Madeline Ellis has crafted a life as beautiful as the metal jewelry she designs. She approaches marriage and parenting like she does a unique bracelet; she sketches out her vision, molds it to her liking, and seals it to last. She is known for her artistry in metalwork and ceramics, but her real talent lies in the way she weaves a maker’s life with family values. In her relentless pursuit of making lovely things and a lovely life, she has gained wisdom, cultivated grace, and planted compassion.
How did you meet your husband? College. We were both Landscape Architecture majors at LSU.
Tell me about your children. Lillie is the free spirit, and the kid who does it herself. She’s my sunshine straight from heaven. She’s easy and sweet, but sassy. She’s already maternal and takes care of things. Charlie wakes me up in the morning with kisses and is super sweet with a really big heart. He’s really creative and loves to build things. He is the most artistic. They both love music and dancing. They are currently obsessed with Michael Jackson.
Things you always have with you? Phone, purse, sketchbook, and pen.
Three words to describe yourself? Growing, creative, dedicated. I’m dedicated to the pursuit of being the best version of myself. I try to edit out all the things that aren’t good.
How do you like to spend time? Listening to audiobooks, reading, and sketching. I love live music so we try to sneak in concerts when we can, and cleaning.
First thing you notice about people when you meet them? Their smile, the warmth and ease in their smile.
Most recent proud parenting moment? Charlie sneaks Legos into school, and if somebody doesn’t have one, he will bring one for a friend. He’s thoughtful.
Last mommy fail? I spent all morning building this awesome Lego clubhouse for his Lego Batman. And within minutes, he destroyed it. I was so upset and asked him why he did that. I said, “What is wrong with you? It was perfect and amazing!” Then I remembered The Lego Movie and realized I was totally acting like President Business/Lord Business. Then, I apologized to him when I put him to bed.
How do you keep it all balanced? I definitely don’t. I have a lot of help. Like right now, Dawson, Courtney, and Grace are working in the shop. I incorporate the kids and try to mesh things together. It’s not choosing this or that, but it can be this and that. If I am having a clay workday, I bring it into the house and the kids play in the clay with me. I can sketch while they color. Anything I can do that is including them, I try to do. Charlie comes with me to the Arts Market, and that’s our special time together. We really mesh our lives. There’s no end or beginning to family or work.
Greatest thing about being a mom? They are my teachers. My best teachers.
Favorite spot around town for date night? Louisiana Lagniappe. We try to do new things too, though. One thing we do is have kids’ dates. We split up and each take a kid. Dawson takes one and I take the other, and we go to dinner at different places. Then, we meet up for ice cream or yogurt afterwards. It makes them feel special. They get tired of each other, and we get tired of fussing at them. So it’s great to spend time with them one on one.
What's something parents shouldn't feel guilty about? Taking time for themselves. Whether it’s yoga, prayer, meditation, or reading.
What good habit do you have that you would like to pass on to the kids? Compassion for other people. Trying to understand their stories so that you don’t jump to conclusions. And grit.
Any bad habits you would not want to pass on? Endless, but probably not taking care of myself or not asking for what I know I need and then getting upset when I don’t get it. Not treating myself well.
Hardest thing about being a mom? Constantly questioning myself. Jewelry is easy. Parenting is hard.
What would people be surprised to learn about you? I lived in Beijing and worked there for six months.
How did you react when you found out you were going to be a mom? I was extremely happy. I had a miscarriage the first time, so I had a lot of relief. I was very grateful.
What’s your parenting style? Laid back when it comes to making a mess as long as they clean up after themselves. We do chores, too. When I grew up, we didn’t have so many resources. My mom was a single mom with four kids, so I got that grit. I want them to have it, too.
What's one piece of advice you often give your children? We love each other. We’re all on the same team. They are at prime fighting age, so I’m always reminding them.
How has parenthood changed you? It’s taken me down a lot of notches as far as my expectations of parenting go. It’s made me more laid back.
What’s your favorite time of day? I really like those early mornings with Charlie in the shop. It’s his sweetest time of day. Or after bedtime when I’m free to do what I want. Our friends come for coffee in the morning. Mornings are when people are in and out. It’s so nice when people can enjoy the space you create.
If you had 24 hours all to yourself, what would you do? Go somewhere really beautiful with a sketchbook and an audiobook. I would sketch and listen. Then, I would plan a coffee date with a friend I haven’t seen in a long time and have some deep talks.
How has your life changed since your business has taken off? I’ve had to let go of control. I have to trust others. Everyone has their different roles, and they were all things I used to do. Letting go has given me freedom to do the things that I’m good at, and they have freedom to do the things they are good at. I can trust that they’re doing it right.
How does owning a business provide an example for your children? We did the Mid City Makers Market, and now we are doing the Mini Makers Market, which was inspired by Charlie who wanted to sell something while I was selling my jewelry. He sold little pieces of candy and made like $9. He got what it was like to have customers. We are going to have the Mini Maker’s Market in July so kids can sell their own crafts or baked goods. Our kids are very much aware that I make jewelry and that’s how we pay the bills.
How did you get involved in the jewelry business and how does it affect your family life? I started making jewelry in junior high, like friendship bracelets and stuff, but I just never stopped. My mom was a seamstress, and my dad built things for us, so making things with my hands was not a crazy jump. I made jewelry through college and during my real job. My husband has the entrepreneurial spirit and encouraged me to sell my jewelry. My first maternity leave was my trial period to see if I could do this for real. I was super nervous about leaving my job to do this full time, but once I did, I never looked back. I did my first arts market in 2008, then I sold things on Etsy, and then created my own website. ■
Before kids, I never thought I would… let my car be as groos as it it. Even though I clean it out once a week.
In my fridge, you will always find… spinach.
Favorite movie growing up… Ghostbusters.
My guilty pleasure is… thrift stores.
Favorite children’s book… The Wonderful Things You Will Be.
Growing up, I knew I wanted to… connect people.
I can't stop listening to… The Beatles.
I like my coffee… with a splash of coconut milk.