The family business, located on a ranch in the foothills of Northern California and now in its third generation, has specialized in custom design and hand crafting of fine metal work since 1927 when Hans Grag first arrived in Chicago from his native Germany. Descended from a long line of small-plot farmers, Hans Grag grew up in Neumünster, northern Germany. The family name is a corruption of Krag, or “crow” in old Schleswig-Holstein dialect. Peasants don’t have coats-of-arms but family lore has it a family crest, if it existed, would represent a dead crow on a pitch-fork.

Hans showed a talent for artistic metalwork at a young age and was eventually able to attend the Kunstgewerbeschule (school of arts and crafts) in Hamburg under the sponsorship of a wealthy and eccentric local baron. There he trained as a schlosser, which is usually translated as “tinker” or “locksmith” but in this usage refers to general metalcraft. Hans mastered both silversmithing and ornamental iron work and did work in both. One practical upshot of his blacksmithing skill was the ability to make many of his own tools, some still in use here, decades later.

Hans’ fiancée, Liesbeth (Elizabeth) Petersen, a dressmaker by trade, preceded him to America. She spoke no English on arrival and hired a college student to teach her. Among other things, he taught her that the reply to “how do you do?” Was “I do as I please!” Once she understood the joke, she embraced it: she felt that was what her adopted country was about. Hans, on the other hand, had the chance to learn English in school so he did not have that sort of trouble when he joined her.

In Chicago, Hans co-founded Cellini Craft, producing holloware and flatware in sterling and a line of aluminum ware called “Argental”, while Elizabeth ran a dressmaking business. After relocating to California in 1952, he and Elizabeth formed Grag Studios and started designing and fabricating lighting fixtures for Gump’s.

Elizabeth retired from dressmaking after leaving Chicago and, in addition to working with her husband in the metal shop, developed an interest in tapestry weaving which led to an opportunity to restore tapestries with a team of conservators at the Hearst castle in the 1960’s.

In 1959 they were joined by Norman and his wife. Norman studied anthropology at the University of Georgia during military service then attended California college of arts and crafts where he met Patricia.

The business in the 1960’s diversified into producing sculpture and ecclesiastical commissions as well as lighting. Both Hans and Elizabeth remained active in their crafts until their deaths in 1965 and 1991 respectively.

Sculpture, lighting and decorative furnishings have been commissioned by developers, architectural firms and private firms, government agencies, museums and private collectors, churches and synagogues.

In 1982, after a misspent college career studying physics, Jon joined his parents in the business, which by then was primarily producing lighting fixtures for Gump’s.

Beginning in 1987 the studio was represented by Casella Lighting. Subsequently the fixture line has become available exclusively to a number of showrooms throughout the country. Since the passing of Norman, Jon and Patricia have continued the business as a partnership.

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