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Madison, WI

One Of Many - Photo Essay 6 of 12

Story by Wesley Verhoeve March 23rd, 2015


What: One of Many is a monthly series of photo essays about twelve American cities and their creative communities.

Who: Designers, woodworkers, chefs, engineers, illustrators, writers and anyone else making something that moves people.

Why: To inspire, and be inspired by, the independent creative movement that is reshaping our economy and culture. To encourage others to make the leap. To empower those already there, and let them know they’re not alone.

Why Now: The growing creative independent movement, along with renewed interest in life outside the big cities, is rapidly reshaping our economy and culture. Read more at and find below the sixth of twelve One of Many essays.

Many thanks to the good folks at Squarespace for helping make this project possible. I highly recommend using Squarespace to build your own website. Use the code “oneofmany” to get a 10% discount, and you’ll be supporting One of Many in a small way.


The Benefits Of Meandering

Ann Imig is a stay-at-home humorist and the founder/national director of Listen To Your Mother, a national series of readings across 32 cities, and soon to be a book on Putnam/Penguin. It was great to hear about Ann’s path, which took her from a career in corporate sales, to being part of the early days of personal blogging, to a variety of other projects which all culminated into Listen To Your Mother. It’s wonderful to see a passion project with a social mission take over a creative’s life, and this one in particular has already touched so many. Sometimes, our passion projects don’t make sense until they turn out to be an important puzzle piece of something bigger later on. This notion is not altogether unfamiliar for myself, and Ann’s take inspires me as I hope it does you.


Two Times Two Sides

Robin Lee splits his time between a job in energy efficiency and his passion for what he calls “wacky art“. Painting, poetry, music, MC-ing, writing, organizing exhibits, selling art bags, and more. He is less interested in commercial success than in communicating to a growing audience. We spoke about the danger of spreading oneself too thin, and how the current political climate is a fascinating one to create art in and be inspired by. Robin is one of those people who can talk for hours, on seemingly any topic. He has the ability to take in, translate and share all that happens around him, so it comes to not surprise that he creates in such prolific ways.

Danielle Lee is an environmental map maker, and a leader in the local hula hoop community. She founded Hoop Elation to bring the joy of hooping, which has proven to be transformative in her own life, to as many people as possible. As one of the 10% females in the science and tech community, her next project will center around increasing the opportunities for women to find a career in these fields. I can’t wait to learn more about it.


Prodigal Daughter

After attending the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, Maggie Welsh moved back to her hometown of Madison to pursue the dream of creating her own line of handbags and backpacks. She co-founded the Madison Sewing Studio, as well as her own company Maggie Modena. The former provides space and sewing classes, while the latter recently released its first line merging the functionality of a handbag with the aesthetics of hangable art.

Moving out of a global fashion capital to start a company in a smaller city is Maggie’s small way of helping grow Madison into the creative center she believes it has the potential to be. All of Maggie Modena’s products are cut locally, sewn regionally, and made from materials sourced from within the United States.



Megan Monday is a photographer who takes a special interest in shooting small businesses with a focus on social good. She co-founded Metta Monday Creative, a boutique media marketing company that helps organizations tell their story and achieve their goals. Her business partner Brijetta Hall Waller is a producer and filmmaker who previously lived in Los Angeles where she worked within the major studio system. After some time, it became clear that Brijetta had an increasing interest in making socially impactful documentaries like In My Room: The Inner Life Of Teen Girls, which prompted a move to Madison allowing her to focus on these instead.


Embracing The Hustle

Rachel Keranen has been a writer since the age of 13. She spent a year working in a business development role at the Madison based app design/dev shop Bendyworks. I met her during her last week there, as she prepared to transition into writing full-time. A year’s worth of sales and negotiation experience at Bendyworks gave her a little extra courage to focus on a life as a freelancer.

Rachel likes asking questions and telling stories. Her background and experience in journalism and business now allows her to be an increasingly more common hybrid writer. She can apply her talents to assist companies in telling their stories, as well as dig into pure journalism to tell her own stories.


The Dane County Farmers’ Market

Madison is home to the largest producer-only farmers market in the United States. Every one of the 300 vendor sells only items they themselves have produced, including vegetables, flowers, meats, cheeses, and more. That direct connection between the land, the people who produce, and their customers means a throwback to the days of truly knowing who was helping feed your family.



Lea Wolf is a birth photographer, doula and the founder of birth resource center Happy Bambino. When she was a young child, she was told that the happiest adults were those who grew up to work in jobs that corresponded with what they loved as children. Young Lea grew up on the Bad River reservation in northern Wisconsin where she most loved her Fisher Price camera, and dreamed about having 13 babies. It seems like things have worked out. One day, she plans on making her way back to the red clay dirt of Bad River, and until then she will continue to cry at every birth she attends.


Upward Motion

Ben Sperry is a software and product designer. After stints at a few startups, launching two successful web apps and participating in Y Combinator, Ben and his best friend since kindergarten set out to build a platform to enable others to make native-quality hybrid mobile apps. They formed a company around this idea, named it Ionic and since after launching in November of 2013 over 500,000 new apps have been built on their platform. They are now 15 people strong, and on their way to change their field for the better.

Israel Lopez has lived quite a few lives. From being an accomplished High School football player while also being temporarily homeless, to graduating college cum laude, to choosing law school over a being a starting college fullback, to being one of only 10% of law grads to get a job at a firm shortly after graduating, to founding nonprofit Chins Up Foundation to match college athletes with at risk children, to working on an acting career on the side. So many stories, so much persistence, so much kindness.

