Maria Thompson-Corley is an amazing woman. She modestly describes herself on Facebook this way: “Busy! Single mother of two, musician, arranger, writer–well, that’s enough explanation.” On the contrary, that’s not nearly enough to explain the inner and outer beauty of this talented woman and her two talented children.
Maria is a gifted pianist, composer, and arranger who doesn’t simply dabble in music in her spare time but is in great demand on the concert stage. She is also a gifted writer. Letting Go, her first novel, and is a five-star read. She describes it as “a long-distance love story that also examines race, religion, and the difficult choices we make following our passions.” However, she would probably tell you that her greatest accomplishment is her two children. Kiana and Malcolm take after their mother in their love of the arts. Her daughter Kiana has used her talent as a singer and guitarist to develop quite a presence on You Tube. Her son Malcolm, like his mother and sister, loves music, but his first love is art, and this is his story.
At three years of age, Malcolm was diagnosed with PDD-NOS. There are long, involved explanations of those initials on the Internet, but the short version is that he is on the autism spectrum. Maria explains that he takes in and understands information, both verbally and the written word, but he sometimes has difficulty expressing himself – except through his art.
Around the time his challenges were recognized, he began to exhibit his strengths. His first drawings were recreations of pictures he had seen on Blues Clues, a children’s program that was popular on Nickelodeon at the time. With the encouragement of family and teachers, his art progressed, and in the 9th grade he began to decorate tiles.
In 2015, Malcolm saw a YouTube video of Julianatoren, an amusement park in Amsterdam, and he became obsessed with the idea of visiting it. The people in his life do not believe in limits, and they set about helping him earn the money to go. Through a Facebook site called Malcolm’s Tiles and a website by the same name, he began to market exquisite hand-designed decorative tiles, and last summer, Malcolm, Maria, and Kiana visited The Netherlands.
Maria and I met several years ago through our mutual writing connections, and although we have never met in person, I consider her a dear friend. Early last fall, when I was beginning to think about Christmas gifts for my son and his family, I approached her with a question. As Malcolm continues to expand his artistic repertoire, he has painted several stunning oil portraits, and I asked Maria if he could do portraits on tiles. She said he had never tried, but she would ask him about it. He agreed, and I emailed several pictures of Christian, Amy, Mattias, and Zoe and waited for the results. They were amazing.
In Malcolm’s story as told on his site, there are some details about the creative process:
It’s difficult to overstate the care and precision required to finish these tiles. The colors can’t be erased, since they are oil-based. The circles are traced, but everything within them is done freehand. As a result, no two are exactly alike. They are never completely symmetrical, but I think there is a message in this: that “perfection” isn’t a requirement for beauty.
Malcolm is now 18 and, after making a huge dream come true, he continues to develop his gifts as a means of earning his way in life. In a world where heroes are valued, this young man who faces challenges each day and overcomes them qualifies as a superhero. If you need a one-of-a-kind gift for a loved one, pay a visit to Malcolm’s Tiles. You might see something you like, or you might make a suggestion like I did and spark a completely different line of tiles. On the other hand, you might just need a little bit of inspiration from someone who knows what it means to overcome. Either way, everyone wins!