During the Clerkenwell Design Week, Becky Sunshine did an interview with Tom Dixon about his career and his choice of materials.

Tom Dixon studied pottery. He was fascinated by clay and its possibilities, by the fact that clay can transform from no form at all to an object. Clay is also an abundant material in this region. You could say the Thames and surroundings are just resting on top of a pot of clay.

After his pottery studies, he played in a music band but because of an accident and a broken arm wasn’t able to play anymore. He wanted to do something else. Around that time, London was littered with metal so together with some friends he started collecting metal from the scrapyards that were located from Battersea Bridge till Wandsworth Bridge. He liked the act of making stuff and liked metal because it is a forgiving material: if you make a mistake, there’s the possibility to fuse it back together. It is a material that one can transform very quickly.

At that time, copper and brass were totally unfashionable materials. In those days, you had to go back to the days of the Arts and Crafts movement to find copper and brass being used in design. So Tom Dixon was actually quite rebellious at the time using these materials. He was really interested in the metal casting, metallisation and brassing (the use of a brass rod to fuse things together). Another fascination was technology, especially lamps because they are driven by technology. “Lamps work!” he says.

Not a lot of designers have made a brand of themselves. Most product designers sell their products under brand names such as Vitra and Herman Miller. Tom Dixon didn’t want this because of the enormous competition between designers under the same brand, competition not only with living but also with dead designers. He tried to work for big brands but it wasn’t really his thing. He wanted to create his own stuff. So he started his own brand, TOM DIXON.

Dixon also pointed out that the world we now live in is extremely difficult for designers to survive because of upcoming technologies like 3d printing, laser cutting, CNC, waterjet, … Everybody can make stuff, there’s no need for craftsmanship anymore. He might have a point, and that is pretty scary to hear for an Interior/ Furniture Design student.

To conclude with, he also talked about the masculine image of the brand and how he tried to make it slightly softer. Personally I don’t find Tom Dixon designs very masculine, as there is a certain elegance to the way he uses his materials. I’m a fan and always will be!


In addition pictures of Tom Dixon’s ‘The Church’ at Clerkenwell Design Week and of the installation ‘Hakfolly’ designed by FleaFollyArchitects.