20-somethings and beyond. The vibrant colors, relatable depictions of everyday items that bring us joy and her passion for making walls happy are key elements surrounding the ACD brand which launched in June! As fellow firm believers in highlighting the “happy” in the everyday, I virtually sat down with Alli to get to know more about her company. Did I mention she’s still a student at the University of Texas? I mean, goals. Here’s what she had to say:
1. What inspired you to start Alli Crowson Designs?
I have always loved to paint, ALWAYS. Anyone close to me would tell you that I often gift my paintings. I can’t say I’m too proud of any piece circa 2004-2014! Most of my family members have at least five different pieces of art I’ve done over the years, and I really wanted to expand that horizon. Not only do I want to brighten people’s homes with simply giving them my art, but I want people to view gifting as an opportunity to honor the life of someone they love through a work made specifically for them!
2. What does a day in the life of running your watercolor design business look like?
In a perfect world I am up, at a Soul Cycle class, showered, and sipping on a cup of coffee while sketching by 8:00 am. To be completely honest, that’s only happened about three times haha! In real life, I usually sit down on Sunday nights and assess which days out of the coming week that I’ll dedicate to ACD logistics, and which days I’ll dedicate to straight painting (the latter being my favorite, obviously). On a day of logistical work, I’ll spend a lot of time of my computer either editing my art scans, working on the backend of my site, fulfilling orders, or creating mood boards for people contracting custom work. I can honestly say that my absolute favorite type of day is me sprawled out on my dining room table, in a messy bun, continually refilling my coffee mug, an upbeat playlist in the background, and completely submerged in sketching and painting. I could (and quite often do) do that from sun up to sun down.
3. Where do you draw inspiration for your work? They’re all so perfect- from the La Croix to the pink suitcases- you’ve definitely captured a few of my favorite things.
I TRULY wish I could summarize my inspiration into a few eloquent words. However 99% of the time, it’s so random and silly. Most recently, it’s me with friends or family enjoying “the little things.” Then all of the sudden, boom, I picture it hanging in a gold frame on a white wall. I always keep a small notebook with me because inspiration tends to pop up in the most unexpected places or experiences. I guess that’s really it- the little things in life that make you smile and good experiences with people you love! Sometimes it takes place during a vacation you’ve always dreamed of going on and sometimes it’s just a morning walk and talk with your pal.
4. How do you balance Alli Crowson Designs while maintaining a full school schedule and social life at the University of Texas?
It was no coincidence that I launched ACD during the summertime. I won’t sugarcoat it, school is hard! Balancing the bare necessities is tricky enough during the school year, so I am interested to see how I handle that adversity starting in September. Luckily, I’m in a major (Advertising) that allows a lot of room for creativity and self-expression. I’m interning part-time this summer at a design company in Austin, so I am getting a small taste of the hustle soon to come. I like to consider myself pretty organized. It just takes the discipline to sit down each week to prioritize and prep for the things I want to accomplish.
5. You said, “Living in Austin for the last two years has sparked a revelation of that playful and carefree creativity that I had as a child.” How do you suggest we all tap back into that “carefree creativity” we had as kids? I think that is something we all want! I love that you’ve harnessed that creativity to build your brand.
During my freshman year, I struggled living in Austin. I grew up in a place where everyone knew me and my family and I (thought) I knew myself and everyone else really well. It took a semester of being lonely and confused to really tap into who I wanted to be and how I was going to be that. I think when we’re thrown into uncomfortable life situations, we can choose to be still and let the hardship wear us down. Or we can embrace the change and let that shape us into who we always wanted to be. For me, the drama and intensity of UT and Austin made me sit back and just take a lot of things in- sort of like a child watching and learning new things. I truly think that once I got over the intimidation of a big city and what the thousands of other students thought about me, I welcomed more creativity into my life.
6. What are three tips you have for college students and beyond interested in launching their own company?
- First and foremost, your mindset can’t be based on satisfying other peoples’ opinions of you/ your work. Obviously that is lightyears easier said than done, but it is so so important. For me, that looks like painting things that I love and doing things that speak to my truest self rather than for how it will look on my Instagram feed.
- Don’t let the big dogs scare you out of it. I’m not a business student at UT… but trust me I’ve heard my fair share of advice from those that are. It was almost enough to intimidate me out of sharing my art in an ecommerce platform. In pretty much anything you do in life, people will give you their opinions or “advice” (that really sound more like threats) but trust yourself. Your ideas and ambitions are valid!
- Sort of a piggyback; you don’t have to be Michael Phelps to go swimming. I often get so down on myself for not being the absolute BEST at painting. The truth is that I probably won’t ever be the absolute best at painting, and that is very okay. If I just keep working hard, expanding my toolkit, and simply showing up… I’ll be my own best artist.
7. What’s the best part about providing watercolor prints and custom work to your clients? And tell us a little more about your process for custom work (that’s such a fun touch)!
Well I’ll just say that the first week that ACD was up and running, I was just beside myself with how nice and supportive people were. Even though I didn’t start this to get complemented by people, it’s an incredible feeling! I think the best part about this venture so far has been the excitement that the clients have when we talk about custom options or uses for my prints. Just the idea that I can fulfill a want for people by doing a hobby that I truly love, is a really great feeling.
The process for custom work is just that, custom! This is really an area that I’m excited to expand over the next few months. I have fun stuff coming in July to introduce ideas for how unique we can make things. Usually, I will do a work for someone as a gift and while I’m conceptualizing it I’ll think, “wait… I could do this and that,” and then boom it’s personal for someone!
8. What sets Alli Crowson Design apart?
This is something I really struggled with when contemplating the start of my company. Personal art is such a real/ unique thing no matter what the outsiders says. When you turn art into a business you really have to narrow down why consumers should pick you over the 1,000 Etsy shops they’ve seen. I like to think that the major draw to ACD is the honesty and simplicity. I do everything myself because I genuinely love to create. It’s not really about making money or stocking my portfolio, it’s just about a true love for art. Not that my competitors don’t actually love art, or that I am more honest and simple than them. I just feel like if I can continue to make things in a way that fills me up and inspires others, then I’m doing what I set out to do, the way I set out to do it.
9. I always ask this last so here goes, what is your go-to coffee order?
I am so glad you asked because I am a coffee addict!! I will always be happy with a classic cup of good strong coffee with a touch of cream. But my true love is a Starbucks vanilla sweet cream cold brew!
Alli’s words ring so true. I am going to very honest here and say that I teared up when I read, “you don’t have to be Michael Phelps to go swimming.” We put so much pressure on ourselves (myself included) to be the best and that can inhibit us from trying in the first place. And like her, I hope you’ll take the dive into whatever it is you want to pursue. That’s why I love to highlight people following their passion- whether through art, local business, or community service- it’s the passions of other people that inspire us most. I am certainly inspired by Alli and I hope you are too! If you’d like to shop Alli’s collection, click here. To follow her journey be sure to find her on Facebook and Instagram too!
Thank you so much for reading today! I hope everyone had the best Independence Day yesterday with family and friends.