klaus on –
by Klaus Nienkamper II
I remember waiting for Tom in the lobby bar of a hotel when Tom first visited Toronto for the Interior Design Show in 2006. We were hosting a big party for him.
I was a bit anxious as I had been worked up a bit by his staff and PR people - I wasn’t sure what to expect. I remember being asked what sort of music we would be playing, what sort of food we would be serving, who would be attending the party - needless to say I was expecting a pre madonna of sorts, someone high maintenance.
After a few minutes of waiting , along comes Tom, wearing a purple velvet suit with a turtle neck - he extended his hand and introduced himself.
We hit it off pretty quickly, talking on a wide range of subjects, less about design and more about the common interest we have, motorcycles, cars, our love of instruments.
As a young retailer, it was a big deal for me to work with this collection. TD had just relaunched his brand as TOM DIXON. After working for years doing design work for other companies such as Cappellini and Moroso creating iconic pieces along the way, Tom took his own brand back, launching a new direction of furniture, lighting and accessories as well as the interior design company 'Design Research Studio'.
17 years later and several events hosted for him , we have developed a strong partnership - and more importantly, a strong friendship
Tom Dixon, founder at his self-named furniture design studio, has made a brand for himself selling everything from lighting to chairs and accessories.
Learning the craft of welding – or oxy-acetylene welding, more specifically – Dixon began making metal chairs and other furniture from whatever junk and spare-part objects he could find. Within a year, he had made over 100 peculiar and misshapen chairs, and began his own welding studio from South London.
Dixon continued through much of the 1980s and 1990s making radical, hand-crafted furniture, before turning to the corporate side in 1998 when he became head of design, then later creative director, of global retail brand Habitat. And while he did not have a traditional education, he says that working at the furniture giant taught him much of what he now knows about running a design business.
During his stint at Habitat, Dixon was slowly developing and establishing his own furniture and product design business. Officially opening Tom Dixon Studio in London 2002, the company launched with a range of furniture made from extruded plastic, where raw plastic is melted then moulded into a particular shape in one, continuous piece. The result was a series of uniquely shaped chairs and other furniture with a wire aesthetic.
“Longevity is probably the most realistic hope you can have as a product designer,” he says. “Things will come back for many generations if they’re properly made and desirable enough not to get thrown away.”
The lamp was launched in 2003, a year after Dixon started his own brand. He says it was an immediate hit. The Mirror Ball is one of Dixon's best-selling products. However, the British designer claims the success of the product was completely inadvertent.
"Mirror Ball is a sort of failure in design terms, I thought that if I made the simplest shape I could get away with in highly polished mirror, it would be invisible because it would reflect its surroundings."
"In practice, it did the polar opposite, it is very much a focal point of a room, almost a blingy object in a way. But it made it a more successful object commercially as a result."
Beat is a celebration of the beauty of things created by hand.
In 2004 Tom was involved in an initiative in Jaipur to create alternative possibilities for the rapidly vanishing craftsmen and their skills. The Beat light was instigated during a NGO development project undertaken by the British Council and Tom Dixon in 2002, in an effort to maintain and develop the skills of street metalworkers of Rajasthan. The underlying proportions and techniques of traditional brass work used to create water vessels and cooking pots were used to create new objects of sculptural simplicity with a rethought functionality.
Each Beat light is now made from hand spun brass sculpted by artisan craftsmen in Northern India. Hand-raised, welded, beaten and finally skimmed on a lathe, they retain hammer marks from their forming. The creation of the beat light is part of an ancient process that takes four days to complete.
"Illuminated sculptures hand formed with hammers and lathes"
Obsessed with the idea of creating an imperfect, organic and naturalistic lighting object, Melt was created in collaboration with FRONT – a Swedish design collective. Melt is evocative of molten glass, the interior of a melting glacier, or images of deep space.
Futuristic and faceted, Cut is an exercise in optics. Its space-age mirror finish when off transforms to reveal a translucent kaleidoscopic gem when switched on. Hypnotising reflections of the luminous orb within repeat infinitely within the diamond cut, vacuum metallised interior.
Located near Granary Square, Kings Cross, London, their new hub will contribute to an ever-expanding network of creatives and technologists
'For us it was imperative not just to find a new office or shop. It was vital to find a new home. London isn't just another city. It is where it all started. We will use these 17,500 square feet in this incredible location as a platform to broadcast our latest ideas in interior design, product innovation and experiments in food, functionality and future living.' Tom Dixon
Design Research Studio
Design Research Studio is the interior, product and branding design consultancy at the heart of the Tom Dixon organisation. It has been quietly working for the last 12 years on a broad selection of innovative projects and products for a wide variety of partners, brands, developers and entrepreneurs.
Tom Dixon's Design Research Studio - Mondrian Hotel interior
furnished with custom designed furniture featuring rich colour palettes
Klaus Showroom at night with Tom Dixon Melt Lights