In anticipation of the Walker’s Jewelry & Accessory Makers Mart this Saturday, we’re highlighting a few of the 20 artists and 10 accessory designers whose hand-crafted designs will be on display.
Madison Holler is designer of Rubinski Works, an art and design collective she co-owns with partner Michael Thienes. Rubinski Works is a wedding and lifestyle photography and videography business that also acts as an outlet for Holler’s peyote beadwork. Holler’s unique jewelry is typically created with glass and metal seed beads, but the artist doesn’t hesitate to explore different materials, such as porcelain clay.
How was Rubinksi Works founded?
As a young adult, I struggled to find a career that fed my artistic drive and also provided a sustainable job for myself. I spent my childhood making a multitude of crafts and trades my family taught me—beadwork, painting, quilting, printmaking, woodworking, Ukrainian egg dying, basket weaving, chair canning, knitting, drawing, ceramics. The more obscure and unique the folklore or history, the further I would pursue it. I gather inspiration primarily from contemporary, folk, and Bauhaus designs. Through making, I eventually found the confidence to sell my goods, my favorite of all being peyote beadwork. I still operate as a photographer and graphic designer, with the aid of my partner Mike, who is a videographer.
Do you still make any quilts, woodworking, etc., or is your focus on beadwork and photography?
I still sew, knit, woodwork, draw, paint, embroider, throw pottery—whenever a creative juice flows, I ride it until I am satisfied. My “career” is in beadwork (I use ceramic porcelain pieces in my jewelry also), graphic design, and photography, but I make a multitude of work for leisure also. I tend to resist endings as much as possible, and by having many stokes in multiple fires, there is a thin veil dividing beginning and end.
Why did you want to become a jewelry artist?
Of all the trades I dabbled in, the beadwork was my bread and butter. The act of creating the beadwork alone is pensive and thoughtful, almost meditative for me. Jewelry has always attracted me in the way it can empower and commemorate a milestone or event for someone. I’m curious by the way one adds the final touch to their daily get-up with a go-to piece or a statement piece to accent an outfit. It’s truly miraculous to see what a pair of big earrings can do to a woman’s confidence!
What does your process of making a peyote-style beaded accessory look like?
Peyote stitch is created in a bead-by-bead workflow. That is to say, it is made off-loom and applied all by hand. Just me, beads, needle, and thread are needed to make the beadwork. It’s great working this way, and with the proper vessel to house the materials en route it makes the art form somewhat migrant. I often travel and bring my work with me for a change of scenery. Applying the fixtures and metal fittings comes last and is icing on the cake to make the beadwork wearable.
What is your favorite tool and why?
Needle and thread—for somewhat obvious reasons. Not only for beadwork, but I admire the versatility in its uses. I’ve been called a “Swiss army knife” for all the skills I possess, but I aspire to someday be a needle and thread.
With a background in graphic design and photography, was it challenging going into beadwork?
Not really. I’ve been doing beadwork since I could hold a needle and thread, so that came naturally. The graphic design and photography provided income for me and a creative outlet so I could devote the time to the beadwork while I was exploring what it could become for me.
Do you have any tips on how to maintain innovative as an artist in a growing art community?
I would suggest staying open to multiple art forms and ways of working. The notion of knowing—“What do you want to be when you grow up?”—in my opinion, shouldn’t be so easily summed up. I have found that the “jack of all trades” model has not only lent me to remain accessible and adaptable to the changes in art and society, but has aided me in being self-reliant and sustainable.
Who is your greatest influence?
I could delve into the art world inspiration I find, but my first reaction was my mother and father. My father has been an artist all his life, but worked a more blue collar job owning an auto body shop for more than 30 years. He would inspire and encourage me as a young girl to create everywhere I went. Many of his lessons were obscure and fleeting, like: draw in the sand and watch it disappear, find only resources outdoors to draw with (my tools of preference being coal from the fire pit and birch bark), or, my favorite lesson of all, draw the sunset in the dark 30 minutes after its passed. My dad suffered with chemical dependency all his life and experienced a massive heart attack and strokes due to his health issues caused by his dependency. The incidents left him disabled and eventually homeless due to his resistance to abstaining from alcohol and drugs. Through the years, I have struggled to find him sustainable housing and/or recovery programs. The ones I have most seen him thrive in were ones with art therapy programs in place. This work has always inspired me and gave me a passion for teaching. My mother errs more on the side of craft than my father, who primarily practiced traditional art mediums. She is who taught me to appreciate the culture and history of objects and how they operate as art and in the world.
How have your family traditions influenced your work now?
Learning different crafts and trades made me able to adapt to different ways of making and tools. I have never felt limited in medium or material throughout my career. The history and heritage of certain work always fascinated me as a young girl learning the folklore. I often use these tales, patterns, and colorways as inspiration for the beadwork.
Some of these art forms I grew up learning I have found are rare and the products somewhat oddities. I feel protective of these works and that their history remains practiced and known. There is also a level of nostalgia in creating work with similarities to the trades I learned from my family, and I hope that these feelings transfer to my viewers.
What’s a major life challenge you’ve faced, or are facing, and how did you overcome it?
Other than feeling responsible for my father’s well-being and operating as his caretaker, I have seen what feels like a lifetime’s worth of medical problems in my short time. I am a Type 1 Diabetic and have experienced thyroid, cervical, and uterine cancer. I am fully in remission at this time, and I’m hopeful this status remains. These unforeseen forces are ones that kept me from pursuing a career in the arts as a young adult. Obtaining medical benefits has always been the number one goal—and my passion for art felt like a luxury at the time. The day I qualified for medical assistance was the day I applied to pursue my BFA.