Molly McGrath of Molly M Designs loves geometric forms. She uses laser cutting to create home and fashion accessories with these designs.
Meet Molly McGrath, a San Francisco artist with “cutting edge” design. The Arts Business Institute caught up with Molly and asked her to share her success story.
ABI: You were an architect before you started your own business. What made you change careers to making jewelry?
MM: I was just out of grad school in architecture at Berkeley, and had experimented with the laser cutter a bunch while in school. I was excited about making jewelry, because I had always made jewelry and loved jewelry design.
I decided that I had to have a laser cutter, and while working at a bay area architecture firm, I started making the jewelry more seriously and selling the pieces at local fairs. At that time, there weren’t a lot of people making laser cut jewelry, especially out of wood, and I got a great response. I slowly phased out of architecture when I saw the potential to run my own business.
ABI: What do people find most interesting about your work?
MM: People seem to love the detail and precision that can be achieved by a laser cutter. Also, I try to do new things with every collection – changing up the concept, materials, and technique. The jewelry is very tactile, people are curious about what it is made out of, (mostly wood) and touch the different bits of suede, felt, and fabric that is embedded in the jewelry. I also make coasters and wall hangings, which are often enlarged versions of the jewelry designs, in materials like felt, bamboo veneer, and paper. People like to see this scale change and also the connections between the different products.
ABI: Tell us about the materials you use and your process.
MM: I use mostly wood in my jewelry – birch, bamboo, walnut, and cherry. I try my hardest to source the wood from responsibly farmed, fsc certified forests, or from local cabinet makers who are scrapping the unusable parts of veneers, which are large enough for jewelry. To add more texture and dimension, I also use suede, leather, canvas, felt, and fabric.
I come out with a new collection every six months, and each collection is conceptually based on ideas I am interested in at the time. The concepts are loose, some can be based around specific materials like my most recent ‘superwaxes’ collection, some can be based on forms that I want to explore like the ‘geometrics’ collection. I gather inspiration, sketch, and then spend a lot of time on AutoCAD, fine-tuning each design. Once the designs are done, I send the file to the lasercutter and it cuts out the pieces, which I then assemble by hand.
ABI: How have you streamlined your production techniques to make work profitable at wholesale?
MM: The laser cutter does the majority of the work – once I have a design finalized, I can mass produce that design fairly easily. While the laser cutter is running, I can work on the other parts of the process like laminating the pieces together and adding ear wires etc. This multitasking saves a lot of time and makes the wholesale model feasible.