27th September – Decormart Showroom, Bangkok Thailand
First stop on Tom’s 2011 Asian Tour was Decormart, Bangkok where Tom intiated a “Flash Factory” by converting the showroom into an Etch Shade production line.
At all of the “Whistle Stops” on the way – Tom Dixon’s Flash Factory demonstrated “Future Industry” and the new found power of the designer, able to service world markets with the latest products in greatly reduced time scales
Beijing, Seoul and Manila 2011 follow after the continue link
28th-30th September – Beijing Design Week, UCCA & Crossover Showroom, Beijing China
Located in the 798 art district next to 751-D park, the ullens center for contemporary art hosted the ‘BJDW / UCCA talks’ series, where once to twice a day the public was invited into the converted factory space, now used as a cultural center and art gallery.
Offering insight into his own works, design process, and career, Tom Dixon spoke on ‘design and how not to do it’ for the final event of the series.
After Toms’ talk he was involved at the Crossover Showroom to host “Flash Factory”.
With London as the guest city at this years Beijing Design Week, Tom Dixon took for the first time. The Crossover showroom was transformed into a Flash Factory where the processes of industrial production was brought directly to the customer.
1st October – Duomo Showroom, Seoul, Korea
3rd October – MOS / Megamax Showroom in Manila, Phillipines
As the Asia tour comes to a close, Tom Dixon has landed in Manila in the Philippines, where Mos design Gallery hosted Flash Factory and an evening VIP event.
Tom Dixon’s 2010 Asian Tour review
Tom Dixon in Hong Kong – Oct 2010
Lane Crawford hosted a series of events to mark a recent Tom Dixon visit to Hong Kong. An extensive window display showcasing the latest Industry collection was created as well as a large-scale Wingback installation inside the Pacific Place store.
Lane Crawford also opened a pop-up Tom Dixon Cafe serving British food for one day only. Flash Factory was put into operation in the cafe with design students assembling and selling the new brass Etch collection
Tom Dixon in Taipei – 2010
The Tom Dixon Talk in Bangkok, Thailand – Sept, 2011
Tom Dixon has always done things his own way. In fact, the world-renown lighting and furniture designer dropped out of the Chelsea School of Art in England to play bass in a band before teaching himself how to weld. Dixon, who was recently in Bangkok to unveil his current line of home decor, also took time to share a message of inspiration to local university students wanting to enter the field.
“The kids in Thailand are extremely well-placed to become a really important force in the next couple of years,” he said. “Thai people are by nature very artistic and have a sense for colour and form. If I was starting again I would be happy to be in this part of the world.”
But for as encouraging as his words were to students in Thailand, school didn’t always work for Dixon.
“I think I would probably not be doing design right now if I would have studied design,” he laughed. “I was always an antagonist and never really liked being told what to do. Not having to study design made it easier to challenge the way other people do things.”
Born in Tunisia, Dixon moved to England in 1963. By 1980, he had established a line of welded salvage furniture. While many of the early days were a matter of trial and error, Dixon credits the ability to make mistakes and have the freedom to mold his works where he otherwise couldn’t if working for a large company.
“Often people try and restrict you,” he said. “I had the liberty of having my own studio and materials so I could keep on as long as it took to get the thing right. I’ve made my own infrastructure that works for me.”
By the late 1980s, Dixon had become a popular name in the world of furniture. While working for an Italian manufacturer in 1991, Dixon designed the iconic S chair; the name of the chair describes the design, one Dixon still thinks about today.
“The thing about that chair is that it went through dozens of iterations,” he admitted. “It probably went through 20 to 30 different versions, materials and shapes. I still look at it and think I’d like to change this and that on it.”
As Dixon continued to pave his way through the world of contemporary furniture design, he continued to receive accolades; there is one award that sticks out on his resume. In 2001, Dixon was awarded the Order of the British Empire. For a man who had dropped out of design school, this appointment was a feather in Dixon’s cap.
“I’ve never really done this to prove anything; I do it for pleasure,” he said. “That’s the great thing about all of this, is that it feels like a hobby and not a job.”
He’s even had a discussion with the Queen of England about the furniture in Buckingham Palace.
“I asked her ‘Isn’t it time you get a little more contemporary in the palace?’ She said, ‘I don’t think that would be appropriate, do you?’ And that was the end of the conversation.”
