Playing With Power Tools: Serious Design by Ninoshea

In two and a half years, our friend Molly Ryan of Ninoshea has turned a casual interest in woodwork into a full-time business building minimalist lamp fixtures and furniture. Showcasing wood and Edison bulbs with a minimalist approach to design, there's a peaceful simplicity to her work that we love with and has steadily built her a fan base. 

We’ve watched her business take off in the past year and eagerly dropped by her new workspace in Glendale to check out her setup and scope some of her latest pieces. (Fun fact: It's right next door to actor Nick Offerman's famed Offerman Workshop.) Greeted by her two dogs, what was immediately striking was the scale of her operation and some of the serious machinery she’s working with in there. 

"People are often surprised to hear that I build everything myself," she said, showing off the Glendale studio she shares with her boyfriend, her sister and several other artists. "I'm not pointing this out because I think it's impressive in any way, but I think a lot of people just assume that I have some dude in the shop banging out designs I come up with. But I'm that dude. And I'm a chick."

Walking around her section of the studio space — partitioned off by walls Molly and her sister installed themselves — our conversation turned to what directs her design. As in, are there any rules that guide her work? She said in pretty simple terms, generally, her goal is that whatever she's making does what it needs to do and "looks dope while doing it."

"I like wood, obviously," she said. "So I like to showcase woodgrain and wood variation in each individual lamp. I pay close attention to where I cut or join pieces of wood together. I'm also really neurotic about symmetry and balance, so I often will play around with the dimensions and scales of the lamps and bulbs I use until it feels 'right' to me."

This grand experiment began as a collaboration with her boyfriend, Tyler, when his brother got a laser cutter for his business and they would spend nights together "dorking out" and cutting random shapes with no one else around. Molly said, "We eventually came up with this idea for a modern take on an old school Japanese lantern and cut it out of acrylic. We loved it and came up with a handful of different designs and put them up for sale on Etsy just for fun and the response was great."

At the same time, the two of them were taking a woodworking class at Cerritos College in Norwalk, where they were learning basic wood skills they'd apply to to building furniture projects. She said, "I started playing around with our wood scraps, making shapes and plopping a socket and bulb on top and those sold even better than the acrylic lamps."

The direction of lamps came organically through her interest in woodworking. "I was pretty unfulfilled in my work life at the time, teaching yoga and doing other odd jobs, so getting validation and getting paid from doing something I really loved was pretty intoxicating. We turned our garage into a workshop, started collecting tools and equipment, selling the lamps online sort of took off, and then all of a sudden it was my full-time job." 

Before leaving, I lingered by a board collecting scrap photos and some smaller knick knacks and asked her to explain her design inspiration — at least currently. It's pretty "all over the place," she said. "I love history and antiques and far away exotic places and my home is filled with textiles and rugs and art and bric-a-brac that I've collected throughout my life. My personal work reflects a different side of my design sense. My lamps and the furniture I've built for my own home are more simple and utilitarian. They ground my eclectic side and make my space feel brighter, more contemporary and pulled together. My hope is that they do the same in other people's homes."

Be sure to check out Molly's work with Ninoshea on her website and at her Etsy shop