After graduating from college a couple of years ago, jewelry designer Madison McKinley Isner did what a lot of kids do after taking home that hard-earned degree: she took some time for herself.
That journey led her from Austin, Texas to her grandparents’ ranch in Buffalo, Wyoming, nestled at the base of the Big Horn Mountains. There, Madison was reacquainted with the landscape and people she’d come to know through the annual summer visits of her childhood.
Madison McKinley Isner.
“It’s wide open [country] and you can pretty much do anything outdoors that you want. It’s the vibe that if you want something, you go do it, or you make it, or you grow it—you kind of do [everything] yourself,” Madison explains.
“It’s back to basics. We grow all our own vegetables out there and make all of our food for our animals. It brings you back to reality and the simple life. It strips all that other nonsense away.
“I took six months and got to live out there, and I met so many incredible people and worked with a lot of artisans,” Madison continues. “I kind of lived that cowgirl/cowboy life, where it’s your job to be on your horse every day.”
The Mini Sundance Necklace (c) Madison McKinley
That immersive experience became the basis for the artist’s eponymous jewelry line, Madison McKinley, which launched in 2017. Made in workshops in Buffalo, Wyoming and Dallas, Texas, the collection mixes semi-precious stones with delicate chains, vintage coins and cameos, and handmade beads.
It’s jewelry inspired not only by Buffalo, the place, but also the people who call it home. Among them: a local blacksmith, who helped to create Madison McKinley’s line of handmade cuffs, and Madison’s own grandmother, who shares not only granddaughter’s penchant for creativity, but her career path as well.
“I get a lot of [inspiration] from my grandmother, who was an artist; she has a studio [in Buffalo]. I’ll go there and paint and look at the nature outside and see what comes,” Madison explains. The designer’s current favorite piece in the collection, her Mimi Eighteen necklace, is inspired by her grandmother’s charm bracelet, which she’s reinterpreted in a more contemporary style for the line.
Courtesy of Madison McKinley Isner
In addition to vintage designs like the Mimi Eighteen and one of a kind cameo pendants, Madison—a rider, herself—features a number of equestrian-themed necklaces, horseshoe pinky rings, and bracelets, as well as light-weight, mix-and-match pieces for layering. “We’re known for our great chains that go well with stuff you already have [at home], or stuff you can add from the line,” she explains.
It’s all part of a design style Madison refers to as “cowboy chic” after the landscapes, people, and animals that inspire it. At home in Dallas, Texas, it’s a feeling the designer knows a little bit about, herself. “It’s like you’re a cowgirl at heart, but that can’t be the reality for your everyday life, so you have to take to the city for work,” she explains.
The Ford Ring (c) Madison McKinley
Sometime-cowgirl or not, slipping on one of Madison McKinley’s gold, bullhead Ford pendants or a hammered, western cuff, you do start to feel a little bit closer to that far away home on the range.