On a quest to live an alternative and carefree lifestyle, Madison Hampton left the structure of a traditional path and chose to hit the open road in her van.
It was the only thing she could imagine herself doing. It was the obvious next step. So while other college graduates polished their resumes and began submitting job applications, Madison and her boyfriend, Gage, bought a Chevy Express van with the intention to find America.
They set off on their journey in 2014 with their Australian Shepard, Tobin, in tow.
The van required reducing material possessions, but one thing Madison wouldn’t be leaving behind was her passion for metalsmithing and four years of education from Northern Michigan University’s School of Art and Design.
The first few years on the road saw them travel from coast to coast, and Madison began creating a system to make jewelry in the van. Gage built a removable bench that allowed her the freedom to work wherever the van could take them, and she found solutions to the challenges posed by not having a modern day jewelry studio. In fact, overcoming the limitations of working on the road made her into the exceptional artist she is today.
This is the story of how her business, Vancrafted Studio, began.
“I always say my pieces made on the road are ‘hard earned,’” Madison says. “Completing a collection, or even a single piece of jewelry, while on the road is probably the most gratifying feeling in the world for me. Working without the conveniences of a modern jewelry studio leaves me feeling so much more close with my work. I look back on those pieces and feel very proud about their journey of coming to completion. A journey that very likely involved fighting wind, rain, snow, and limited sunlight.”
After a few years on the road, their beloved Chevy van stopped meeting their needs and they made the call to downsize to a Toyota Tacoma. With the help of Go Fast Campers in Bozeman, Montana, they purchases a minimal but durable truck camper that now functions as their home, adventure mobile and Madison’s studio and office. It’s here, sitting on her cooler that doubles as a chair, that Madison opens the hatchback of the truck and gets to work.
When she sits down to design, her top priority is creating original and authentic pieces. Her bracelets, rings, earrings, and necklaces are all inspired be her time in nature and result in pieces like tree silhouettes and crescent moons.
“All of the silver I use is recycled, melted down, and made into new sheets that I can create from,” Madison explains. “I also only use ethically sourced, natural stones—primarily natural American turquoise which parallels nicely with my life.”
When you work where you sleep and sleep where you work, it can be challenging to find a sense of balance. It’s especially hard for Madison, who truly loves what she does. In her downtime, she can be found hiking and fly fishing, typically in the mornings after a home-cooked breakfast burrito. When she feels herself out of balance with work and play, she reminds herself that being able to have experiences in nature was the whole reasons she chose to live on the road, and it encourages her to get outside.
In the last year, Madison has watched her alternative choices and hard work pay off. She’s most excited about connecting with people and artists that are either living in a similar way or are interested in doing so—from meeting up with creatives on the road to being interviewed for a Women On The Road podcast episode.
The podcast interview led to an invitation to the Van Life Diaries/Women on the Road gathering at the end of the month, where she’ll do a jewelry making seminar for the participants.
“I feel really blessed my business has provided me the unexpected opportunity to be part of a larger community of creatives,” Madison says.
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