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Designer Profile

Tom Dixon

Tom Dixon Designer


Born in Sfax, Tunisia in 1959, to a French/Latvian mother and an English father, Dixon moved to England aged four and spent his school years in London. Attending Chelsea Art School for a brief six-month period, a motorbike accident curtailed any artistic ambition and left him in hospital for three months.

Having dropped out of Art school, Dixon spent two years as a musician, playing bass guitar in a disco band until another motorcycle accident left him unable to play for a period.

He spent two more years in the burgeoning London night club and warehouse party scene. This nocturnal lifestyle left plenty of time in the day to start experimenting with welded structures. Necessary bike maintenance had required welding skills, which a friend supplied in one quick lesson.

The new found welding skills were soon put to work as Dixon explored the decorative and structural potential of recycled materials and industrial scrap. It was a very hands-on period, working from his own workshop. Each piece evolved in a built form with no need for design sketches. Some of Dixon's favoured materials at this time included railings, concrete reinforcement bars, car inner tubing and saucepans.

"I was immediately hooked on welding...mesmerised by the tiny pool of molten metal, viewed from the safety of darkened goggles. Allowing an instant fusion of one piece of steel to another. It had none of the seriousness of craft and none of the pomposity of design: it was industry.

It suited my impatience perfectly...giving me the opportunity to build, destroy, adjust and remake structures instantly.

London at the time was still full of scrap metal yards and the skips were piled full of promising bits & pieces due to the eighties boom....all of which presented themselves to me as potential chair backs or table legs. Unhindered by commercial concerns (I had my night job,) or formal training I made things just for the pleasure of making them. It was only when people started to buy that I realised I had hit on a form of alchemy...I could turn a pile of scrap metal into gold."

It wasn't long before Dixon's sculptural objects began to get recognition and commissions and exhibitions followed. This rapid increase in demand required a more plentiful and reliable source of materials. He turned his attention to ready-made forms and technology to feed his increased interest in industrial techniques and batch production. He designed in sheet metal creating a much more minimalist product that was determined by the industrial technique used for production.

As Dixon's international reputation grew, he was approached by Italian furniture design company, Cappellini. He began to be taken seriously on the international stage as Cappellini worked to put some of his designs into major production. The "S" chair made Tom Dixon's name, evolving from early prototypes in his Creative Salvage days. It was initially woven with recycled rubber inner tubes, and then covered in rush, a material traditionally used for drop in seats. Cappellini were attracted by its sculptural form and amazing legless structure of bent steel frame. Launched by Cappellini with a vibrant felt upholstered covering in 1989, the "S" chair quickly reached iconic like status and now has a permanent place in the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Dixon has since collaborated with Cappellini on many other projects, including the Bird Rocking chair, the Pylon table and chair and the tub chair to name a few.

TOM DIXON the company was started by Tom Dixon and David Begg in 2002. Since its inception, the company has developed its own collection of contemporary lighting and furniture including the acclaimed Mirror Ball Collection of lights and more recently Copper Shade. TOM DIXON designs have entered the international major league through renowned shows at major venues like the Milan Furniture Fair and the London Design Museum, where Tom Dixon is currently nominated for Designer of the Year. Tom Dixon the designer is particularly well known for his earlier designs such as the S-chair, designed for Cappellini, and the rotationally moulded Jack Lamp which gained the Millennium Mark for Great British Design in 1998. He was awarded the OBE for services to British Design in 2000.

In 2004 a partnership was established between the TOM DIXON founders and the venture capital company Proventus, forming Design Research, which today owns and manages both TOM DIXON and Artek, the Finnish modernist furniture manufacturer which was established by Alvar Aalto in 1935. Additionally, Tom Dixon has also been the creative director for major furniture retailer Habitat since 1997.

Tom Dixon

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