Madeleine Chalfant Yates was born in London but has divided her time in between Australia, Italy and the United States.
From the age of six until her teens Madeleine spent all her holidays at sea on her family’s boat. They travelled to remote regions of the south pacific regularly throwing down anchor at Tikopea, a remote island in Melanesia. There she made friends her own age and was introduced to making necklaces with seed beads. She noticed the locals were much more focused on adornment for their bodies than clothing. The women had large holes in their ears inserted with frangipanis, their bodies and faces tatooed with designs of their own cultural significance and layers of vivid multicoloured beaded necklaces covering their breasts.
Her father was a great inspiration for creativity. Besides being a photographer and filmmaker he would make sure any free time was spent either drawing or building something. Having spent some of his career as a University lecturer it followed that he spent a great deal of time introducing Madeleine to new skills and ideas.
In later years having completed her studies in Printmaking and photography at the National Art School in Sydney she decided to go to Italy. In Florence she studied jewellery making at The Arte Dei Orafe supporting her studies by working in Jazz club and as an artists’ model.
Eventually ending up in Santa Fe, New Mexico she worked as a jewellers apprentice and started her own line of jewellery.
The following years her business became firmly established in the US, selling to various galleries and many Museum gift stores around the country.
Back in Australia since 2003 she is now firmly ensconced in the Blue Mountains where she sells to a few select galleries but primarily to private clientele.
Living int the Blue Mountains has deepened her connection with nature having a profound influence on both her life work.
"I love being in a smaller community, especially Katoomba which has such a dense community of like minded creatives. Working from home I often crave contact with other artists to have an exchange of ideas or just to be inspired by what others are up to. Living here makes it easy to do that."
Being an avid daily runner and bush walker she gets many ideas out in the bush.
"It might by just looking at the branches of the trees and the way they overlap, a patch of lichen with its lovely frilly edges or just the interesting textures of the pavement beneath my feet."
Her jewellery while primarily made of silver often includes different materials such as bone, perpex, gemstone, pearls, resin and enamelling. Exploring texture is a key element of her work; whether running a piece of lichen through the rolling mill or trying out different hammering techniques. Interlocking components that move also feature prominently in Madeleine's designs.
"While I admire and draw enormous inspiration from the integrity of art jewellery, my focus is creating work that can be worn with ease and has a strong relationship to the human form.”
Her clasps are a notable feature, not only functional, but are embraced as part of the overall design.
Over the years Madeleines’ designs have moved in many different directions being influenced by her surroundings and experiences. Whether it was the textures of tapa cloth of the south pacific, the 70s designer furniture in her modernist childhood home, the industrial designer boyfriend( that taught her beauty of minimalist design and the importance of combining function and beauty) or finally the enthralling and fascinating offerings of the Australian bush.