Molly Taylor’s wood jewelry designs will be in the spotlight at New York Fashion Week

Molly Taylor will take her handcrafted wood jewelry designs—along with original garments to complement the accessories—from her Baton Rouge studio to the runways of New York Fashion Week this September. Photos by Sean Gasser.

Serendipity struck earlier this year for Baton Rouge artist Molly Taylor, who had recently quit her bartending job to focus full time on making music and designing and selling her wearable wood jewelry line.

Taylor had just finished a phone conversation with her mom about her uncertain but exciting future when she checked her email. She saw a message from officials with New York Fashion Week inviting her to show her jewelry collection, Beneath the Bark, this September. “I felt like it was one of those scenes out of the movies where you fall to your knees because you can’t believe that just happened,” says the 28-year-old.

Taylor is also designing her own clothing to showcase her jewelry on fashion’s biggest runway. “It’s so funny because growing up, I’ve always loved fashion and I always wanted to go to New York Fashion Week just to go,” she says. “I never thought I was going to be showing a collection.”

For her Beneath the Bark line, Taylor uses reclaimed and sustainable wood from pecan, sycamore, cherry, Louisiana sinker cypress and walnut trees, and other materials like stainless steel to craft handmade necklaces, bracelets, earrings and cufflinks. “I like to stick with Southern wood, wood that really tells a story about Louisiana,” she says.

The Beneath the Bark portfolio has expanded from bold earrings, rings, bracelets and necklaces to include items for the home including serving boards and planters.

For her New York Fashion Week apparel lineup, Taylor says she is working mainly with linens, satins and other fabrics she wishes she had in her own closet to accompany her jewelry line. She says she’s proud to show the Big Apple her Louisiana roots. “I’m super happy I get to represent Baton Rouge because Baton Rouge is full of makers,” Taylor says. “It’s full of people who are artists. It’s really cool to rep Louisiana.”

Growing up in Covington, Taylor was always interested in creative design. She taught herself how to play the piano and guitar and was always writing songs or coming up with her own fashion designs. Never really interested in the academic side of school, she preferred band and choir to math and language arts and graduated from Covington High School in 2009.

Taylor attended LSU for two weeks until she realized college wasn’t for her. “I’m not wasting your money,” Taylor remembers telling her parents. “I’m going to get a job bartending and I’m going to work on art.”

Her jewelry work dates back to late 2014 when she was too broke to buy friends and family Christmas presents. Dating a woodworker at the time, Taylor says she went to his wood shop, grabbed a piece of wood, attached a chain to it and made a necklace. “I just did this so I had presents to give,” she says. “I never thought in a million years I’d be making jewelry for a living.”

The Candace earrings, named for a customer Taylor has never met in person, combine stainless steel connectors with geometric shapes cut from Louisiana sinker cypress, walnut, cherry, sycamore or spalted pecan wood.

While getting Beneath the Bark off the ground, Taylor bartended and toured with fiancé Denton Hatcher writing and performing their music together. At first, her jewelry was purchased by friends and family, but as word spread and her profits increased over the years, she was able to quit her bartending job in early 2019 to concentrate on jewelry and music. “My life got so busy doing everything I love, I didn’t have time to go work at the bar anymore,” she says. “It’s a feeling I’ve been waiting for for a long time.”

The inspiration behind her jewelry line comes from meeting all different kinds of people, she says. Many of her pieces are named after special people who inspired her creativity, including a longtime customer from Austin named Candace she has never met. “What are the chances of me crossing paths with her without jewelry?” Taylor says. “I’ve been able to meet so many awesome people through this.”

Today, Taylor is filling orders and working on new designs to put on her website, beneaththebarkjewelry.com. Her jewelry line is also sold at boutiques including Wanderlust by Abby in Baton Rouge, the Villa in Mandeville and Southern Chic in Alexandria. She also sells wood home goods like serving boards, coasters and little planters.

“Every day I wake up, and I’m either playing music or making jewelry,” Taylor says.