4 capital city creatives

Artistic souls who've honed their design skills
4 capital city creatives
Photo by H. Claire Photography
Ciré Cross

Boho Beauty

Jewelry designer Cire Cross has always been fascinated by thrift shops, antiques and “weird old objects,” as she puts it. In the past, the Madison native frequently made jewelry on request but, six years ago, she quit her job as a personal assistant to an artist to pursue her dream of selling her Cire Alexandria jewelry full-time.

With a style she describes as both “modern and minimal bohemian,” her handcrafted collections made with brass, 14 karat gold fill and semiprecious stones evoke hieroglyphics, moths and celestial imagery.4 capital city creatives

“People really like my pieces. I make a lot more statement pieces or conversation starters. My jewelry is an exact reflection of my personal style and aesthetic–it’s eclectic,” she says.

Cross releases two collections a year and also makes one-of-a-kind pieces to sell on her website (cirealexandria.com); to stockists throughout Wisconsin, the U.S. and Canada; at selected art fairs; and on the online marketplace Etsy. Her items speak volumes in a quietly beautiful way.

“I have a hard time parting with some of the pieces,” she admits. “I purposely make rings not in my size so I have to sell them–it’s a problem! I like everything I create. I don’t make anything I wouldn’t wear.”4 capital city creatives

Divine Dreams

KeNisha Ruff is what you’d call a multidimensional businesswoman: she’s a blogger and personal stylist at Styled by Kaiye; owner of Marie Hunter Beauty, her own cosmetic company; and an aspiring designer. Oh, and she’s a mom of an 8-year-old and a newborn. Welcome to her Glamourland, indeed.

The petite powerhouse (who was still pregnant when the photo, right, was taken) commands a large presence on Instagram (@kaiye_marie) with her stylish outfit shots and witty sayings. In person, she’s polished and focused when explaining crafting her brand. She started Styled by Kaiye in 2014 as a hobby and has already worked with fashion brands Bon-Ton, Farfetch and IFCHIC. 4 capital city creatives

Ruff launched Marie Hunter Beauty, her self-funded lipstick line, in March 2016 after six years of hard work sourcing from an East Coast cosmetic lab, dreaming up shade names and testing products. And in her Instagram photos, she’s never without a bold pout. Her assortment includes 12 luxury matte lipsticks, eight hydrating lip balms and 12 vibrant lipsticks. Next up is building out Marie Hunter Beauty to include skin care and a full collection of makeup, plus dipping her toe in accessory design.

“Design is something I love to do. And I will do it,” she says, smiling.4 capital city creatives

Genuine Talent

Even though Sage Conrad is still in school for fashion design at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she already has a distinct point of view in her Jackalope Milk clothing and accessory designs. Think rockabilly combined with a tinge of goth sweetness and disco fabulousness (she may have just started a new genre). The self-taught designer says she started sewing when she was about 8 years old.

“[My family was] always really broke, so we did thrift store clothes way before it was cool to do that. We also got a lot of hand-me-downs and it became a way for me to update my wardrobe–I would kind of remake my clothes,” she says.4 capital city creatives

Her leather pouches and fringe-adorned handbags are made with a combination of new leather and leftovers from a shoemaker and moccasin maker she knows. The interiors are either lined with vintage fabrics or screenprinted textiles by friend Hailee Van Haden. This fall Conrad will have some new designs with intricate hand-woven fabric details.

“Everything I create and design is something I wear. And the things I make and sell are things people have seen me wearing and asked me to make. I’m always my own trial run,” says Conrad.4 capital city creatives

Delightful Drawings

Steph Hagens says she loves drawing fashion illustrations and vintage clothing and live sketching people’s outfits–although ironically, a large portion of her studies (for her bachelor of arts degree in studio arts from the University of North Carolina Wilmington) concentrated on sketching people sans clothing.

“We drew figures, nudes and things like that. It really helped with the fashion illustration and learning the figure,” she says.4 capital city creatives

Having worked on film and television sets for 10 years in costume design and illustration in North Carolina, Hagens switched gears and moved to Wisconsin, taking a job with American Girl as a designer for the company’s historical doll line. She has owned Steph Hagens Art on the side since 2009, and does live sketching at events and also teaches fashion illustration and watercolor classes at One-OneThousand’s studio.

Her style is organic, with loose flowing lines–but there’s still a sense of fine detail in her work that makes it exquisite. “I’m really obsessed with details, textures and embellishment–pretty much all of the things that make something beautiful to capture,” she says.4 capital city creatives

Shayna Mace follows Madison designers and has covered the retail and design scene for Madison Magazine for more than 12 years.