The whirr of the laser cutter is always there.
An ambient soundtrack, of sorts, underscoring our visit to designer Molly McGrath’s Mission District San Francisco studio. Back and forth it goes, up, down. left, right, over and over again burning patterns into materials with a precision that borders on astonishing. In the hands of a skilled user, that is.
Which Molly most certainly is.
A native of Napa, California, she started out as a professional architect with a particular affinity for her model making laser cutter. “Something clicked” she says, “and I started experimenting with jewelry.” Although the scope of production has radically changed… from designing large buildings to small jewelry and housewares such as this open portal necklace and leather coasters… the initial creative development has remained surprisingly similar.
~ San Francisco, California ~
"I have always made small things with my hands. What was frustrating to me about architecture was that there were so many factors out of your control. You're not doing the making, not touching the materiality of things. The contractor is. I like the instant gratification of making things myself; it's so exciting to me."
A synthesis of concept, form, material, details, connections and use.
“My process is very influenced by my education in architecture. I use AutoCAD all of the time, and think about materials, details, concepts, form … all tools I used when designing buildings.“
With one major difference: her current designs can be realized in hours or days as compared to the months or even years it took for structures to go up.
Inspired by the etching she was able to achieve on her initial run of coasters, for instance, Molly went back to the drawing board almost immediately and after several iterations one of her personal favorites – the Cuero Collection of necklaces and earrings -- were born.
“Finding a new material or product that is simpatico with laser cutting is my end-all.”
As we're getting ready to leave, we ask Molly to recommend some of her favorite local restaurants because:
1) That’s what we do, and
2) The smell of food, so prevalent in the Mission, is making our stomachs growl.
Ten minutes later, we’re in Taqueria Cancún devouring some of the best Mexican food we’ve had in a long time. Other Molly recs include the delicious market-driven Californian cuisine at Frances, as well as new Firecracker favorite Arizmendi Bakery, a worker-owned cooperative that puts out the fantastical "Wolverine" -- an organic whole wheat sourdough bread filled with apricots, cherries, raisins and walnuts.
If you're ever in that area of the city... trust her.