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May 13, 2024 —

Small Business Stories: Ali Mackie

A thirst for both artistic development and business understanding has resulted in a flourishing art career for Chilterns-based painter, Ali Mackie
Small Business Stories - 91 Magazine tells artist Ali Mackie's creative story
Small Business Stories - 91 Magazine tells artist Ali Mackie's creative story

*Disclaimer: This blog post has been sponsored by the brand, but the content has been independently created by the 91 Magazine team. We only work with brands whose ethos is in line with our own and we believe will be of interest to our readers.

Ali Mackie Art Studio

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Ali Mackie

91 Magazine editor Caroline Rowland
Caroline Rowland
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91 Magazine

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George Groves
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Having your work selected for London’s prestigious Royal Academy Summer Exhibition is a dream that many artists hold, so for Ali Mackie to achieve this just a few years into her newfound career is impressive. Of course, it requires natural talent, but it also demands hard work, something which Ali has been committed to since leaving her busy London design job in 2014.Small Business Stories - 91 Magazine tells artist Ali Mackie's creative storySmall Business Stories - 91 Magazine tells artist Ali Mackie's creative story

Previously creating interior design concepts for commercial spaces in the city, Ali worked with high end brands such as Louis Vuitton and Stella McCartney and was known for her innovative use of materials and textures, creating truly elegant designs for office spaces and reception areas. But, like so many women, becoming a mother changed her outlook on life and work, and it was at this point when things took a different course. “I knew there was another creative chapter around the corner,” recalls Ali, “I could visualise what my future business looked and felt like, but I had yet to learn how to achieve what I wanted.”

Ali is proof that pivoting into a new career with no airs and graces is invaluable to developing a sustainable business. Even with many years professional experience under her belt, she immediately invested in learning across all aspects of the new path she was following. She began with night classes in painting. She describes why these initial sessions helped her rediscover herself and brought about the confidence she needed to launch further into the challenge. “Looking back, I remember being in the baby years and not remembering who I was, a relatable issue for most new mothers,” describes Ali, “the art classes were a fantastic reminder of who I was and what I was capable of, and I’m forever grateful for that time.”Small Business Stories - 91 Magazine tells artist Ali Mackie's creative story Small Business Stories - 91 Magazine tells artist Ali Mackie's creative storySmall Business Stories - 91 Magazine tells artist Ali Mackie's creative story

As her daughter grew, so did Ali’s drive for turning her art practice into a business. Once her daughter started school, she began focusing on other knowledge gaps: “I took a self-led course called Instagram for Business, which taught me how to develop and share a brand identity. I’d never used social media before; it was such an eye-opener,” Ali explains. More classes and workshops followed, whether it was creative or business-related, broadening her understanding in any areas she felt required development.

Her previous career had equipped her with strong admin skills such as organisation, managing spreadsheets and developing workflows, which she acknowledges not all artists are good at. This important part of running a business can even provide a little respite from the constant creative input that painting demands says Ali: “I’ve discovered, to my surprise, that I enjoy spending time on the admin things: the organising, the paperwork, the writing, the marketing, and keeping my website up to date. It is a curious pleasure because they don’t demand much emotional energy.”

In 2021, things gathered pace as Ali took part in a six-month art coaching program, which was pivotal in developing her style and art practise. She had also recently converted her garage into a garden studio cementing her commitment to her goals, both literally and metaphorically. Cleverly, she has created the space to be not just a working art studio, but a ‘gallery’ that represents a domestic setting. An unpretentious space that feels homely is a breath of fresh air in terms of how art is usually displayed. “It is helpful for visitors to view the work in a space that feels like a home,” says Ali, “Often, it can be difficult for customers to imagine a piece of art in their own home, and creating a welcoming, light-filled space is a complete surprise when you step through the garage doors.”Small Business Stories - 91 Magazine tells artist Ali Mackie's creative storySmall Business Stories - 91 Magazine tells artist Ali Mackie's creative story Small Business Stories - 91 Magazine tells artist Ali Mackie's creative story

Ali’s inspiration stems from her home setting and surroundings, from the simplicity of her kitchen windowsill, to nature found in her garden or on the footpaths near her home. Her latest collection – Bottle & Branch (pictured here) – combines these botanical elements with objects that have significance to her: pots and plates she’s gathered over time, cherished family keepsakes – observations of how the natural and man-made worlds can intertwine in beautiful and meaningful ways.

While the natural world is a muse for many artists, it is Ali’s vibrant interpretation that sets her paintings apart. Her colour palettes are particularly striking against a white backdrop, as demonstrated in her own studio space. For her, producing her art is not just about bringing her personal joy (which it does in abundance), but it’s about sparking joy in others, and she aims to offer customers a variety of ways to purchase and enjoy her work. As well as larger paintings available usually from a local gallery and events throughout the year, she also creates smaller paintings, giclée prints and greetings cards, which can be found online at her website.

Being able to sell direct and through galleries is of course a dream come true for any artist, but that pinnacle moment of being part of the Royal Academy’s summer exhibition in 2023 is still a career highlight for Ali, especially with the added excitement of her painting being selected out of thousands to feature on one of 14 postcard designs that were sold in the academy shop – a real stamp of approval – which was followed by the inclusion in their 2025 calendar, too. “You could have knocked me over with a feather when the Head of Buying called again to ask if I’d like to be included,” laughs Ali, this experience being testament to her hard work since changing course, but also that you never know what opportunities might be around the corner.

Small Business Stories - 91 Magazine tells artist Ali Mackie's creative storyYet, not wanting to rest on her laurels, Ali continues to strive for new heights, and is excited for the prospect of finding new galleries to partner with and to bring her art to a wider audience; she’d also love to add surface pattern design to her repertoire. She’s currently working on a series of online sketchbook workshops, a chance for her to bring her years of learning and experience to others who dream of a similar creative life. As someone who clearly recognises the value in continual self-development and challenging one’s abilities, Ali’s future is most definitely akin to the word that she uses to define her work – BRIGHT.

To view Ali’s collection of paintings and print visit her website: alimackie.art

Follow Ali on Instagram for insights into her artistic life and updates on new work at @alimackie.art

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*Disclaimer: This blog post has been sponsored by the brand, but the content has been independently created by the 91 Magazine team. We only work with brands whose ethos is in line with our own and we believe will be of interest to our readers.

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