Luke Bonney and Niko Skievaski moved to Madison to work for medical software giant Epic. After leaving Epic, Niko worked out of a railroad car for six months and together with Luke went on to co-found a community space called 100State. Their goal was to galvanize and support early stage start-ups and solo entrepreneurs, and the space is still going strong. After the space was well on it’s way, they co-founded Redox, which focuses on building a modern API for healthcare integration. A massive challenge with a potential boundless positive impact on society. To balance out work with, well, more work, Niko has also flexed his creative muscle by publishing two satirical books on healthcare regulation.


KEep Them Dancing

Maximillian Wasinger is a graphic designer, DJ, event promoter, and co-founder of the creative collective Foshizzle. What started as a tiny party in the park, moved to a successful series in a tea house, and far beyond. The collective is currently in the brainstorm phase of turning the movement into a festival. Crossing fingers.


A Man And His Craft

Bruce Erickson refinishes, builds and repairs furniture. He has been running his business Country Antiques in the Atwood area for 30+ years, out of a building owned by his mother. The area has changed a lot, with rent tripling over the last ten years or so. Business has been down lately, due to the economy, but Bruce talked about showing up every day and putting in the work. Hearing him talk about some of the furniture made his passion for his craft palpable.

Dan Capps has been collecting butterflies and other insects since 1958. He has a tremendous collection and a wealth of knowledge that has led to him exhibiting at the Epcot Centre, the Entomology Society of America, and many other places. He also holds the world record in cricket spitting at 32 feet and half an inch. Dan’s day job is fixing baloney-making machines at the Oscar Mayer company, which he has been doing for the past 44 years. A gem of a man.

Ryan Huber and his business partner Sam Parker co-founded Context Clothing in 2005 as a local denim specialty store with a service-minded approach. They have since expanded into offering a variety of clothing and shoewear produced in historic American manufacturing plants and contemporary design houses. They have been recognized by national publications of note, including GQ, the New York Times and many others.


Food In Madison

Jonny Hunter is the co-founder of Underground Food Collective and the Underground Butcher, operates a catering service, and is a James Beard award nominated executive chef at Forequarter. Despite all of this Jonny is unassuming and redirects all praise to his team, down to his hesitation to even apply describe himself as chef.

Operating as a collective allows for unusual projects, like a successful Kickstarter to create an open-source, educational approach to sharing the complex process of becoming a USDA-certified meat processor (HACCP). This last project is one of a kind in an industry more known for hoarding than sharing information.

Johnny’s first restaurant, the successful Underground Kitchen, burned down in 2010, after which the collective took a year to open Forequarter. Rather than take the path most traveled by moving “up” to Chicago or NYC for their next step, the collective fully committed to Madison, with the goal of helping make it a food city with a reputation like Charleston or Nashville. A real possibility based on the incredible wealth of great farms in the region.


Mark Voss of Voss Organics is an urban farmer and middle school French teacher. As we walked the grounds, we snacked on kale, heirloom tomatoes, leek, celery, radicchio, and more, all fresh from the ground and boy was it delicious. Mark sells to several local restaurants around town and gets help from neighbors to water and harvest when needed. It’s great to see a small farm be so central to a neighborhood and city, making a few hundred tiny impacts to amalgamate into one large one for an entire community.


Vanessa and Alla are the co-founders of NessAlla, a six year old company that produces kombucha in small batches. Only organic and fair trade ingredients are used, and every bottle available for purchase was bottled within the last two weeks. Before they started a company together, Vanessa and Alla discovered they both shared a passion for herbs and healthy eating. After some successful home-brewing, they decided to start teaching classes on the matter at a local co-op. Classes sold out, and the pair started selling kombucha at the farmers market. NessAlla is now available regionally, in five states, and the company has recently moved to a beautiful new facility and retired their adorable little bottling machine for a brand new one that’s better equipped to handle the increasing demand.


Research Notes

Helen Rowe is a violinist and researcher. I met her when she was spending some time in her home state of Wisconsin, right before she moved to Los Angeles to pursue a PhD in musicology. Her focus is very specific and of the moment, as she sets out to research and write about the evolution and impact of music in video games. This is not a new area of interest for Helen, who wrote a previous research paper on A Study of Music, Embodiment, and Meaning in the World of Portal.


Made By Hand

Todd Cambio, avant-garde luthier, father of three, small batch farmer, and the owner of the Fraulini Guitar Company. Todd has been making guitars full time for ten years, with clients all over the world, including well-known musicians like Ben Harper, Mike Seeger, and others. Todd is dedicated to providing traditional musicians with instruments that are modeled after the classic designs of the true Golden Era of guitar construction, the early 20th century. Every guitar is built by hand, using mostly old building techniques.



|| More To Read and See ||

|| Visit for the story behind this project, and information on upcoming cities and essays.
|| Find more photos on Instagram and by searching the hashtag #oneofmanyMadison
|| Find outtakes on Tumblr and Ello, published on a regular basis.
|| A list of my favorite restaurants and shops in Madison is available on Foursquare.

NEXT ESSAY: New Orleans, LA - To be published April of 2015.

Follow along in real time via Instagram. Many thanks to the good folks at Squarespace for helping make this project possible. I highly recommend using Squarespace to build your own website. Use the code “oneofmany” to get a 10% discount, and you’ll be supporting One of Many in a small way.

Footnote: Many thanks to Rachel Keranen, Claire Eliza, Cassandra Willyard, Megan Monday, and especially Sam Wilds.