Eastside Culture Crawl: Product designer Madeleine Chaffee embraces sustainability and splashy colours

Her company name, MaddlesMade, came from a nickname for Madeleine that her mother gave her as a child growing up in Melbourne, Australia

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      The Eastside Culture Crawl is not just an exhibition of painters. It also showcases jewellers, sculptors, furniture makers, weavers, potters, printmakers, photographers, and glassblowers.

      One of those designer-makers is Madeleine Chaffee, who operates a 90-square-foot studio in the MakerLabs space at 780 East Cordova Street.

      Her company name, MaddlesMade, came from a nickname for Madeleine that her mother gave her as a child growing up in Melbourne, Australia.

      “My mom runs a quilting business from our home, so I just grew up around fabric and sewing machines and all of that stuff,” Chaffee told the Straight by phone.

      When she moved to Vancouver three years ago, it seemed to her like a lot of people were dressed in blacks and greys. That stood in contrast to the more colourful attire that people wear in Melbourne.

      So she has decided to become a “colour rebellionist” in Vancouver, offering a panoply of bright hues on the clothing, tea cozies, fanny packs, toilet-paper rolls, tissue boxes, and other products that she creates.

      “I always dressed colourful back in Melbourne,” Chaffee said. “I feel like I’ve become even more addicted to colour since I moved here.”

      She’s keenly interested in making sustainable products, quipping that she tries really hard not to run to the fabric store because it’s “dangerous”.

      Instead, she prefers creating items from fabric that she finds in thrift stores or from leftover scraps from her other creations.

      “I try to reuse that stuff, which is a challenge,” Chaffee said. “It’s a case of exploring how to reuse these textiles in my work.”

      Pink fur mades this tissue holder stand out from the crowd.

      She meticulously designed her small space to enable her to do everything from product design to the fabrication work on sewing machines at her desk. She also makes use of communal work areas at MakerLabs.

      Chaffee has been operating her business since she was a teenager. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Swinburne University of Technology in Australia in 2015, she designed plastic and metal goods for different companies.

      “You want to make products that are sustainable, but you also have to design products that are cheap and easy to manufacture,” Chaffee said. “There are all these things that drive you to design products that aren’t as sustainable. I guess that experience makes me want to do better with my own work.”

      This year marks her third straight year participating in the Eastside Culture Crawl, and she is one of 11 artists showing their work at MakerLabs.

      Toilet paper rolls can be stored in imaginative ways.