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Hempfield sophomore shares his creativity despite his challenges

09/14/2015 Lancaster Online By ERIKA ECHTERNACH

Most teenagers would agree that high school alone is enough of a challenge without the added responsibility of starting a business.

However, Malcolm Corley, a Hempfield sophomore, is not most teenagers. Malcolm manages to balance both school work and his budding tile business despite having autism.

Malcolm was diagnosed with PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified) when he was 3, which makes expressive language difficult for him. Although on the autism spectrum, Malcolm can do self-care tasks when prompted. At school, he has a learning support teacher, Jamie Berryhill, who assists him with communication, preparation, organization, and other areas of need.

Malcolm has never let his condition define or confine him. When he was in ninth grade, Berryhill suggested Malcolm try decorating tiles. Berryhill had seen a similar project idea online, and knowing art was one of Malcolm’s strengths, immediately thought of the tile assignment for him.

The tile trial went beautifully and demonstrated Malcolm’s artistic talent and potential. After some of the tiles sold at the IU-13 bazaar to benefit the learning support class, Malcolm’s friends and family began to wonder just how far his creativity could take him.

Malcolm’s mother, Maria, his grandmother and Sara Male, a close family friend, all were influential in helping Malcolm start his business. It was his grandmother who inspired Malcolm’s first collection of Celtic cross-themed tiles. The tiles can be ordered off his website for $15 each, and make great coasters, trivets or simply decorative pieces.

Each tile is handcrafted with oil-based markers, rather than paint. Because the tiles are freehanded and require painstaking precision, it takes approximately 45 minutes to complete an individual tile. Another result of the tiles being done freehand is that they are not symmetrical. Like snowflakes, each tile is unique.

Maria Corley, Malcolm’s mother, believes there is a message in this. “‘Perfection’ isn’t a requirement for beauty. I would hope that, as humans, we can see each other the same way.”

Malcolm’s hard work paid off on Aug. 13 when he sold his first tile. Pictures of his first products circulated Facebook, and soon Malcolm had received orders for 26 tiles. He now has a website, which allows customers to order already made tiles or order custom tiles. He also was invited to set up a booth at the First Friday “Shop Till You Drop” event on Sept. 4.

Those exciting opportunities have left Malcolm with a tight schedule.

Maria said Malcolm is busier, "which is an accomplishment.” Malcolm does accept custom color orders. As far as personal preference, the artist’s favorite color scheme includes blue, green, red and yellow. Eventually, Malcolm hopes to “do other things, too,” in addition to tiles.

Although Malcolm still needs assistance with managing both his personal care and business, his mother is “praying that Malcolm will continue to become more independent.” She has already seen positive changes since he started selling his work.

“He has become more disciplined ... there are times he doesn’t feel like making a tile, having made quite a few of them. He will sit down and do it, however, because he has a goal,” she said.

Since being back in school, Berryhill reports, that Malcolm has been asking to draw more and anticipates “more excitement as his business increases and he earns more money to reach his goal.”

Malcolm aims to make enough money for a trip to Amsterdam because “Julianatoren is there.” Julianatoren is an amusement park. Malcolm has always loved rides and ranks Hersheypark’s Comet roller coaster among his favorites.

Malcolm’s mother has big dreams for her son as well.

“My dream is that Malcolm will be able to have enough income to live comfortably.” She believes that his artistic abilities will take him far in life.

“God has given Malcolm his particular gifts for a reason, ” she said.

While some of the profit goes toward Malcolm’s “Amsterdam fund,” a portion is donated to Autism Speaks, because the organization “has done extensive work researching causes and treatments for autism, while raising awareness of the challenges involved,” his mother said.

His mother is “inspired by learning what he can do. He plays the drums, he’s taking tap lessons &; he isn’t world class necessarily, but he does a good job and he’s eager to learn.”

In addition to art, Malcolm enjoys music and cooking. He has an eclectic taste in music, ranging from Michael Jackson to Katy Perry. He is interested in many aspects of music including drums and piano. And he takes voice lessons with Rebecca Achenbach. His website features a few videos of Malcolm singing.

Through it all, Malcolm’s caring personality has always been a blessing to those around him, especially his mom. “He has such a sweet spirit ... he has a freedom to be himself that many of us don’t experience. If he wants to watch ‘Blues Clues,’ he isn’t embarrassed about it. If he wants to hug his mom, he doesn’t care who sees him.”

Berryhill believes Malcolm “has quite a few endearing qualities, and it is a pleasure to work with him.”

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