“I like making stuff,” Martha McQuade explained to us of her creative pursuits. Her time is divided into thirds—she teaches, does architectural design and works with textiles.
She’s from Wisconsin originally, and aside from a brief stint spent in San Francisco, she’s always lived in the Midwest. “San Francisco was crazy expensive and really fun, and felt like vacation the entire time,” she explained, “It was either there or New York.” Even though San Francisco didn’t fit the bill, she’s still drawn to the idea of life in New York—something about that buzzy, city feel makes her feel right at home (something we can easily relate to).
If there’s one thing we picked up on from our time with Martha, it was an emphasis on process and progress in her work.
For example, take her work in designing the Urban Bean space on Lyndale. The doors are open, but there’s still work to be done. “We mostly just gutted it and did a lot of subtraction. We wanted to emphasize the shoebox-type shape,” she explained. They pulled up the tile and found a slightly wonky terrazzo floor and painted the walls and ceiling white to emphasize the texture. They’re still waiting on a perfectly proportionate table for the front, and 4’x4′ fir screen walls to break up the space and provide extra insulation.
With her textiles, there’s always room for experimentation. “With this piece, I added in new textures,” she told us, pulling a shirt from her hanging rack. The even woven fabric was dotted with hand knitted details, giving it a slightly speckled look from a distance (think a tri-blend shirt, but woven rather than cotton). “It’s not something you’d do if you were learning to weave by the book,” she explained, “Experimenting is the best way to learn.”
The ultimate example of this process is her scarf shop—it’s one that’s taken off like wildfire. “It’s a direct dye process and I just use a paintbrush,” Martha told us as she wiped dye onto the fabric spread over her workspace.
“I like that you don’t know what you’re going to get—it’s a reaction of the fabric and dye together, and the dye migrates,” she explained, “The fun part is when you start adding water, you get some of those crazy designs.”
With that, every scarf that Martha produces is entirely unique. Next up? A collection of fall and winter clothing. We’ll be keeping our eyes peeled for it soon!
Martha is wearing the Sinclair in Midnight Blue
Photos by Collin Hughes