Maker Spotlight: Jillian Northrup & Jeffrey McGrew

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Maker Spotlight: Jillian Northrup & Jeffrey McGrew

Names: Jillian Northrup & Jeffrey McGrew
City: Oakland, California
Makerspace: Because We Can
Day Jobs: Co-owners of Because We Can; Jillian works as the Design Director and Jeffrey as the Architect

Design : CNC : Furniture : Architecture : Interior Spaces

How’d you get started making? Jeffrey and I have been working together on projects from the day we met in 2000. Back then we were running an arts group, making props & costumes for parties and making the occasional funky furniture piece.

We started our business in 2007 in Oakland, with a huge desire to make things and some good professional chops in Architecture & Design. We bought a CNC machine immediately, started playing around, and very soon had our first big job.

Then our next big job, and our next.

We have learned a whole bunch over the years, and gone from a couple working out of a 900sqft live-work to a company of 6 employees working out of a 2500 sqft warehouse. (and we even live somewhere else!)

What type of maker would you classify yourselves as? We are both professional makers as furniture designers, artists, and architects. Personally, Jillian has been playing with expanding her painting hobby into a more 3 dimensional medium by integrating carved aspects she is creating on the CNC machines into her compositions. Jeffrey has been experimenting with beer (which is something we are all very happy about).

We have always been better on how than why. Why do we climb the mountain? Because it is there. We love to design and we love to make things with our hands, be in control of all the aspects of the fabrication, and seeing our ideas come to life. It is a very rewarding process.

What’s your favorite thing you’ve made? This year, we’ve just finished up a large renovation of the Kaiser Center in Oakland for Port Workspaces. About a year ago we finished a cool bar in San Francisco & a really fun zoo in Mississippi.

What’s something you’d like to make next? We are constantly looking at new tools, both digital and fabrication, and learning about new ways to use them. We recently got a pair of old Fanuc robot arms and are working on ways to get them to do interesting things….

We are excited about the growth in Oakland right now, and we’re always on the look out for what we can do locally to help our awesome city. The future internal project we are excited about right now is bringing a product line into Because We Can, and we hope to have something going by this time next year!

Any advice for people reading this? Start making things toward your passion and see where it takes you!

Who else should we profile? Jon Sarengarti & Kyrsten MateNemo GouldPhilo NorthrupEmily Duffy, and Konnie May.

You can find Jillian and Jeffrey around the web on
Their Website  |  Facebook  | Instagram

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Sophia is the managing editor of the Make: blog. When she’s not greasing editorial gears, she likes to run, ride, climb, and lift things, and make lo-tech goods like zines, desserts, and altered clothing. @sophiuhcamille

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