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Staff Spare Time Series: Madison & her Crafty Business

If you've ever visited one of our taprooms, we're sure you've noticed how cool our staff is. When they aren't slinging beers like bosses to all you fine folks, they're studying to become cicerones, playing in two bands, making gourmet popsicles, or hand-binding books make out of recycle beer packaging! We felt it was only appropriate to share some of their unique stories!

Meet Madison, owner of Madison Dawne Studios, a one craftswoman show offering printed and naturally dyed textile goods, handmade paper items, hand bound books, greeting cards, prints, and digital work! Read through to learn about how she got started in the art business, her future goals, and her artsy process!

"There was always a camera around the house growing up and I remember becoming enamored with taking photos of everything in my early teen years and always had a sketchbook under my arm.  I finished out high school at a performance arts conservatory in the Twin Cities for musical theater and vocal arts, but knew I didn't have the right temperament or drive to take on that realm professionally.  Moving to Madison when I turned 18, I mostly worked the service industry but switched my focus back to studio arts while going to MATC for an Associates Degree in Liberal Arts, focusing on photography with plans to transfer to a UW Systems school at some point.  My partner Matt and I moved to Milwaukee in 2013 with the specific goal of finally finishing out undergraduate degrees.

It was at UW-Milwaukee at the Peck School of the Arts that I discovered my absolute favorite discipline: Printmaking.  It is everything I was ever interested in doing creatively all rolled into one.  It is the umbrella under which lives screen printing, wood carving, copper plate etching, letterpress, paper making and book binding.  It is also closely connected with wood working, fiber arts, photography, graphic design and most importantly has always been a driving force within social justice.

The themes of my work center around sustainability, education, history, accessibility, empowerment and justice.  You could say I am inspired by what I see wrong in the world and use printmaking, which has always been used as the voice of the voiceless, to declare dissent and influence change, even at a small scale.  My Senior Project was a "Women's Empowerment" series that highlighted forgotten or overwritten females in history using posters, prints and zines for the distribution of information.  The "Respect the Earth" collection began as a comment on the budget cuts and land invasion of our National Parks and has expanded to other form of nature under threat, such as the pollution and abuse of Great Lakes and the clearing and burning of Forests.  I have a "Feed the Bees" project that has developed from informational plantable handmade paper seed packets into a whole line of honeycomb themed goods that I use a portion of the proceeds to help fund pollinator research.  Each project, I try to work as sustainably as possible; sourcing local elements, upcycling items, making as many parts from scratch as possible, and even saving scraps of materials for future creations.

I am slowly working trying to switch from managing my art practice in my Spare Time, to treating my business like an actual job.  Up until recently, I would do all of my making after work in my home studio, crafting the things I would like to sell at Makers Markets every other month, only applying 10-15 hours a week.  Now, I am a freelance artist, working on specific commissioned items for customers, designing logos, building and maintaining websites and social media platforms for small businesses, and am attending anywhere between one and five markets a month.  Because of this I am beginning to schedule out studio time for myself as if they were shifts at work, about 20-30 hours a week.  This guarantees that I am allowing myself time to work on the millions of projects I usually have going at once, can have office hours to respond to emails, and help me more consistently think of my practice as my business rather than my hobby (because it is!).

My process tends to be intricate and time consuming but is also my art therapy.  I've never minded long, slow, monotonous tasks; applied to my practice they are something that help slow down my racing ADHD mind and distract my from my anxiety in a meditative fashion.  For example my honeycomb books take so long to make because I screen print the canvas myself, turn it into book cloth by wrapping the covers; find sustainable yet color matching paper for the end pages and backing; source, measure and cut down all the paper for the text block; fold pocket signatures, poke evenly measured sewing stations into each cover and every signature; and finally bind every book by hand.  But I love every step of the process and people who now own them appreciate the effort and originality of the work.

However, all of that long, lovely, meditative dedication can be expensive. Theoretically artists are supposed to keep track of how many hours it takes, the cost of materials and somehow measure the discipline involved in creating their work, including the education it took for them to learn the those skills and the price is meant to match all of that combined.   But to be completely honest, if I did that with all of my items, no one would be able to afford them.  It is a battle between knowing and demanding your worth to not be taken advantage of but wanting your work to be accessible, and I wish more people understood that when they respond negatively to a highly priced item that they "could get for cheaper on Amazon".  The discipline of an artist is also not always transferable - yes printmaking is a whole lot of different arts rolled into one, but just because I can screen print you a T-shirt does not mean I can embroider a patch for you; or because I have a little experience with a camera does not mean I can take your family portraits; or because I hand carve large wood blocks for printing does not mean I can sculpt a statue for your garden.

My goals within the art world are constantly changing, I have big, head-in-the-clouds, perfect image of the future kind of goals, as well as small, realistic and obtainable goals.  This year I have already achieved my ambition of becoming an official business as Madison Dawne Studios LLC, got my very own set of flat files and got accepted into the Madison Art Fair on the Square long before I thought I would be ready.  My much bigger dreams of the future would entail my partner and I will own a building with a Print Shop/Cafe downstairs where I make and sell all of my work, and our living space upstairs with a million skylight windows, and we supply all of the produce and eggs for the cafe from the back yard homestead. Who knows, that might be sooner than I think with how things are going now!”


Follow Madison's art adventures!
Instagram: @madisondawnestudios
Find her work at Local MKE located in the Third Ward
Published August 14, 2019

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