For Women’s History Month, we’re recognizing Milwaukee women and femme-identifying artists who are defining, changing and contributing to Milwaukee’s creative scene.
Madalyn Johnson, who goes by “Maddie,” makes jewelry that she sells online and it’s aligned with her spiritual practice.
“The basis of it came from back in 2020,” says Maddie. “I don’t want to call it a mental breakdown but I wanted a bigger connection. I was always working on my mental, always working on my physical, but my spiritual went out the door when I started coming of age.”
Maddie grew up Lutheran but over the years she found herself creating a spiritual practice outside of religion. Her practice involves meditation and yoga and there are elements of faith. As the pandemic kicked in Maddie felt that she needed to find an outlet that was entertaining to get her through quarantine. So she started making jewelry — first for fun, but along the way she started making jewelry that was closer to her heritage.
“I first started with waist beads,” says Maddie. “Looking back at our ancestors and coming from where we are, waist beads was kind of like a rite of passage to show that you’re a woman. It’s for cleansing your spirit and making your spiritual journey something greater for you.”
Waist beads are a string of small beads of multiple colors. They are worn in many West African countries like Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal.
“Most of the time women in Africa use it for weight loss, to show that they’re coming of age or they’ll add another one for each year that they get older,” says Maddie. “But I started adding spiritual charms to mine and then doing specific colors so that it shows my spiritual journey. The colors resonate with certain areas of my life that I want to either protect or do better in.”
Maddie says at first she was giving the waist beads to other women when they would inquire. Now she sells them on Instagram and Facebook along with bracelets, and rings.
On top of it all, Maddie Johnson is a mother of four children and a wife. She says there are many demands on her. Creating jewelry has helped her over the year.
“This is something that throughout the pandemic really brightened me up,” says Maddie. “Because during this time people fall into those vices. They fall into that depression. I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to be able to still live even though we’re not outside. So this is what drove me to it.”
If you check out Maddie’s Instagram, you’ll see some of her jewelry and meditation guides. She’s also a lover of exercise so you may find posts of her work out routine as well. Maddie says whatever your outlet, make sure you find something that really works for you in staying healthy as we go through this pandemic.
Know any rad women and femme-identifying artists? Are you one yourself? CopyWrite Magazine, in partnership with Riverwest FemFest, is holding space for people to record covers of the women, nonbinary and femme-identifying artists who have inspired them. You can submit videos to Copywrite Magazine, where they will be shared on the website. If you’re not up for singing you can also submit artwork.
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