November 01, 2023

Labor and Love, Bead by Bead

労力と愛情の結晶 <br>ルビンスキー・ワークスのビーズ作品

Interviewed by Haruko Kohno / Photos courtesy of Rubinski Works



Madison Holler, the founding artist of Rubinski Works based in Minnesota, greeted me with this word as we began conversing via email. I’ve learned that it’s a way of saying hello in Anishinaabemowin, a language of one of the most historically important Indigenous Peoples of North America. Rubinski Works specializes in beadwork that honor and incorporate elements of Madison’s Anishinaabe ancestry with a contemporary consciousness. And, as you’ll learn from this interview, this is only part of the rich repertoire of influences and inspiration that define her practice. So, let’s begin.

—Madison, hello from Tokyo! Could you tell us where you are now?

Madison Holler (hereafter, MH): I am in my home studio in Central Minnesota on Anishinaabewaki Land. There’s a constant stream of music here in my studio, currently a psychedelic soul band called Monophonics. 

I am trying to channel summertime after the long and record-breaking snow we’ve had. The tulips’ bright green leaves are emerging from the moist dried grass, freshly exposed from melted snow. Soon, it will be a green and lush paradise! My backyard consists of three massive willow trees surrounding a small pond. This is not an uncommon occurrence for Minnesotans—our beautiful lake-covered state has earned the nickname “land of 10,000 lakes” for good reason. 

Today, I am finishing up beadwork on the patio, and lounging nearby soaking in the sun are my three cats, Potato, Pie and Soup.

—What a beautiful environment you’re in. Please tell us about Rubinski Works and how it all started.

MH: I am a one-person show, primarily making beadwork art as jewelry, wall hangings and mobiles. When I began higher education on a collegiate level, I thought I had to get a 9 to 5 job with great medical benefits. I have disabilities that felt limiting to my freedom of career at the time. In the end I was called to an artist’s way of life and decided to attend art school. I dabbled in printmaking, sculpture, art history, painting, etc. I still feel that every class and skill I took up then has made me a stronger and more well-rounded artisan. Once I graduated, I went full time into photography and jewelry making. In 2020, I transitioned into full-time Rubinski Works after 8 years of it being a side hustle. “Rubinski” was my father’s nickname for me.

—Your background is such an impressive mixture of ethnicities. Could you tell us about some of these influences?

MH: On my mother’s side of the family we have primarily Dutch and Scandinavian lineage and my relatives do stained glass, basket weaving, pysanky, woodworking and more. My father’s side of the family has Anishinaabe heritage, which is a group of Indigenous First Nations peoples of North America. I was taught by my elders at a young age to make work using beads, quill, birch, and leather. People in my family have always encouraged me in any trade I became interested in,  sharing a loving exchange of craft and culture.

—So naturally, “making” meant a lot to you in your formative years?

MH: I was a very hyperactive child with a lot of energy, and beadwork appealed to my calming, grounded, centered self. This was a trade I could pour myself into for hours, bead by bead, prayer and medicine in every stitch. It showed me what time and focus could provide—a tangible outcome of labor and love. I loved how beadwork was physical and functional.


—How do you make your pieces?

MH: When starting a new piece, I may research imagery of a flower or animal but very little sketching happens on paper. I find the intuitive process of bending the metal, which has a mind of its own, to be more fulfilling to me. Once done with the metalsmithing and soldering of the metal, I take it to the beading process. After many years of practice, I know how beads will behave within the shapes and edges of a design.

The beading process is done with fairly simple tools such as needle, nylon thread, beeswax, and beads. The magic is really in the technique. The style in which I am beading is fairly new and there are only a handful of artists doing this professionally at the moment.

—Your distinct color scheme is so eye-catching: the warm orange, the earthy brown, the accent of turquoise, and the bold black that holds everything together.

MH: I have always been a lover of warm, natural tones. As a photographer, my favorite time to shoot is the golden hour, which is the hour before the sun kisses the horizon and sets. I think my years as a graphic designer have informed not only my use of design and composition, but also the contrast and juxtaposition of color.

—Where do you find inspiration for your motifs?

MH: I would say my motifs are a mixture of my culture and my surroundings. I am mindful of not creating work that would be inappropriate for the public to consume or wear. All regalia and sacred work I make is not offered in public sales. So rest assured, if it is for sale by me, it is welcomed for all to wear and enjoy! 

I am also inspired by the natural world. I live in such an abundant and flourishing landscape. Some of my favorite relatives are: blueberries, bald eagles, butterflies, birch and cedar trees, and hummingbirds, to name a few.

—What are some of your current challenges and hopes for the future?

I am currently getting started on some beaded and embroidered garments. I have Type 1 Diabetes and a brain condition called Idiopathic intracranial hypertension, among other challenges, and so I can never predict when a bad day might fall into my lap. But I have a rather sunny disposition and appreciation for the good days and use them to the fullest! I do not plan on wasting a second of the ones I have left on not chasing joy. Living this way, in this “memento mori” state of mind, is truly my secret power.


Products are available through periodic shop updates on the Rubinski Works website. For more details, visit Madison’s website and Instagram account.

Instagram @rubinskiworks

An elegant crane motif pair using subtly variegated tones of white. Many of Madison’s works pair up birds in poses that are different but in perfect harmony with each other.

Collaboration collection with Brett P. Stenson, artist and designer based in Portland, Oregon, 2020.

Collaboration collection with Brett P. Stenson, 2020.

Madison Holler