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Sitting down with Madeline Trait in the meeting-room-turned-office that she’ll be working from for the next few weeks, it’s impossible to not feel excited about the creative process.

The wall in the room where Madeline works has been increasingly peppered with sketches and drawings and the table is a mix of laptop, markers, notes, and art. She is using the CreativeLive Artist-in-Residence space to incubate a new vision and the once ho-hum meeting room is starting to take some serious artistic shape.

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Madeline is like many CreativeLive students. She is an artist and a business person and has been holding on to that part-time, day job to keep money in the bank. Right now, Madeline pads her bank account with interior design work for commercial clients. The interior design gigs  inform and pay her, but don’t light her up. She’s had some impressive beginner success with her laser-cut jewelry and cake topper sales and wants to take the next bold step of expanding her line and setting out entirely on her own.

Creatively, Madeline is exploring the notion of “milieu” – a person’s environment and she’ll be applying this theme across the projects she works on during her residency. To date, much of work are drawings she’s been evolving and posting to the wall. Madeline said she is “…asking myself, ‘what is community?’ and exploring the ideas of physical and virtual environments.” Madeline regards milieu as both a place and an idea and the structure of a house calls to mind both a physical and metaphorical expression of home.

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As she is exploring these ideas she has experimented with many variations on the structure of a house. Most of the houses are uniquely embellished to represent the differences among people and their personal milieu. She’s simultaneously experimenting with the different aspects of herself – the part of her that loves minimalist design and the part of her that is perpetually drawn to draw floral prints.

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During the next phase of work she will be working with actual small house structures and experimenting with options for decorating and displaying them. But it hardly stops there. Madeline is also incorporating these ideas into new fabric designs. Madeline hasn’t done much surface design (the art-school phrase for fabric design) but sees it as an opportunity to bring the insights she has gained from working with print in interior design to a new medium.

Today, she took in some of Kari Chapin’s course on starting a handmade business while she continued to develop product ideas. She sketched out a few more ideas as she listened to Kari talk about the inevitable temptation to jump from one project to the next. The goal for Madeline is to link her future product line to her current one, while diversifying her product offerings so she can bring in sufficient revenue. Its a classic business consideration, but here in Madeline’s work space, its a beautiful one too.