After apprenticing as a cabinet builder/woodworker for five years back in Canada, Alfredo Lopez created Owl, a furniture and object design brand specialising in woodwork. His handmade pieces have a constantly evolving aesthetic but with a subtle undercurrent of mid-century style. Owl shows that there is so much more to furniture. It’s about material. Space. Detail. And of course, the challenge.
Tell us about the name, Owl…
The name simply comes from the animal. I find owls intriguing, and I’d had enough of mulling over the name.
And yourself? Have you always been a creative person?
I think most, if not all, people are creative in some way. I see it more as a matter of honing in and manifesting that creativity. Whether or not people like your creativity is a different subject. As a child my brother and I had mountains of Lego growing up, and for years that’s all I used to play with. I feel that I became a more active creative person and was able to express myself once I started woodworking.
How and when did you get into furniture and object design? Was it something that always interested you?
I think unconsciously I always cared about objects and furniture and the space they inhabit. When I was really little I would constantly decorate and re-organize the layout of my bedroom, right down to the smaller details. Which perhaps could be quite uncommon for a young boy. But again, the interest became more substantial once I started apprenticing.
How would you define the Owl aesthetic?
I hope that the aesthetic will always be evolving and changing. I easily get hooked and obsessed on things, materials, etc. And so I presume whatever grips me at that moment will affect the aesthetic. I think the only thing that should stay constant is quality.
Who are your customers?
People who see the value and appreciate custom, handmade quality things.
You make all of your pieces by hand. What does the fact that it is all handmade mean to you?
I suppose primarily it is that I thoroughly enjoy building, creating and working with my hands. I also appreciate the ability to not just think of an idea, but to be able to execute it. Doing the whole process from start to finish is very gratifying.
How do you come up with ideas for new designs? What inspires them?
Most ideas come up while I’m trying to go to sleep, which is quite annoying. They mostly derive from things I, or people I know, need or want. In terms of inspiration... I think we have so much stimulation and so many inputs from all angles all the time, it’s hard to know where the ideas come from. A lot of my process happens while I’m building, I start with a base idea and adapt as I go.
Which materials do you like to work with?
As I mentioned before I can be quite obsessive. Right now I'm fixated on Formica, combining it with various formats of wood depending on the piece. But wood wins by far, always. That will always be continual.
So you’re from Canada but are now based in Barcelona. Would you say your style of design is influenced by your environment?
I think your environment always influences you, whether one recognises it or not. Because there has been a switch from fancy kitchens – when I was apprenticing and working with a cabinet builder/woodworker for five years back in Canada primarily building high-end custom kitchens – to individual, smaller objects I wouldn't really know how to compare the two. But I would definitely say yes, especially when it comes to the different types of materials you can or cannot get given your location.
Out of everything you’ve ever made, what have you been most proud of and why?
Tough to answer, but two obvious ones are: a bookshelf I made many years ago for an ex-girlfriend. Not only was it sentimental, but it was also the first piece I ever made entirely on my own. And recently a ping pong table, a collaboration with Lucia Vergara of Après Ski. Not only is it a cool piece to make, but it was also made according to ITTF standards. And so making it aesthetically appealing while having various restrictions was challenging and overly gratifying.
Tell us about your collaborations. What do you like about combining ideas with other artists and designers?
It's refreshing, and sometimes stress relieving, to have other ideas and opinions to compare with. It's horrible when two brains collide with each other, but in general you often collaborate with people who have similar styles and interests.
Are there any designers, artists or even eras from which you take inspiration?
It sounds cliché but I've always been a sucker for mid-century design. I admire Carl Hansen. He was the hands behind a lot of the Danish furniture design during that time, like Hans Wegner.
Any new projects in the works for Owl?
There are always new projects! The good thing about what I do is that there is high turnaround. You finish one thing and the next is generally quite different. But on a manual level I'd like to learn new disciplines like ceramics and incorporate them in future projects.