Local Folks: Alise Morales

Local Folks: Alise Morales
Alise Morales | Photo/Charlotte Patin Photography

Jacksonville is a proud military town, and it’s proud of the military families that call it home, even if just for a short while. Although Alise Morales may not be a local from Jacksonville, she’s a local “for now” and enjoying the five years she’s spent here so far. Her husband, Joe, is active-duty U.S. Navy, so there’s always a chance of being deployed elsewhere, but Morales has invested her time in Jacksonville wisely: She found a new hobby that turned into a business, connected with the active maker community and had a beautiful baby boy named Mateo. 

When the Morales family first moved to Jacksonville, they lived in Southside. A couple of years later, they decided they wanted to venture elsewhere and fell in love with the San Marco, Miramar and Lakewood areas. Now, it is where they happily reside.

“What we liked was that it’s like this small town within a bigger city,” Morales said. “I love that I can walk to the Winn-Dixie or a local restaurant. It has a much different feel than other places and we love it.”

Prior to moving to Jacksonville, Morales lived in Indianapolis and worked as a special events coordinator for the Indianapolis Zoological Society. She met Joe Morales in October 2017 when he was in training for the Navy, living in Pensacola. Her best friend was dating Joe’s roommate and Joe needed a date for the upcoming Navy Birthday Ball in Pensacola. At her friend’s suggestion that she should go, Alise bought a plane ticket for $600 and went to Pensacola with her friend.

As they say, the rest is history. The couple married December 2018.

“Luckily, it worked out, and it’s the most expensive first date I’ve ever had,” Morales said. “I was not expecting it, my parents were not expecting it, but sometimes I think they like my husband more than me.”

Early in their Jacksonville days, Morales was working for a nonprofit doing fundraising. But when COVID hit in 2020, she realized that wasn’t what she wanted to do any more. She quit her job and started graduate school to be a therapist. Shortly after, her husband deployed, and she went in search of a hobby outside of school.

She started doing digital art and tried making candles but hated it. She picked a business name, Jasper and Elm, and created an Instagram account, while still trying to figure out what she wanted to make.

“I wanted something that sounded semi-boutique, but not high end,” Morales said. “I also didn’t want to limit myself with the name.”

Polymer clay was having a huge boom in 2020 and she’s “an accessories girl” at heart, so she thought she’d give it a try. She bought a $20 polymer clay kit from Amazon and got started.

“Everyone was at home and looking for something to do. I kept seeing videos of it, so I thought I’d give it a try,” said Morales. “I made my first couple pairs of earrings and they were terrible. My mom still has hers, and she still wears them – no matter how ugly they are.”

With six months by herself, she threw herself into that creative outlet.

“It was very therapeutic and healing for me,” Morales said. “It was also a great escape from grad school, which could sometimes be intense material related to marriage and family therapy. Being able to create on the side was a really good balance for that. I feel like that’s the kind of most important thing, that it was very important for my mental health. Doing creative things is just healing.”

Coming from an entrepreneurial family, she made and sold jewelry very successfully in 2021 and thought maybe being a therapist wasn’t what she was supposed to be doing either.

“I thought, maybe I want to have my own business for forever,” Morales said. “So, I dropped out of grad school, and I’ve been doing this ever since.”

When she sits down to make her jewelry, she often she just lets her creativity flow. She only has a handful of designs she makes repeatedly, but most of her pieces end up being one-of-a-kind exclusives. Morales also began attending art events and became immersed in the maker community.

“I love the makers community in Jax because people are really open and friendly,” she said. “I’ve had questions about making methods and found other makers genuinely interested in sharing their own experiences. I’m even friends with several other polymer clay artists — it’s wonderful to have that support in an area where there can be competition. I try to help foster that ‘community over competition’ vibe because it’s so important.”

Alise Morales with husband, Joe, and son, Mateo. | Photo/Charlotte Patin Photography
Alise Morales with husband, Joe, and son, Mateo. | Photo/Charlotte Patin Photography

An original “dog mom” to a black, pit bull mix named Nym, Morales’s mom life changed again for the better when she gave birth to Mateo in June 2023.

“He’s such a happy baby,” Morales said. “I don’t know how he is this happy.”

However, his birth presented some challenges, as Morales developed carpal tunnel syndrome during pregnancy, which made it difficult to make her jewelry. She also developed a staff infection a week after birth that sent her back to the hospital. Morales took several months off to focus on her health and her growing family.

“I’m a very determined person I would say, so if I have something I want to accomplish, it’s hard for me to not just do,” Morales said. “I try to remind myself when I can only do 10 hours of work in a week, that rest is important, and I’m caring for another person who doesn’t know how to be a person yet. I try to stick to those kinds of foundations.”

Honoring her new season in life, Morales recently did a small launch for her mom-focused apparel. She’s also branching out into other types of jewelry making and other mediums. Eventually, she hopes to open her own store.

In the meantime, Morales spends a lot of time exploring the parks around town and hanging out in San Marco and Taverna, her favorite restaurant. She also plans to take little Mateo to dip his toes in our Jacksonville beaches.

By Jennifer Jensen
Resident Community News

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