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Meet Trailblazer Madi Manson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Madi Manson.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Madi. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I was born and raised in the hills of Ojai, CA where I learned at a very young age to find great joy in my colorful and wild everyday surroundings. When I was 18, I moved to Portland, OR where, after a few years of figuring life out, I ended up attending and graduating from Pacific Northwest College of Art with a degree in textiles and printmaking. While there, I became a quilter, a screen printer, very interested in entrepreneurship and even more of a contrarian than I already was.

In the summer of 2016, I moved back to California to my current home of Santa Barbara. Here over the past 3.5 years, I have become part of an amazing creative community. I opened Women’s Work Studio – a collaborative studio space, started a line of printed fabric goods called Giantess Press, and launched Snack Gallery – my vending machine art galleries. Snack Gallery is my central focus and has become a well-known feature of Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone where it lives in Municipal Winemaker’s tasting room. Snack Gallery sells hand-made artwork and goods from local and national artists, all costing less than $20. I have more machines coming down the pipeline and can’t wait to share the rest of the fleet with everyone this summer!

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
One of the biggest obstacles I have faced on this road of creative living and artist-entrepreneurship has been learning to live in harmony with my clinical depression. I make a lot of art about being happy and sad at the same time. In every project I create or am part of, my goal is always to bring more joy and delight to the space around me. Frequently my depression says, “No, you cannot get out of bed today.” I have learned to read this as a sign that my mind and body might need something that I haven’t been giving it. It also might just be telling me I need to stay in bed that day, and that’s ok. I’ve learned to take advantage of my good days and not let my bad days trick me into thinking I can’t do what I want to do. I am always the most proud of Snack Gallery when people walk up to the machine with a puzzled look then have a moment of recognition of how it works and begin laughing and delightfully pointing. People get so much joy from my vending machines and art and, for me, that’s what it’s all about.

My advice for anyone else living with depression is to work hard when you can, sleep, go to therapy, be patient with your journey, take advantage of creative energy when you have it, have solo dance parties, listen to TEDRadio Hour, be kind to yourself, and remember that no one else can do what you are doing because they aren’t you. Easier said than done, but I’m trying too.

We’d love to hear more about Snack Gallery.
I am so proud of the seedlings I’ve planted in Snack Gallery and Women’s Work Studio. Both pull me into a wonderful community and fill me with such a sense of potential (and a lot of work haha).

Snack Gallery is a brand new way of consuming and interacting with artwork. Santa Barbara is full to the brim with traditional white-wall galleries selling $10k plein air painting of the ocean and Snack Gallery is my way to pushing back against that extremely inaccessible world. Snack Gallery’s prices range from $0-$20 and artists receive 70% back from everything they sell in the machine. Snack Gallery is all about creating joyful spaces and pushing back against the notion that art has to be expensive to be important. My goal is that every person leaves their experience with Snack Gallery empowered to embrace their happy and creative selves.

I am also very proud of the opening of Women’s Work Studio. Last summer, I opened a 400-sq foot collaborative studio space with two other Santa Barbara women: Andi Modugno (Lazy Eye Shop) and Anna Dulaney (a graphic designer and artist). Together in our downtown location, we host art nights, workshops, clothing swaps, community conversations and much more. We are located behind the best dive bar in town Elsie’s Tavern and are so thankful to all our neighbors for being so excited about our space. We call ourselves “Women’s Work” as an acknowledgment that women have worked extremely hard since the beginning of everything and almost never received recognition for their skill and efforts. We work hard and we are women. We also want to make clear that we welcome every human into Women’s Work – you are all invited.

What’s the most important piece of advice you could give to a young woman just starting her career?
The most important advice I give to both myself and to other young women starting their careers is be patient. I do not mean be patient with others’ expectations, society’s norms, or wait around for someone else to do it for you. Don’t wait for permission, be aggressive, act with intention and know it is your right to be loud. But do remember to be patient with yourself. No one can or should work 24/7 and the best ideas come from well-nourished brains. All the best things take time. Day by day, week by week, things move forward, art is made, careers are formed, and businesses blossom.

Also, spreadsheets are everything.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Dena Robles; Madi Manson

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