In our shop: Byron & Gómez's handcrafted wooden boxes

In our shop: Byron & Gómez's handcrafted wooden boxes

Words Vilma Paasivaara

Photographs Sam Walton

Designer makers Charles Byron and María Gómez continue our Hole & Corner Selects series of curated goods. From their workspace in rural Exmoor, where they create beautiful wooden furniture, Charles and María spoke to us about their work…

Charles Byron and María Gómez

Tell us a bit about yourselves…
We are furniture makers who are passionate about design and dedicated to craftsmanship. We are a combination of different cultural backgrounds; English and Puerto Rican. We live in Exmoor in a small village called Roadwater, which is very isolated, but we love to have nature on our doorstep. Making is our greatest pleasure and we feel extremely lucky to work doing what we love most.

How was Byron & Gómez born?
Byron & Gómez started as a love story. It was kind of an impossible daydream to start with. We met when María was six weeks from finishing her furniture-making course and Charles was just starting. Because María’s visa was expiring, the idea of her coming back to England and starting a business together seemed impossible. After nine months out of the UK, she got endorsed by the Arts Council in her application for a Visa for Exceptional Promise. We never discussed if we should work together, it was just a given.

What do you specialise in making?
Our medium is wood. We specialise in creating work that is contemporary in its design but with a strong foundation in traditional craftsmanship. There is a value and a beauty in function for us. Furniture is the scale that we love to work with. Its small enough that we can personally deliver it from concept to finish product yet large enough to have a real impact in the room.

Do you have a particular philosophy or set of values when you approach your work you can describe?
We strive to create work that is of a timeless aesthetic, luxurious but not ostentatious. We try to strike the perfect balance between form, function and execution. We hate to see furniture out there where decisions are made on the bases on how things look with little regard to their function. A beautiful but uncomfortable chair is a travesty and should be thrown in the fire.

The words ‘Be patient. Be happy’ are marked above the tools in the Byron & Gómez workshop

What part of your creative collaboration most pleases you?
It’s sitting down together and exploring a design concept. We usually discuss over a sketch book whilst fighting over a single pencil. Design takes a meandering path, as we are both trying to steer in different directions and as a consequence we explore a wider range of possibilities than either of us would have done alone. Also, emergency back massages in the workshop.

María Gómez in her workshop

What is your favourite step in the making process?
C: I would have to say that the beginning of a project is the most exciting for me. Selecting timber and seeing a new project start to take shape is very gratifying.

M: For me it is the ‘getting on’ part, once you have the drawings and all decisions have been made. I love being in the workshop all day, not having to talk on the phone or answer emails. Making is my happy place.

Is there a particular material, person or object that has influenced your work (besides each other)?
Lately there has been one person who has had great influence on the way in which we approach our work and that is Richard La Trobe-Bateman. We met him through a Crafts Council-run programme where he was acting as a mentor to us. The amount of passion that he has for his work and the kind of clarity and purpose in his designs is something that we aspire to. His ethos is something we can really get behind, his work champions a rigid geometry and an economic use of materials, it is functional, dramatic and beautiful.

What do you like listening to when you’re working?
All sorts of things, lately we’ve been listening to a lot George Harrison, Stein Urheim, Rachmaninov, Celia Cruz (Queen of Salsa) – The album Vertical Land by David John Sheppard is our go-to gluing-up music. Back to back Wes Anderson soundtracks will pretty much get you through an entire day!

Wooden boxes in the making

Who’s your ideal buyer/audience?
Someone who appreciates craft and values the time that goes into making work of a high quality. For bespoke work our ideal client is someone who has a relatively loose idea of what they want, giving us the freedom to explore the brief. The less clear their mental image of what they are after the more space we have to design something that surprises and delights them.

Could you tell us a little about the wooden boxes you’ve made for Hole & Corner…
The inspiration came mostly from stumbling across an amazing bit of spalted wood when we were supposed to be looking for something else. The design of the box is meant to elegantly frame that beautiful piece of timber and create an object with a purpose. When working in such a small scale the making becomes a very delicate process. The components are so small that we cannot use some of the machines we would normally use, this means we have to pick up our hand tools and get back to basics which is always a pleasure. We like to think that these boxes will become tomorrow’s heirlooms.

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