Christopher Moore and Molly Fitzsimons founded their Brooklyn-based home goods business, Noble Goods, with the intention of creating beautiful but functional pieces that test the limits of materials. Their speciality is the combination of different woods and resin using a custom technique that Christopher developed through his background in sculpture, woodworking, and plastics. Noble Goods has created a variety of handcrafted items from coasters to cheeseboards to tables, but the process and exploration of material is constantly evolving for this incredible creative duo.
We sat down with Chris and Molly (and their young son Arlo) in their home in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, to learn more about that process, the history of their business, and what drives them to keep making beautiful things.
What’s the story behind Noble Goods? How did you get your start?
Christopher: When we first met, we knew it would be fun to start a company together, but the timing wasn’t right. At the time, I was involved in custom-cast plastic—huge surfaces made of cast plastic, things like massive bar tops. That’s where I really learned about the behavior of resin and how it works. We used every kind of resin imaginable at that job.
Molly: He would come home with little pieces of resin that he had poured into wood, since Christopher has been into woodworking since childhood. And that was kind of the start, the inspiration for Noble Goods.
Our son was just a year old when I said, “Why don’t you quit your job and we’ll start a business!” It was a little crazy, but it was the right thing to do for many reasons. Christopher was ready to move on, and we were so excited to be working together.
Christopher: I was quite scared, at the time, but we truly believe that you should do what you love, if you can take that risk. We started the shop in the basement but it quickly grew out, after about a year, and then we were very fortunate to end up with a studio on Metropolitan Avenue in Williamsburg.
How do you create the geometric patterns on your kitchen goods like cheese boards and trays?
Christopher: The first thing we do is the carving. I’ve build what’s called a pantographic duplicator, which is an 18th century technology that was actually famously used by Thomas Jefferson, so almost all of these smaller pieces are made using this fairly manual method.
We create a template or pattern in acrylic. It must be as accurate as possible, because it will get reproduced hundreds of times. We’re still doing things with mechanical patterns, but it works really well. It’s kind of like using a computer to create a a duplicated pattern, but this “computer” never crashes. I sit there like a monk, tracing the pattern over and over, and the router is carving the pattern into the wood on the other end of the pantograph. We then pour colored resin into the patterns.
What does your process of pouring resin look like?
Christopher:The resin we use is an environmentally-friendly epoxy manufactured by a West Coast company. They actually take the pine oil extracted in paper manufacturing and polymerize it to create a plastic, so all of our resins are made from recycled waste and are incredibly sustainable.
Molly: We pigment the resin ourselves. It’s tricky because we’ll find some inspiration colors that we really love, like in a magazine or a Pantone, but it requires a lot of experimentation to find the right combination of pigment and opacity. We try to keep things subtle instead of being heavy-handed with opacity; resin looks really beautiful when you’re subtle with it. Translucency gives it life and makes it glow from the inside.
Chris:Once the right color is achieved, the resin is then poured into the patterns carved into the wood, then the resin cures for 2-5 days, then it will be sanded and polished flat, and any decorative details are added. It’s a meticulous process, but we think the results are worth it.
How do you ensure that a product is going to be durable when you create a new design?
Christopher: Some people initially told us it wasn’t going to work, to put resin into wood. There’s a lot of testing that goes into it. We do direct sunlight exposure, or we do a transfer between the freezer and sunlight, over and over, to simulate wear and tear, all in order to get a product that’s beautiful but that will also hold up. We drop things to make sure that they’re impact-resistant, especially kitchen products. We want to push them to their limits.
What’s your philosophy for running your business?
Molly: We try to make beautiful things and really honor craftsmanship. Christopher always wants to be in the studio inventing things and playing with new materials, and my background is as a stylist for film and magazines. We set out to create our dream jobs through this business, and we’re getting there.
Christopher: We ask every question we can of the material and the process, and make things that are both beautiful and practical. We annually donate a portion of our profits to Habitat for Humanity. We want to have good relationships throughout our business–a good relationship with the environment through our resin and wood suppliers, a good relationship with our vendors and anyone else we work with, and a good relationship with the world by giving back.