by Eva Glettner
The symmetry and array of colors in Moroccan architecture are striking, and everyone, from mathematicians to artists, has found inspiration in the great domes and arches of these magnificent buildings by the Mediterranean Sea. San Francisco-based architect-turned-designer Molly McGrath was similarly moved by the beautiful geometric shapes, curves and bold colorations and uses them to create jewelry and housewares. McGrath explains her transition from architecture happened organically—but with the help of a laser-cutter: "I had just received my master's in architecture at Berkeley and was working for a modern prefab architecture firm. I had used the laser-cutter in school to make architectural models and became a little obsessed with it. I started making jewelry out of the same material I made models with, birch plywood. I took the plunge and bought a laser-cutter, not knowing that I would leave architecture altogether. At that time, laser-cut jewelry was really new and people responded really positively to the jewelry. Soon enough I was able to support myself with the business, and I left my job at the architecture firm."
The Maroq jewelry collection was inspired by McGrath's travels to Morocco, and the Atlas 1 and Atlas 2 necklaces stand out in particular. "The patterns in the necklace were inspired by a rug that I bought from the High Atlas mountains. The patterns and colors in that rug are absolutely amazing. Each necklace takes around one to two hours to make: first I paint the birch plywood, then cut the pieces with the laser-cutter, then laminate them together, then assemble the necklace as the last step. I just recently started making the Atlas necklace in gold-plated brass and rhodium plated brass." The results—colors which include sea foam and coral stained birch and turquoise—are thoughtful but remain visually playful.
All McGrath's products focus heavily on pattern and color, but within those realms, she is comfortable experimenting. Additionally, everything she creates—from coasters to earrings to trivets to her laser-cut leather pouches—are made from sustainable materials (ranging from bamboo to wool from discarded army attire to even scraps from local cabinetmakers), creating a charming backstory for each of her pieces. As for future plans, McGrath says, "I can't wait to experiment some more with this material and expand into purses and some large statement pieces of jewelry! As far as trips go, Japan and Sri Lanka are on the top of my list."
Molly M Designs' Atlas 1 and Atlas 2 necklaces are available online for $100. Coasters and trivets start at $30, pouches at $45.
Image courtesy of Molly M Designs