By 2002, Dixon’s insatiable desire to be his own boss spurred him on to launch his own company. The British design and manufacturing company of lighting and furniture continues to produce some of the most innovative designs in the industry today. But for as competitive as the market is, Dixon says there is far less stress to create something new then in other industries.
“Newness creeps along in interior design and really it’s a five to eight year cycle for proper fashion changes,” explained Dixon. “It’s not as terrifying cycle as in fashion clothing design where designers have to do two seasons a year or more, not including men’s and women’s wear.”
But for as little stress Dixon seems to admit to, the next idea is always on his mind.
“I get bored more quickly then most people so I don’t often have trouble coming up with newness.”
For as much as he obsesses about what a room should look like, one has to wonder what Dixon’s home looks like. Despite having one of the more contemporary and elaborate furniture and lighting lines in the world, Dixon says his home is nothing to brag about.
“It’s a jumble of failed experiments or early process stuff. I’ve got a bunch of my great grandmother’s furniture and gifts. I can’t really call it stylish.”
Dixon’s works are now in permanent collections across the world including the Museums of Modern Art New York and Tokyo and Centre Beaubourg (Pompidou). For as much success as he’s enjoyed, he is never too pleased with his work.
“I think all too often people are satisfied with their first attempt,” Dixon said. “I never set off thinking about popularity. I’m obsessed with uniqueness. It’s not like I’m thinking I’m going to create an iconic design.”
How one man is bringing design back to the people
Tom Dixon isn’t one for convention. While many of his contemporaries entered the world of design via university courses and great big drawing boards, Dixon discovered his love of creation while welding damaged motorbike frames. For Dixon it’s the process of creation – not the appearance of the final product – that motivates him, resulting in furniture and objects that are quite unlike those of any other designer. It’s no wonder he ended up head of design for both the UK’s Habitat furniture stores and Finnish manufacturer Arket.
His out-of-the-box thinking also led to the creation of Flash Factory, the innovative pop-up factory concept that premiered in Milan Design Week last year. Flash Factories see a small number of Dixon designs – typically lights – being manufactured close to the point of sale and being constructed before the customers’ eyes. Alternatively, buyers can put together their own, allowing them to experience Dixon’s works more intimately than they might usually.
Ahead of the Flash Factory’s appearance at Beijing Design Week, Tom Dixon spoke to Time Out about the future of his industry and what it’s like to be a brand.
Your Flash Factory concept sees your products, typically lamps, being constructed in front of – or by – the customers. What was the motivation behind it?
Lots of designers spend a lot of time trying to get their work out there using the conventional system of manufacturers and brands, so I wanted to see if you could bypass the system altogether. Modern methods of digital production have really sped up the process, too.
How do they speed things up?
Normally, if I was a bog-standard designer I’d show my design to a manufacturing company; once that company had decided to use it, they would get it made a long way away – probably in China! It would take six months to get the first prototype and they would have to order tens of thousands of the finished article to get the right price. Then they would fly the stock from China to a warehouse in Europe, then out again to design shops. But Flash Factory allows us to design quickly and have it made in small quantities close to where it will be sold.
Why will our readers want to check out Flash Factory?
I think most people are very divorced from the means of production so they don’t get much of a chance to see things being made any more, and I think that means people are interested in these things now. Also, I think localised production is going to become more fashionable and immediate; manufacturing goods in large quantities is on the way out, not just because we’re running out of raw materials but also because it’s ridiculously wasteful to ship everything all around the world.
So local production will be the next ‘in’ thing, like organic produce?
Well, I think where everybody thought that manufacturing would become more global, it’s evolved so that local sensibilities are emerging. It’s also about designers taking things back into their own hands and being responsible for not only producing the objects, but also for manufacturing, developing and selling them.
So we’re kind of returning to the pre-industrial, Marxist ideal of the craftsman selling his own creations?
It’s pre- and post-industrial in a way. It can be done more locally and doesn’t require huge quantities, whereas before there was a feeling it had to involve making huge amounts in low-cost economies where wages were cheaper. But hat’s not sustainable. Everyone should make a decent wage and make things closer to home.
‘Tom Dixon’ is a brand now, as well as your name. Does it feel a bit odd?
It depends how you define a brand – to me it’s just about giving a stamp of provenance or quality to something. I quite like having my name stamped on things if I’m proud of them.
So you’re not having any existential crises?
I really don’t need those right now.